What League should HHS Sports Compete In? Part 1

Hanover High School doesn’t win all that many championships. I don’t like to acknowledge it, but it’s the truth. Things are certainly on an upswing and teams are performing well. Nearly three years ago it was the decision of then Athletic Director Fran Coyle to move Hanover athletics to the South Shore League. Fast forward three years and that decision doesn’t look like it was all that necessary. Hanover hardly dominates the Patriot League, but it definitely competes well. Is Hanover in the right place?

Right now, all the towns in close proximity to Hanover play in either the Patriot League or the South Shore League. Hanover is a member of the Patriot League Fisher Division (Small School). The Patriot League also has a large school division, the Keenan division. The Keenan division is made up of Duxbury, Quincy, Whitman-Hanson, Plymouth North, Silver Lake (Kingston, Plympton, and Halifax), and Hingham (Hingham Hockey plays an independent Schedule). The Fisher Division is Hanover, Scituate, Pembroke, Middleboro (Middleboro hockey plays in the South Shore League in a Co-Op with Hull), Plymouth South, and North Quincy.

Although it differs by sport, Hanover typically plays each team in the Fisher division  twice, in a home-and-home series, and each team from the Keenan division once. Hanover is the smallest school in the league and, in some cases, is the only D3 South team in the league. Rockland left the Patriot League in 2009 but before that they were in a similar boat to Hanover. Also, in my freshman year, the case used to be that Quincy High was in the Fisher division and North Quincy was in the Keenan.

This year both the Plymouths left the fledgling Atlantic Coast league to join the Patriot League. The ACL has Marshfield, Falmouth, Nauset, Dennis-Yarmouth, and Sandwich. As noted in the Boston Globe, Marshfield may have to leave the ACL simply for convenience and expense reasons. Their only realistic option would be to join the Patriot League where they would be a real dominant program in almost every sport.

The South Shore League is made up of smaller schools, and for the first time this year split into two divisions. The Small School division contains Cohasset, Hull, Mashpee, Monomoy (Chatham and Harwich), and Carver. The Large division is East Bridgewater, Abington, Norwell, Randolph, and Rockland. Randolph just joined this year after being an independent and a former Patriot League member. The SSL has its strengths and weaknesses. The small division is relatively weak except for Cohasset. However, the large has enough good programs that in every sport a couple of teams would challenge, if not be superior, to Hanover. The reality is that Hanover teams would find themselves with a lot more success in the South Shore, albeit against lesser competition. It would give Hanover more games with schools in the same MIAA division and schools a division lower. Some may say that’s a positive, others may not. The case may be that Hanover is better off playing bigger and better schools in the regular season, because it challenges them more and in the post-season they are better prepared than most teams. Others may say that facing those schools may make Hanover battle-tested, but that it doesn’t really lead to all that much improvement and it’s better to face schools of similar caliber that they could and would see again in the post-season. Hanover would be among the top three in enrollment, if not the top school, in the league. One thing in favor of the South Shore League, it has been finding an equal amount if not more success in the post season when compared to the Patriot League.

Hanover may be stuck playing some bigger schools, but it’s hard to argue that the Indians don’t compete. There may not be a lot of league titles, but there are also very few teams that have miserable seasons.

Hanover is not Dedham. Dedham High School participates in the Herget Division of the powerful Bay State Conference and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. In 2009, the Marauders, who are the smallest school in the league, declined an offer to join the Tri-Valley League which has schools of a similar population. The Bay State Conference pledged to work to make the conference more equitable, including the possibility of adding more small schools to the league, but has not yet done so. For comparison, Hanover has a population (2010 Census) of  13,879 and an enrollment of 782. The biggest school in the league is Quincy High School with an enrollment of 1,519. Dedham has an enrollment of 765. The biggest school in its league is Framingham with an enrollment of 2,040 and only one other school under 1,000 students (Milton). Dedham usually finds postseason success as a lower seed and are a tough draw, just ask the Field Hockey team. For reference, the Highest enrollment in the South Shore League is Randolph at 779 and after that there are none above 700 students.

Hanover just doesn’t have the depth that other towns have. It’s a town that loses a lot of high level athletes to private schools. Hanover also loses a lot of athletes that don’t find stardom or even play at some of those private schools, where at HHS they would be solid contributors. It’s a disadvantage that we have to live with. I think for now, Hanover has to be content with where they are. The South Shore League doesn’t really make sense logistically. Hanover doesn’t compete with a lot of those towns in youth leagues and it would ruin some traditional rivalries. It’s up to future grades to get their best athletes out on Gerrish Field or in Amaral Gym rather than up at BC High or Xaverian. Then, Hanover will find plenty of success, bigger schools or not.

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