---- — TOLEDO — Whether it was playing at Casey-Westfield or coaching at Cumberland, Kevin Maynard has practically been a LIttle Illini Conference lifer.
But his first season as the head coach of the Cumberland Pirates will be his last in the LIC, as the Pirates are moving out at year's end.
Still, he wants to take the LIC by storm on the way out the door.
"It's kind of different for me," he said. "I grew up playing in this conference, We can definitely be one of the top teams in the conference. It's going to be an uphill road, but we're looking forward to it."
Cumberland is headed to the Little Okaw Valley Conference in the 2014-15 season, joining the 16-team conference for sports other than football and the 13-team conference for football. The school will join the conference's southeast division, playing schools like East Central, Tri-County and Villa Grove.
They'll have some familiar faces for Maynard and the Pirates, like current LIC foes Oblong at Hutsonville/Palestine and Martinsville, where Maynard cut his teeth as a coach.
"I look forward to leading us into the LOVC," he said.
The Pirates will be playing more schools of their size in the LOVC, as opposed to the LIC, where they are one of the smaller schools.
Still, the Pirates haven't had any trouble hanging with bigger schools like Newton, C-W, Robinson or Olney over the years as the Pirates have made the playoffs seven of the past nine seasons.
They'll face all the usual gauntlet of LIC schools, as well as Paris, who will become an LIC member when the three teams head to the LOVC.
Maynard, as well as his predecessor Todd Butler, never have looked at their school size as a handicap, churning out a string of success that has seen Cumberland accrue all seven of its playoff appearances since Butler and Maynard arrived in 2000.
"As far as our mindset, we don't look at it as a big school and a small school thing," he said. "It's just a matter of this is our next opponent, this is a step that we have to take to get to where we want to be.
"Every week's important no matter who we're playing, because we're going to play some schools that are smaller than us like Oblong and Palestine."
Cumberland went 4-1 in the LIC's Eastern Division last year, with its lone loss coming to Casey-Westfield. They also dropped non-divisional games to Olney and Paris.
It'll be business as usual for Cumberland in its final season, as they're looking to keep their recent tradition of making the playoffs alive.
"We want to put ourselves in the best position we can to win the conference," Maynard said. "We'd like to win our division and have a chance to win the overall conference as well."
That quest begins Friday when they travel to Paris at 7 p.m.