Why are we breaking up?

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Seeing a team in any sport win a state championship is a special occasion. Those athletes deserve all the recognition they can get -- they earned it. There shouldn’t be any sort of negative connotation with that.
And yet, I feel horrible for all of the players and coaches associated with the Osceola-High Plains Stormdogs.
For the past two seasons, the two schools joined as one on the football field and performed better than anyone could imagine, winning a state title in its second year.
However, the Stormdogs will not be able to defend that title. And that’s not fair to them.
The High Plains school board decided to let its co-op with Osceola come to an end before the NSAA’s Nov. 1 deadline, just about one month before the Stormdogs would sit at midfield of Memorial Stadium after winning the Class D1 championship.
Two years ago, it took a 4-2 vote by the HPC school board to even get the co-op established. Earlier that same year in the summer, the vote was 3-3.
The swing vote came on the assumption that the co-op would only last two years and that’s it.
Why ruin a good thing?
There was an argument as this co-op was being discussed about losing school pride, which at some point now becomes hypocritical.
What the OHP Stormdogs have done in just two short years is nothing short of remarkable.
Albeit just two seasons together, the Stormdogs have created their own tradition, and we’re going to just wipe it away.
Why not continue to build that program and that tradition into the future and make it into something to be recognized across the state. In the final four games, OHP faced the likes of Creighton, Howells-Dodge, Cross County and Burwell -- all teams that have had plenty of success and tradition in football. The Stormdogs matched up with those storied histories and made their own.
Since 2000, the likes of Howells, Dodge, Creighton and Burwell have appeared in 15 state finals in the 8-man game. At one point or another in 2019, OHP defeated them all.
There was plenty of celebration to be had on the hallowed grounds of Memorial Stadium Nov. 25. The Stormdogs earned it. There also wasn’t one player that was happy about the situation going forward.
In fact, arguably two of the biggest stars of the OHP Stormdogs were very appreciative of the opportunity to even have the chance with the co-op. And even though Dylan Soule and Keaton Van Housen won’t be around next season, they still wish the band would stick together.
“With all the adversity we had to go through to get this co-op going, that makes it more special,” Soule said.
“I’m blessed for this,” Van Housen said of the co-op. “Without this, I wouldn’t be here.”
They weren’t the only ones to speak out on the matter.
“It was a great feeling and I wish it didn’t have to end,” Osceola junior Carson Watts said. “It’s over now.”
“I’m ecstatic,” Soule said. “It’s a great way to end my senior year and end this co-op on a high note like this.”
Co-coach Greg Wood, who pushed to make this co-op come together, noted that this team wasn’t just teammates. They’re best friends that hang out at track meets and do a lot of things together.
“It’s special for the kids and coaches,” Wood said. “These guys have been together since seventh grade and came together as a family. It’s awesome for them to end it in this fashion.”
Wood has no idea if the Stormdogs will ever get back together again. But, they’ll celebrate it this title forever.
“I know next year we won’t and right now it is the end of it and we’ll enjoy this as long as we can,” Wood said.
All of this isn’t to say that the High Plains and Osceola communities didn’t go full-out in their support. They absolutely did.
The turnout for a playoff game in Creighton 2-1/2  hours away in the snow flurries would have been proof enough, but the “Clash in Clarks” with a few thousand on hand against Cross County and the very well attended state finals in Lincoln showed that support, and that was great to see for two seasons. It just doesn’t need to end like this.
“I don’t feel like either school would have been in this position if we were separated,” Soule said. “It took both communities to get us here. I’m grateful to end this co-op with a state championship.”
Is that to say this is only about winning games and state championships? Not necessarily.
A cooperative can help you win games and can carry more life lessons, like working together for a common goal, and showing how two groups of people can come together under one tagline.
Through OHP’s playoff run, people would ask time and again why exactly this co-op was coming to an end. They had nearly no intel on the cooperative, but could see that it was working.
There was never a good answer to give them.
The Stormdogs were everything that’s great about two schools joining together. All of the teammates were friends, the coaches from the two schools got along and all of that showed on the football field.
Their efforts in the summer, the offseason through the fall culminated with the state championship trophy at Memorial Stadium.
It’s a shame that those kids won’t be able to defend that title because the adults in the room couldn’t do what the players did -- get along.
RICHARD RHODEN can be reached at sports@hamilton.net.

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