Lehighton Area School District shares Carbon County with Jim Thorpe, Weatherly area, Hazleton area, and Panther Valley School Districts. Now the Indians share more than geography with its neighbors.
Lehighton is embarking on a new chapter in its athletic department with its first athletic contests as a new member of the Schuylkill League and Anthracite League for football just days away. They will be joining their aforementioned neighbors as well as 19 other schools competing in one of the only three leagues left in District 11, along with the Colonial League and the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.
The new home for Lehighton athletics will affect every sport differently, especially with the football team competing in the Anthracite Football League, which is known statewide for its hard-nosed, smash-mouthed games.
On the hardwood, boys’ basketball head coach Rich Oertner thinks it will affect his team slightly.
“I believe it will and will not affect us,” he stated. “In the MVC, you had to be at your best to win any game. Each team was a 4A school and had plenty of athletic players. In the Schuylkill League, there are some teams that have many athletic players, but there are teams that are of a smaller school size and do not have the depth of a 4A school. In other words, the top notch teams in the Schuylkill League are very good, yet there are always going to be teams that you can compete with on the floor.”
Oertner’s counterpart in the Indians’ gymnasium, Lehighton’s girls’ basketball coach Eric Gidney does not believe it will have any large impact on his team. Gidney and his girls are looking forward to the opportunities in the new league.
“We played against a handful of the Schuylkill League teams last season and they were all very welcoming and looking forward to Lehighton joining the league," he said. "It is an honor to be in the Schuylkill League. It will be another new challenge for a girls’ basketball program at Lehighton that has faced numerous other challenges over recent years, but our entire program is looking forward to it.”
Lehighton knew it was the right decision for their athletic department and ended up turning down an invitation from the Colonial League this past year and stayed devoted to the Schuylkill League.
The leader of Lehighton’s tribe on the diamond, Brian Polaha, states it doesn’t matter what league his baseball squad plays in, wins are wins.
“There are good teams in the Mountain Valley Conference, and there are good teams in the Schuylkill League as well," he said. "You still have to play good baseball to get wins, no matter what league you are in.”
Lehighton is excited for this new beginning and to face off against its neighboring districts. The Indians feel happy and right at home already, but they’d prefer to skip the new guy fruit baskets and go straight for the championship trophies.