MVRHS will return to the Cape and Islands League

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The MVRHS boys soccer team is one of the high school teams that will be playing in the Cape and Islands League, hopefully by 2018. File photo by Stacey Rupolo

Updated Mon., Dec. 12 @ 1:30 pm

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) athletic program will leave the Eastern Athletic Conference (EAC), its home for the past seven years, to rejoin the restructured Cape and Islands League (C&I), in which it competed for decades, reaching back to the 1960s.

MVRHS athletic director Mark McCarthy confirmed late last week that his school’s application has been accepted, and that play could begin as soon as the 2017 season.

“I’ve been working at this for a couple of years, and applied this year,” Mr. McCarthy said. “The league notified us a couple of weeks ago that we have been accepted. I will formally notify the EAC in the next few days.”

While schools normally give a two-year notice before changing leagues, the EAC earlier this year allowed Somerset Berkley Regional High School to exit with a one-year notice to join the South Coast Conference.

“We’re asking for a one-year notice as well. There is a precedent now, so we could begin competing in the 2017–18 academic year,” Mr. McCarthy said last week.

Mr. McCarthy informed the MVRHS school committee of his intent at a school committee meeting last week. The newly muscular C&I conference will total 15 schools in several tiers of play. “We won’t be the largest conference in the state, but we’re up there,” Mr. McCarthy told the Times.

The C&I league will now be comprised of Falmouth Academy, Cape Cod Academy, Rising Tide Charter School, Sturgis West, Sturgis East, Saint John Paul II, Cape Cod Tech, Monomoy, Nantucket, Falmouth, Sandwich, Nauset, Dennis-Yarmouth, Barnstable, and Martha’s Vineyard.

Mr. McCarthy said the move makes sense for several reasons. “We will be able to match schools on a competitive basis, and from a logistics standpoint, it makes scheduling and travel much easier,” he said. C&I athletic directors will now begin to slot comparable schools into competitively appropriate C&I divisional play, he said.

He noted that the Vineyarders play many of the C&I teams now in several sports, that the new league will rekindle long-established rivalries between MVRHS and other schools from decades past, and that it may expand the rivalry with Nantucket to include other sports.

“We were probably one of the founding C&I schools back in the 1960s,” Mr. McCarthy said. Many MVRHS alumni, including Mr. McCarthy, played in a former version of the C&I League, which included MVRHS, Nauset, Nantucket, Harwich, and Chatham. That league disbanded about a dozen year ago, which led MVRHS to join the EAC after a stint as an independent school and two years in the South Coast Conference.

The new C&I creates a ripple effect in southeastern Massachusetts high school sports. The future of the five-school EAC is unclear, since Somerset Berkley Regional High School told the EAC it was leaving to join the South Coast Conference (SCC). Catholic schools Bishop Stang and Coyle and Cassidy have since followed suit, by applying to join the Mayflower League. Although the Mayflower League has, of yet, taken no action on those applications, the tipping point could well have been reached in the five-school EAC.

“It makes sense for Somerset, and Stang and Coyle and Cassidy are seeing declining enrollment, so the move is right for them as well,” Mr. McCarthy said.

Several other leagues, including the Atlantic Coast, Old Colony, and Mayflower leagues will also lose teams to C&I.

While Mr. McCarthy has been considering the move for several years, a domino effect of schools leaving the EAC makes the move practical. “It’s the right move at the right time,” he said.

“Long rivalries and shorter rides — though Nauset and Nantucket will still be a commute. But we have more in common with C&I schools in terms of competitiveness and student profiles. We have a lot more scheduling options, and we have people in place to create equality in competition,” he said.

“Although we haven’t matched out the football and who’s playing who yet, there is a possibility we could be back in the league with Nantucket, which would strengthen the rivalry, though the MIAA might change how that rivalry looks. There’s a lot more information to come. It can’t be the Cape & Islands without us,” Mr. McCarthy said.