The Chestnut Ridge School Board took a step on Tuesday night to make life a lot easier on athletic director Mark Clevenger and football coach Max Shoemaker, as well as Lion football players, their parents and fans.
By a unanimous vote, the Ridge board moved to direct Clevenger to send a letter of application to the Mountain League for football only, beginning in 2014.
The Lions had been operating without a football league affiliation since the Inter-County Conference realigned without it in 2008 and the school abandoned membership in the Mountain Athletic Conference before playing a game. That's resulted in the Lions needing to travel to Reading, Greenville, Clarion, DuBois and Maryland to fill a schedule.
"Right now, this is the best possibility we have," Clevenger said. "We need to solidify our football program. Trust me, it's no fun being an independent."
Ridge seemed on the verge of returning to the Laurel Highlands Conference last year, but that conference requires an even number of schools, and another applicant couldn't be found. Ridge also has been unsuccessful in attempts to join the WestPAC.
Clevenger started to have informal talks with some Mountain League officials and found them receptive.
Should Ridge be accepted into the Mountain League, it would be the ninth member. All teams would have eight games, and the Lions longest trips would be to Clearfield and Penns Valley.
"Hopefully this will work out. I can find two games easier than I can find 10," Clevenger said. "The longest trip in the Mountain is almost half of what our longest trip is now."
It will be awhile before Ridge learns the verdict. The league's next meeting is Nov. 7, but before it can admit the Lions, it must amend its by-laws, which currently calls for members to compete in all sports. Still, early reports seem optimistic.
"I think most member schools would be interested in playing Chestnut Ridge in football," Mountain League secretary Chuck Gojmerac said.