Cape-Atlantic League to Merge with West Jersey Football League Starting in 2016
Things are about to change in the Cape-Atlantic League.
The football landscape is about to get bigger, the West Jersey Football League voted 55-11 today to accept the CAL for football starting in 2016. With the addition of the CAL schools the WJFL will now have 83 schools and could allow for past rivalries to be reunited like the Hammonton vs St. Joe game which was lost this year with Hammonton leaving the Cape.
“Football in the Cape-Atlantic League worked for some,” CAL president Mike Gatley told Mike McGarry from the Press of Atlantic City. “But it didn’t work for enough.”
(Listen to CAL President Mike Gatley discuss the CAL/WJFL merger)
So how did this all happen?
"The biggest key is the West Jersey football League had amended their constitution." Gatley explained to Mike Frankel on the South Jersey Sports Report. "That had been the stumbling block the first time around, because of our non-public schools, particularly St. Joe, in their constitution you can only play up or down one group size - that was a serious road block."
So to generalize to make this happen, the WJFL changed its constitution so that teams can play schools of any size - for instance St. Joe's can now play bigger schools and a much better schedule, that is not something the WJFL would allow in its past.
"We could get most schools five-or-six games, it was those cross-over games," Gatley said. "It gives every school an opportunity to compete."
As Gatley explained on the show, smaller schools like Pleasantville won't have to play crossover games with bigger schools like Mainland or Oakcrest, instead they could be matched up with teams like Wildwood or Clayton - giving them a much more competitive schedule for their level of talent.
So what are some of the cons to this decision?
"I would say the teams that voted against the CAL still don't want to play the three CAL non-public schools," Mike McGarry from the Press of Atlantic City told Mike Frankel on the South Jersey Sports Report.
West Jersey Football League president Bud Kowal said he plans to keep traditional rivalries in CAL such as Vineland-Millville and Atlantic City-Holy Spirit on Thanksgiving day - which has been a concern about merging in the past.
"This is a merger that had to happen," McGarry said. "Overall this is a positive move, it will be strange, it definitely will be different, but time marches on - it will be an adjustment, but in the end its a change that had to come to Cape=Atlantic League football."
Overall this is good news for the Cape Atlantic League - football has always been an issue with the various range of enrollments in this area, with 83 schools, teams can now find much better pairings and play much better schedules.
"What this opens up is some good crossover games," McGarry said. "You might see Atlantic City play a Cherry Hill East or a Cherokee. This could bring back a Wildwood- Lower Cape May crossover game or Wildwood - Middle Twp or maybe a Bridgeton - Cumberland Regional game."
Another thing Gatley mentioned was that there is a good chance the CAL teams could all remain in the same division with-in the West Jersey Football League - meaning the large group of the Group IV football schools like Millville, Atlantic City, Egg Harbor Twp., and Absegami would remain on each others schedule and could even be called the American division.
"This is going to bring some interesting matchups," Gatley said. "It wasn't about the league schedule, it was about filling a full schedule."
This will mark the end of the Cape-Atlantic League as we know it for football - a league that started in 1948 will be no more.
"It will be different," Gatley acknowledged. "I don't know how we're going to handle it, but it's going to be fun. There was no conference in the state that had the issues we had."
So the final Cape-Atlantic League football season will kickoff this September and you can follow along on 973espn.com and listen every Friday night on 97.3 ESPN.