Uncertain future for Battle of 224 between Canfield, Poland

CANFIELD, Ohio (WYTV) – There’s a chance the decades-old rivalry between Canfield and Poland could end in all sports, but particularly in football now that Poland has decided to withdraw from the All-American Conference and leave Canfield behind.

When asked if Canfield would quit playing Poland, Canfield Athletic Director Greg Cooper said he hasn’t yet decided what they’re going to do.

Poland Athletic Director Brian Banfield has emailed Cooper, saying they still want to play Canfield.

“We want to continue in every sport,” Banfield said. “We still want to compete with the Cardinals and keep the Battle of 224 alive and well.”

Cooper said he’s received the email¬†but has not responded.

The formation of the NorthEast 8 Conference — including Poland, Hubbard, Girard, Lakeview, Jefferson, Niles, Struthers, and South Range — was announced May 23. Canfield was not invited to join because its enrollment is larger than the other schools, including Poland.

“It leaves us out in the cold,” Cooper said. “What the hell [is Poland] doing? They have been disrespectful.”

Banfield said at an executive committee meeting on April 26, the divisions of the AAC were redrawn. Canfield and Poland were in the same division and both schools voted for the realignment. But the final vote was 11 to 10.

“There’s a lot of unhappy people,” Banfield said.

He wouldn’t say which schools were unhappy or why.

At a superintendent’s meeting on May 3, it was decided to have the athletic directors meet to try to come up with a better plan that made more schools happy. According to Banfield, they met on May 10 and the divisions were again realigned, but it left two levels with only three teams.

“It was a mess,” he said.

Between April 26 and May 10, Banfield said other schools approached Poland and asked if they were interested in breaking away from the AAC to form a new conference.

“We felt moving forward, looking at our classes coming up, we align more with schools like that enrollment-wise. We figured if we don’t join these schools, where we going to go?” Banfield said.

He can see why Cooper is upset, though.

“It was all done in secret. Then it started to leak and then the letter came out. Canfield was never invited,” Cooper said.

Canfield and Poland will play in football in 2017 during Week 10, but no decision has been made yet about 2018 — the year Poland is set to join the NorthEast 8.

“We’d like to open with them,” Banfield said of the 2018 season.

Cooper said Poland is obligated to play Canfield in 2018 because of an AAC rule requiring schools leaving the league to give notification by May 1. The new league was announced three weeks later.

“We were set for the next two years,” Cooper said. “We would expect them to honor the All-American Conference schedule this year and next. You don’t just walk away.”

Banfield said once the superintendents called for the May 10 meeting, the May 1 deadline no longer existed.

“If we’re going to make all these ADs meet after May 1, then we can’t hold the May 1 letter of resignation out there.”

Cooper said it seems like Poland wants to have their cake and eat it too.

“Poland is telling us, ‘We want to play Canfield in sports but we want to play them at the time and place of our choosing.’ If we’re not good enough to play them on a regular basis in a conference, why should we play them at all?”

A meeting of AAC schools is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, June 1 at Leo’s in Howland. Both Cooper and Banfield have agreed to talk about future games at the meeting, especially for 2018.