One unexpected result of the expanded Chagrin Valley Conference will be felt inside the Vencill household when basketball season rolls around.
Randy Vencill is the head coach for the Edgewood girls basketball team. His daughter, Jordan Vencill, plays for Geneva.
Edgewood and Geneva are now in the same division of the CVC and the two teams will square off next season.
“That’s going to be a hard one, to be honest,” Randy said. “I’m going to be rooting for her to do good, but, at the same time, we’ll be trying to stop her, too, so it’ll be kind of a bittersweet game for sure.”
The Vencill Bowl is just one of the many new exciting matchups created by the CVC’s expansion to 22 teams.
Edgewood, Lakeside and Geneva will all compete in the same division in nearly every sport, meaning each school is guaranteed at least two county-rivalry games in football and even more in other sports like basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball and softball.
Grand Valley will also share a division with the three other county schools in a few sports, including boys and girls soccer.
Playing county schools within the conference opens up the door for even more non-conference county games and Edgewood Athletic Director Steve Kray wasted no time taking advantage.
With a seven-game conference football schedule, Kray had three open weeks to fill his non-conference schedule. Not having to worry about scheduling an out-of-conference game with Lakeside, Kray called other county schools and filled up his slate with Conneaut, Jefferson and GV.
Edgewood football will play five of its 10 games against Ashtabula County schools this season. Two of the other five are against nearby teams Perry and Harvey.
“Those games were meaningful in the early 2000s, late 90s, and we needed to get those games back,” Kray said. “People will go watch Ashtabula County teams play against each other.”
The difference between county games and non-county games is palpable.
The players, like GV's Gordon Seger, feel it.
“You always want to win in the county, because that’s like your territory,” Seger said. “You want to claim the whole county and say that you are the best team in the county. … Being the best team in the county is definitely a big pride check.”
Coaches, like Lakeside softball’s Jodi Candela, see it in her players.
“When they're playing against girls that they know, it’s a completely different atmosphere,” she said. “If you come watch an Edgewood game and you come watch a Boardman game, you're going to see two different Lakeside teams out there. Hometown rivalry; we need it.”
Geneva football has not played a fellow county team since 2015 and coach Chip Sorber has seen the effect first hand. He’s excited for more local flavor.
“Plenty of these CVC teams like Orange will come and there’s nobody (in the stands),” he said. “Beachwood came here and they got 10 people in the stands. Perry travels well, but a lot of them don’t and we have a visitor’s side that’s not very full, so I think these local games will add a lot of flavor.
“I couldn’t be more ecstatic to have local football games.”
According to Kray, Edgewood brought in roughly $2,500-3,000 when hosting a team like Hubbard or Niles McKinley in football.
When hosting a county school like Lakeside or Jefferson, the figure jumps to $8,000-10,000, he said.
“A lot of schools do things differently, but the way we do things here is I’m self-funded,” Kray said. “Whatever I make at gates is how I fund the rest of my year, so football is very important. … We need people that are going to travel and when we’re playing Geneva, Conneaut, Grand Valley, Harvey, even Perry, they’re going to travel. It’s close for us, it’s close for them and I think we’re going to see a spike in those numbers, as well.”
Second-year Lakeside Athletic Director Jason Baxter got his first taste of county action last season. Despite a somewhat down year in boys basketball, he saw county fans migrate to Lakeside and pack the gym when the Dragons played host to Edgewood.
“It was a packed house,” he said. “I can’t imagine, division on the line — whether it’s Perry, Geneva, Edgewood or Harvey — what that could bring. I think that was the one, I don’t want to say nice part of the ACC, but sometimes they didn’t bring any fans, let alone student sections. So, as an administrator, especially my school administrative staff, life was kind of easy. But this year, we’re definitely going to earn our paychecks. That’s for sure.
"At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. We want our athletes here at Lakeside to have the best student-athlete experience and part of it is student sections and loud gyms and that’s what we want."
GV does not share a division with the other three county schools in most sports and it is no longer with longtime rival Pymatuning Valley, either, but Berkshire and Cardinal are two teams who Athletic Director Terry Hejduk believes are natural rivals.
Both schools are less than 20 miles away from GV and all three have had their fair share of run-ins over the past few years.
GV and Cardinal have met on the football field every year since 2016. The Mustangs have taken on Berkshire each of the past two seasons.
GV and Cardinal’s volleyball teams have eliminated each other from playoff contention each of the past three years. The Mustangs won a playoff softball game over the Huskies this past spring, but Cardinal has ended the girls basketball team’s season in both 2018 and 2019.
The roots go even deeper.
“We play youth basketball in Cardinal, that’s where one of our leagues is, so a lot of the kids are rivals from there,” Hejduk said. “Kids that go from Cardinal live in the Mespo area and the Mespo area is part of our little league softball and baseball program. So, we know a lot of kids and Cardinal’s just a great natural rival for us.
“Berkshire’s the same way. They’re close by and we play in rec leagues with them. We’re looking for both of those schools to be a rival — a friendly rival of course, but a rival.”