Move to Wolverine Conference would end 100-year-old rivalry with Niles High School

Published 10:59 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2004

By By SCOTT NOVAK / Niles Daily Star
The Dowagiac Board of Education unanimously voted to accept the invitation to join the Wolverine Conference.
In its regular meeting Monday night, the board heard a presentation from Superintendent Larry Crandall, listened to public comments from several audience members and then decided not to table the proposal.
Instead, the board voted 5-0, with board member Bill Lawrence absent, to accept the invitation to submit an application to the league.
Dowagiac had a deadline of Oct. 1 to submit in writing its request to join the Wolverine Conference.
The Wolverine Conference Board of Governors (superintendents) will take up the issue of expansion at its November meeting.
Both Dowagiac and Paw Paw were invited to submit application into the league, which wants to expand to 10 teams.
Among those who spoke were former Dowagiac football coach Russ Bergemann and Niles resident Bill Shoumake.
Shoumake, who has written a book about Niles football and created the Black and Blue traveling trophy that the winner of the annual game between Niles and Dowagiac, which dates back to 1896, said he was representing a group of Niles fans who wants to see Dowagiac remain on the Vikings' schedule.
Shoumake went on to talk about how Dowagiac and Nilesare two of only about 30 school throughout the nation which have played 100 games, share a special bond because of their rich football traditions.
He noted that last year's 100th game was something special.
Shoumake of course was referring to Hillary Bisnett, Dowagiac's field goal kicker who gave Dowagiac the victory with her boot in double overtime last October.
Bergemann, who has coached in Dowagiac since 1968, said that he thinks only about the kids when mulling over a possible conference switch.
Bergemann said that playing tougher competition is good, but it will not always lead to state championships.
Instead, he would like to see Dowagiac athletes competing for conference championships and he doesn't see that happening in the current Southwestern Athletic Conference.
If admitted, the earliest Dowagiac could begin competing for Wolverine Conference championships is two years.
Crandall gave school board members some background on Dowagiac's conference history as well as a brief timeline for its proposed move into the Wolverine Conference.
In a poll of Dowagiac's varsity coaches, according to Crandall, the vote was 12-5 in favor of switching leagues.
School board members Sherry File, Larry Seurynck, Faye Edwards and Greg Ferrier all spoke out in support of the switch, as well as school board president Randy Cuthbert.
Lawrence also, through Crandall, voiced his support of the decision to apply to the Wolverine Conference.
Board member Jane Laing also supported the move, but did not have any comment other than to say she agreed with what everyone else was saying.
In all, three people spoke from the audience on the proposed move, including Richard Hoyt and Hank Ruchniak.