Hammonton's move to Tri-County helps large schools


Hammonton's long-awaited move from the Cape-Atlantic League to the Tri-County Conference, which will be effective in September, 2014, won't have much impact on the smaller schools in the Tri-County.

Gloucester won't notice a difference. Neither will Pitman, Salem, Schalick, Clayton, Wildwood and the conference's other Group 1 and Group 2 schools.

But Hammonton's arrival, which became official when the school's Board of Education approved the move last Thursday night, is big news for Williamstown, Clearview and Kingsway.

So, too, is Triton's imminent arrival, which will happen this September.

That's because for the last few years, there's been a major separation in the conference, with schools such as Williamstown, Clearview and Kingsway pulling away from the rest of the smaller schools.

Now, with Group 4 Triton joining this year and Hammonton, a large Group 3, joining in 2014, the Tri-County will have a fairly deep roster of larger schools.

That's a big help in terms of competitive balance and also in terms of offer broad-based programs.

Delsea and Deptford seem to toggle back and forth between Group 3 and Group 2, depending on the sport. Deptford's numbers seem to be hurt by the growth of GCIT, so the Spartans could be a Group 2 in the future, while the Cheetahs might be a Group 3 before long.

But Cumberland and Highland are fairly solid Group 3 schools, although Highland has teetered on the brink of Group 2 status at times in recent classifications.

But the new members of the Tri-Co are large schools. Hammonton and Triton also have broad athletic programs.

"This is great for our larger schools," said Tri-County president Mike McAleer, the AD at Pitman, referring to Hammonton's admission to the conference. "Hammonton is a big school, with three levels (freshman, JV and varsity)."

Hammonton certainly will join the Tri-County's Royal Division with schools such as Williamstown, Clearview, Kingsway, Triton, Cumberland and perhaps Highland.

Delsea likely will drop to the Diamond Division, and Highland could drops down in some sports as well.

The move could have the largest impact in football. As a member of the Tri-County, Hammonton will automativally join the West Jersey Football League.

But that situation is in flux as it's possible that the CAL could merge with WJFL before the start of the 2014-15 school year. Those talks have been initiated, with some CAL officials pushing hard to get their conference under the WJFL umbrella for the next football scheduling cycle (which would be for the 2014 and 2015 seasons).

A big key for Hammonton football is whether the Blue Devils will maintain their Thanksgiving rivalry with cross-town St. Joseph.

Hammonton AD Frank Torcasio said the school wants to keep playing St. Joe. But a lot will depend on the makeup of the WJFL in 2014.

Hammonton's arrival is a big positive for the Tri-County, and a bit of a blow to the CAL. Hammonton had been one of the origial six members who joined to form the CAL in 1949.

That's a lot of history.

One other side note, Hammonton's arrival will mean the TRI-County conference now has schools in SIX counties: Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland, Cape May and Atlantic.

It's Tri, times two.

-- Phil Anastasia

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