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It's already a big enough game between Eisenhower and MacArthur. Next season, Decatur fans won't have to wait as the Staley Game kicks off Week 1.

If that wasn't enough, the rivalry has a new backdrop -- Millikin's Frank M. Lindsay field.

"This is the first time we've ever played there," MacArthur coach Derek Spates said. "It's pretty exciting."

The IHSA released the high school football schedules for the 2016-17 season on Thursday, and the city rivalry game at Millikin was one of several changes to the schedules.

It's not the first high school game there. Meridian played there last year while its field was under construction and the Eastern Star all-star games were there before moving to Maroa-Forsyth.

But a game between the city schools at Millikin has been in the works for a while, and everything fell into place for 2016.

"With Millikin's new facilities, there's been a push for collaboration between Millikin and DPS," Eisenhower AD Greg Collingwood said. "We had a meeting about a year ago to see if a soccer and football doubleheader would work on that Saturday."

It did, especially with Millikin's regular season starting the week after. The soccer game is slated at 1 p.m. and the football game will start at 3 p.m on Saturday, August 27.

Between playing at Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin and, at Illinois State's Hancock Stadium with Normal U-High coming into the conference, Spates said it's another good opportunity for his athletes to play not only on turf, but at a higher education campus.

"It's a good partnership, and it's good to get the public Decatur kids exposed to that environment," he said. "Hopefully, it brings more fans in, gets more people out at the field."

Collingwood said the schools will see how the weather and heat cooperate for the mid-day August games, and let open the possibility of moving it back to let the field cool off.

"We'll cross that bridge when we get there," he said.

But the stadium provides perks neither school's field has, including the turf and access to the video scoreboard. Spates said he took a tour of the facilities earlier this spring to see what was possible beyond just the game on the field.

This is technically a MacArthur home game, one of five for the Generals this year. Collingwood was hopeful this wouldn't be a one-year fling.

"There had been some conversation of a non-regular season game there as well," he said. "It certainly hasn't been ruled out down the road."

Another item to consider is the rental fee, which is around $1,200 for a football game.

Millikin athletics director Craig White said since the new football facility has been built, the university has been open to hosting high school games. That's not limited to area games either -- White pointed out Decatur is a reasonable halfway point for a game between a St. Louis and Chicago area school.

"Anybody that contacts us, we'll sure consider it," White said. "We give them control of gate and concession. We do it because it's a good thing for the schools."

Closer to home

When the Central Illinois Conference splintered off from the Okaw Valley, that meant plenty of long trips across the state the last two years.

Many of those have been significantly shortened, as Little Okaw Valley schools have made up a majority of the two-week non-conference schedule.

Warrensburg-Latham coach Scott Godfrey is grateful this season's Week 1 game is Cerro Gordo-Bement, which is three times closer to home than Georgetown-Ridge Farm.

"That was picked before I hired. I'm a fan of staying close and having natural rivalries, and Cerro Gordo was definitely a team that can do that," Godfrey said.

In the coming years, Warrensburg will replace South Fork, a school nearly an hour away, with LSA.

Godfrey said besides the closeness helping breed rivalries, it helps draw bigger crowds and he doesn't have to pull his kids out of school early to prep for an hour and a half drive.

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And the LOVC makes some sense for the CIC. Sullivan-Okaw Valley and Clinton are the only two schools not in Class 1A or 2A.

Central A&M made trips to Illini West (157 miles) and Milford (123) -- now the Raiders have Arcola (45) and Argenta-Oreana (35). Sullivan-Okaw Valley dropped Hoopeston (104 miles) and added Cumberland (40). Shelbyville swapped out Rantoul (90) for CGB (40).

Besides A&M, Argenta will have an Okaw Valley Blue reunion with Meridian. There are nine games altogether between the CIC and LOVC.

Godfrey's excited to begin a new chapter of the battle between the conferences. That starts with Cerro Gordo-Bement.

"Saw them against Sangamon Valley last year in the playoffs," Godfrey said. "They're a two-back team, and they run the ball really well.

"It's fun to watch -- it's the kind of style I grew up with in the Okaw."

Heck of a start

Nokomis coach Paul Watson has perhaps the hardest first two weeks of any first-year coach.

He's pitted against one Hall of Fame coach and a likely future one -- first up is Cully Welter and Monticello in Week 1 before Mark Ramsey and St. Teresa in Week 2.

Home, sweet home

For the last two years, Cumberland won five games and has been on the outside of the playoffs.

The Pirates might find a head start this year as their first four games are at home.

That means Cumberland finishes with four of five on the road, but the last home game is right in the middle in Week 7.

New Maroa lineup

Maroa-Forsyth's brand-new Sangamo schedule has several notable dates.

The Trojans play Athens after facing each other in the playoffs the last two years, each winning a game. That comes Week 6.

In Week 8, Maroa travels to Auburn, which took second in Class 2A last year.

Williamsville is on the docket for Week 3, and in Week 9, Maroa plays North Mac, which went 10-1 last year.

New faces

With Maroa jumping to the Sangamo, that leaves one fewer conference game for the Okaw Valley.

Monticello has several new teams on the schedule, including two Little Illini teams -- Olney and Casey-Westfield.

The monster of a drive comes in Week 2, though. Monticello takes on Sherrard, which is a three-hour drive just south of the Quad Cities.

Ending strong

After starting with Rochester and SHG the last two seasons, Eisenhower will now play those two in Weeks 8 and 9.

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adow@herald-review.com|(217) 421-6978

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