PAXTON (WCIA) — This week, Watseka, Iroqouis West, and Cissna Park announced they will leave the Sangamon Valley Conference for the Vermilion Valley conference starting with the 2021-2022 school year. Paxton-Buckley-Loda is a another SVC team that will have a new look come 2021.
“I think we’re going to see some gyms filled up with some competitive basketball and volleyball and I’ll tell you what, on Friday nights I think you’re going to see a lot of competition at Zimmerman Field,” says PBL athletic director Brock Niebuhr.
Starting in the fall of 2021 the Panthers will call the Illini Prairie home. They’re leaving the Sangamon Valley after 30 years in the conference.
“As we look long-term we want to do something that was going to be both stable for us and those around us and we feel that the Illini Prairie provides that long-term,” says Niebuhr.
PBL was the largest school enrollment-wise in the SVC, they will be the 8th biggest in the Illini Prairie, but not much changes for the basketball team. Head coach Adam Shonauer thinks it’s only a positive for his program.
“I’m excited for this because of the level of competition, I think it’s going to be great for us,” says Shonauer. “We already play a lot of those teams in basketball anyway so it’s not going to be a huge change-up for us with our scheduling but I think it’s a good chance for us and a move in the right direction of where we want to go competitively.”
However, football is different. The Panthers go from being the big fish in the little pond to the small fish in a big pond.
“So all of the sudden you’re playing a bunch of 4A schools whether it’s a Tolono or IVC, Prairie Central, teams teams that have gone far in the playoffs,” says head coach Josh Pritchard. “You go and you compete against tougher teams a lot of people say that it can help you in the playoffs when all of the sudden you play tougher teams, we hopes that’s what it does for us too.”
The move also allows some old SVC rivalries to start back up, between PBL and SJO and STM. The only teams remaining in that league, for now, are Clifton Central, Dwight, Momence and Seneca.