Rivalry in danger

DeForest and Waunakee have one of the most storied rivalries in Wisconsin high school football, but they may stop playing every year with the realignment of the Badger Conference. The Norskies and Warriors would be in different divisions in the Badger Conference.

In terms of high school football in Wisconsin, the rivalry between DeForest and Waunakee is as big as Duke and North Carolina in basketball and the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in baseball.

The two storied programs have squared off as conference foes for decades, but that may change.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) Board of Control recently approved the 11-player football conference realignment solution initiated by the WIAA Conference Realignment Task Force Committee. The new conference realignment plan has the Norskies and Warriors in different divisions in the Badger Conference.

The new Badger Conference would be split into a Large School Division and a Small School Division.

Waunakee would be the biggest school in the Badger Large with 1,337 students. The Warriors would be joined by Sun Prairie East (1,325), Sun Prairie West (1,325), Watertown (1259), Oregon (1,161), Beaver Dam (1,114) and Milton (1,101).

With 1,027 students, DeForest would be the second largest school in the Badger Small behind Monona Grove (1,028). The division would also include Fort Atkinson (1,003), Stoughton (978), Mount Horeb (904), Sauk Prairie (878) and Portage (778).

In the new football-only Badger Conference, teams will have one crossover game and two more non-conference games. The Norskies’ are hopeful they can schedule Waunakee in one of the three non-divisional games.

“We would have preferred to be in the larger conference, but we are not,” first-year Norski football coach Aaron Mack said. “I would be disappointed if we couldn’t find a way to have a crossover game with Waunakee on a yearly basis. I hope that the conference commissioner and athletic directors can keep some of the great rivalries in the conference. With the new alignment, I think they will be able to be flexible with the schedule.”

DeForest administration sent letters to the WIAA stating their position to stay with the larger schools in the Badger Conference.

“At this point, it would take some higher action to keep the changes from happening,” Norski athletic director Rick Henert said.

Just as important as keeping the rivalry with Waunakee, the Norskies want to stay with the larger schools for competition reasons.

“Keeping the rivalry with Waunakee was one of the concerns we had, but we also feel that we have reached a certain level of competition and wanted to maintain that with the opportunity to stay with the bigger schools,” Henert said. “But they went with a more geographical and enrollment-based groupings and that puts us on the move.”

Henert has already spoken to Waunakee athletic director Aaron May about continuing the storied rivalry.

“We have three games to schedule each year with one crossover and two non-conference games,” Henert said. “It would be a priority to get Waunakee in one of those three games each year. We will also have to work carefully to schedule some other games against the bigger schools in the Badger and teams from the Big Eight to get ready for the competition we have to face in the postseason.”

The new conference alignments are for football only and would start during the 2022 season.

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