Bishop Guilfoyle will join the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference in all sports beginning in the 2007-08 school year.

The Marauders program will replace Central of Martinsburg as the Scarlet Dragons depart the LHAC, also in 2007-08.

Central will remain in the 12-school LHAC for the 2006-07 school year.

“It was a unanimous vote,” said LHAC Executive Director Ron Stempka, the Central Cambria athletic director, after Friday’s vote. “Every school from the Laurel Highlands was there except for Central, whose athletic director was refereeing a state volleyball championship. It was an 11-0 vote.”

Guilfoyle currently competes in the Mountain Athletic Football Conference and Inter-County Conference in football, and the Mountain Athletic Conference in most other sports. The Blair County school’s athletic programs participate in four different conferences.

“It will be an excellent fit for us,” Bishop Guilfoyle Athletic Director Rick Hatch said. “It will create a great deal of stability for us. As of now we’re in four different leagues from junior high through varsity. That’s what we have to look at as an overall program.”

In football, Bishop Guilfoyle is in the Nittany Division in both the Mountain Athletic Football Conference (with Bald Eagle Area, Bellwood-Antis, Penns Valley, Philipsburg-Osceola and Tyrone) and the ICC (with Bellwood-Antis, Chestnut Ridge, Mount Union and Penns Valley).

During the fall 2007 season, the LHAC alignment will include Bedford, Bishop Guilfoyle, Cambria Heights, Central Cambria, Forest Hills and Penn Cambria in Section I; and Bishop Carroll, Bishop McCort, Greater Johnstown, Richland, Somerset and Westmont Hilltop in Section II.

“Those were two great conferences for us, and we had some good rivals,” Guilfoyle football coach Marty Georgiana said of the ICC and MAFC. “I think what this does is week-in and week-out it’s going to be a tough schedule for us throughout the eight or nine games.

“It has to be positive from a sense that now we don’t have to worry about scheduling. That had been a concern not only with football but the other sports.”

The Marauders will fill the spot vacated by Central in 2007-08. Guilfoyle doesn’t have a wrestling program, but does have girls soccer, a sport Central doesn’t have. Neither Central nor Guilfoyle play boys soccer.

“We like the idea that Bishop Guilfoyle has quality academic and athletic programs,” Stempka said. “It will help our competitiveness in the Laurel Highlands conference. It stabilizes our league with 12 teams. It adds good, competitive teams that Bishop Guilfoyle offers to make our conference stronger.”

Central notified the LHAC this year of its intention to leave in 2007 in order to join the MAFC and ICC in football and the MAC in other sports. The LHAC received interest from Bishop Guilfoyle, then waited for the outcome of a District 6 meeting regarding possible realignment of football based solely on enrollment classification. Such a move eventually would make current conferences obsolete.

The district still is exploring its options regarding classification in football.

The LHAC voted to accept Bishop Guilfoyle rather than wait. The conference initially offered Central an opportunity to remain in the LHAC when the uncertainty in other conferences and realignment issues surfaced.

“We were waiting to see what was going to happen with classifications with football,” Stempka said. “The opportunity worked out when Bishop Guilfoyle sent us a letter in April to see if we would consider them for the Laurel Highlands. We asked Central to reconsider to join the Laurel Highlands, again. We gave them until June 1. They were satisfied with their choice of going to another conference.”

Greater Johnstown Athletic Director Tony Penna said Guilfoyle’s entrance actually will provide a link to the region’s football past.

“Back in the early 1980s the Great IX Conference included Guilfoyle, Carroll, McCort, Vo-Tech, Ligonier, Northern Cambria, Portage, Cambria Heights and Penn Cambria,” Penna said. “We had a great league and we always got along. The other one was the Big IX.

“We enjoyed playing Guilfoyle,” added Penna, a former Johnstown Vo-Tech coach. “One of the nice things will be to go back and play at Mansion Park. We’re really looking forward to this.”

Mike Mastovich can be reached at 532-5083 or

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