As Leo begins its final year in the ACAC, the Lions’ new conference apparently now has a name.
Multiple sources have confirmed the new conference, beginning play in 2015-16, will be called the NE8 or Northeast Eight.
The conference will consist of six NHC members – Bellmont, Columbia City, DeKalb, East Noble, Norwell and New Haven along with Leo and Huntington North. The NHC is folding after this season.
No announcement has come from the officials of the eight schools in the new conference.
Football practice, as well as other fall sports, got started Monday around the state, including at Leo which will leave the ACAC and join the NE8.
“We just play to win,” Leo senior quarterback Jordan Hissong said Monday. “It doesn’t matter how good a team is, you still have to play well to beat them. It will be (weird) to play teams for the last time in the ACAC, but it will be nice to get some new competition.”
The name of the new conference was reportedly decided in the spring.
The Lions (10-1 last year) have won outright or shared the last five ACAC titles. With Hissong returning at quarterback and senior Logan Leiter back at running back, the Lions have the makings of another strong team and a possible deep postseason run like the semistate appearances in 2011 and 2012. Last year, the Lions fell in the sectional against East Noble.
“It was heartbreaking losing last year, but I think we will be able to make a run like we did a couple of years ago,” Hissong said. “We want to make it there again and go one step further (to state).”
The NHC voted in 2013 to disolve, leaving the six schools free to form a new conference, with Carroll and Homestead joining the SAC next year in football and basketball. The other sports at Carroll and Homestead could play in the SAC after a two-year probationary period.
“It changes the game play a little bit,” Carroll senior linebacker Luke Brunner said of the SAC. “Each region is a little different, and the style of play might be a little different. Our coaches might not be as prepared since they haven’t played the same teams year in and year out, so it might be a little new for them.”
With the NHC dissolving and the NE8 being formed, Carroll and Homestead had to find a new athletic home and found it with the SAC, which currently consists of Bishop Dwenger, Bishop Luers, Concordia, Northrop, North Side, Snider, South Side and Wayne.
Winning the NHC title in its final year of existence is an interesting enticement for the eight current members of the 25-year-old league.
“We want to make a lasting impact on the history of the NHC,” Homestead senior quarterback Logan Ormsby said Monday. “We want to be the last team to win the NHC. They have a lot of talent in the SAC, so it will be good for Homestead to (face) better talent in the regular season and get us ready for the playoffs.”
The first football game will be Aug. 22, and Monday was the first day for teams to be able to practice under IHSAA rules.
“I was excited to get out here on the first day and guys really brought it,” Carroll senior defensive end Seth Johnston said. “The intensity was high and the enthusiasm was there.”
It also marks the final season for Huntington North in the North Central Conference.