COLUMBIA CITY — Sometimes, things just change whether we like them to or not.
Change can be uncomfortable especially when it involves sports. There are changes coming to the schedules of two of the Whitley County football teams that will go into effect for the 2019-2020 season.
This upcoming season will be the last time that Whitko and Columbia City meet on the football field for the foreseeable future.
The Wildcats and Eagles are discontinuing the Eel River Rivalry due to a change in the Three Rivers Conference that Whitko is a member of. When Macanoquah and Peru joined the TRC, that gave the conference 10 teams.
For a number of years the TRC was divided into two five-team conferences and the two division winners would play for the conference crown at the end of the year. But that wasn’t a popular format, and conference members voted to instead have each team in the conference play nine TRC opponents each year.
With Whitko committed to nine conference games each year and it’s non-conference game against Churubusco, the ‘Cats had no more room on their schedule.
“From a history standpoint, it’s unfortunate,” said Whitko Athletic Director Josh Mohr. “But due to a conference obligation we had to make the change.”
Mohr added that the TRC schedule will rotate every two years. That gives each of the conference members the chance to play the other schools an equal number of times.
Columbia City meanwhile is adding Central Noble to the schedule for it’s second game of the season after this year. It was important for Columbia City athletic directory Khelli Leitch to find another team that was fairly close to ensure there was still some measure of the game having a rivalry feel.
“Their (Central Noble) football team is improving and so is ours so it should be a good game,” said Leitch on the prospect of the Eagles facing the Cougars.
Whitko and Columbia City began playing each other in football in 1981. In 2005, the cross-county rival went on hiatus. Columbia City put Huntington North on the schedule and continued playing the Vikings for five years until 2010 when Whitko was put back on the schedule.
When the rivalry resumed, it took on the “Eel River Rivalry” persona, complete with a traveling trophy that goes to the winning school each year. Columbia City leads the rivalry with a record of 24-10 against the Wildcats.