Quincy Aldrich

North Clay's Quincy Aldrich hits an RBI triple during the Class 1A SIU Super-Sectional against Goreville Monday. North Clay could see some new faces on its baseball team next year from Clay City High School if a co-op is agreed upon. 

While North Clay already sends a handful of softball players to Clay City for a co-op, some Clay City athletes may be North Clay-bound next season.

The two schools are working on extending their athletic co-op, with any new sports added being hosted by North Clay.

But it won't change the already agreed upon set up with Clay City hosting the softball team, and it won't involve every program.

"No, it definitely won't be a full co-op," said Clay City athletic director Larry Gariepy, who also serves as the co-op's softball coach.

The main sports that it would affect, according to Gariepy, would be baseball, boys basketball and girls basketball. Clay City, with an IHSA-listed enrollment of 75, did not field a girls basketball team or a baseball team this season, and struggled with numbers in boys basketball.

Both school boards have voted in favor of a co-op, but now it's about hammering out the details. North Clay offered to host in all sports, but Clay City wishes to keep softball at Clay City and volleyball in house. The Clay City volleyball team played at the state tournament last season, finishing fourth with a 30-4 record.

North Clay athletic director Jason Lewis said setting up a co-op wherever possible would be what's best for student-athletes in Clay County.

"But I hate to see kids from a neighboring city not be able to play a high school sport, and that'd be the situation if we did not offer it," Lewis said. "Basketball is the big one. It seemed like they had three or four girls interested, and they had nine boys interested. That would get us back to maybe being able to play a fresh/soph schedule."

The softball co-op seems to be in fine shape, as Clay City won a regional title before falling in the sectional semifinal to Lebanon. While baseball hasn't set up a co-op yet, it couldn't hurt North Clay. The Cardinals made a run all the way to Super-Sectionals with just North Clay's players, and adding talent from Clay City would bolster the program.

Both school boards met last week, with North Clay agreeing to offer a full co-op and Clay City agreeing to set up a co-op program that fits their needs. Both boards meet again at the end of the month — North Clay on June 23 and Clay City on June 27 — and Lewis expects he and Gariepy will get back to discussing the logistics.

"I haven't talked to him lately with the baseball run (for us) and his softball run," said Lewis Tuesday. "I'm sure we'll talk this week."

Time is ticking, as the paperwork would need to be in to the IHSA over the summer to set up the co-op properly.

"We've talked about it," Gariepy said. "Their board meets before ours does. Their board voted yes to co-oping with Clay City, yes in all sports, and that left things open for us to say boys basketball, for us to say baseball."

There were some conference logistics to go through. North Clay is in the process of leaving the Midland Trail Conference and heading to the National Trail Conference in all sports except baseball, where the Cardinals have already played one fall season in 2015.

That was also another driving force in North Clay offering to be the host, as their addition to the NTC helped re-up the numbers in that conference. The softball team would stay in the MTC, however.

"That was our biggest reason for wanting to host everything, because we just switched conference," Lewis said. "I made the NTC aware Clay City would continue to be the host (in softball)."

If approved, that would mean the NTC would have co-ops in four of its programs, depending on the spot: Brownstown/St. Elmo, Windsor/Stew-Stras, Cowden-Herrick/Beecher City and the new co-op between North Clay and Clay City.

But it will be up to the schools to hammer out the details.

"It's come to our board, now for our board to decide, which would be (in June)," Gariepy said.

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