New football districts send area teams in new directions

WEBSTER CITY – Sometimes change is good. And sometimes change is difficult.

Perspectives from area football coaches differed yesterday when the Iowa High School Athletic Association released its new districts for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Webster City, South Hamilton and Northeast Hamilton – all playoff qualifiers in 2013 – will all go in different directions than in the past and new opponents stand on the horizon.

Webster City will be a member of Class 3A District 2 along with familiar faces Algona, Boone and Humboldt, as well as Carroll, Greene County and Perry.

South Hamilton is housed in 1A District 7 alongside Madrid, Manson-Northwest Webster, Ogden, South Central Calhoun, Fort Dodge St. Edmond and Woodward Academy.

Northeast Hamilton heads south to take part in 8-man District 7 with Adair-Casey, Ankeny Christian, Coon Rapids-Bayard, East Union, Glidden-Ralston, Guthrie Center and Murray.

WCHS head coach Bob Howard expected his team to move to a southern district, but several of the new District 2 members caught the Hall of Famer by surprise.

“It makes sense I guess and it’s kind of a neat district, but I didn’t expect Carroll to come this way and I didn’t expect both Greene County and Perry,” Howard said. “But I think it’s kind of neat to play new teams.”

After clashing with perennial powers like Clear Lake and Waverly-Shell Rock in recent years, Howard says the new landscape shouldn’t be a shock to the Lynx system.

“It won’t be any more difficult than last year because there’s no Clear Lake or Waverly sitting there. Carroll is obviously the big dog there with Humboldt, and Boone is a big school.”

Boone, Carroll, Greene County (in 2A) and Humboldt joined WCHS in last fall’s playoffs.

South Hamilton’s district features six returning playoff qualifiers; Madrid (A), Manson-Northwest Webster, Ogden, South Central Calhoun and St. Edmond all made the postseason as well in 2013. Under the state’s all-time wins leader Dick Tighe, St. Edmond was the state runner-up.

Northeast Hamilton’s new home did catch head coach John Seiser a little off guard. The Trojans will face a daunting schedule of quality programs and they’ll face the most travel.

“Most of these teams have 36 to 44 kids out, they’ve got tradition and they’re a helluva long ways away,” Seiser said. “But we’re used to playing in tough districts and travel-wise it may not be worse than what we’ve been doing.”

Adair-Casey, Coon Rapids-Bayard, Glidden-Ralston, Guthrie Center (A) and Murray were all playoff entrants as well last season.

Northeast Hamilton’s viability past the 2014 campaign is still in limbo and that may have played a part in the Trojans’ new district.

“Our numbers after next year will dramatically drop, so everyone can do the math,” Seiser said. “Obviously the following year is a concern.”

Non-district opponents and schedules will not be released until sometime in late February or early March. Schools have until the first week of February to submit their non-district requests to the state, although there are no guarantees they’ll face one or any of those teams.

Howard says Webster City’s top two priority opponents are Clear Lake and Iowa Falls-Alden – two former 3A schools that will move down to the 2A ranks for the next two years.

“Clear Lake and Iowa Falls-Alden are who we would like to play because of rivalry, conference affiliation and good gates,” Howard said. “Plus, I want to keep Clear Lake on the schedule because you want to have good competition early to see where you’re at.”

WCHS and South Hamilton will have a third non-district game sometime in weeks three through nine that the schools have no say over.

Thoughts on staying with a 9-game schedule

Like most coaches across the state, Howard was pleased with the IHSAA Board of Control’s decision on Wednesday to table the idea of dropping the regular season from nine to eight games for at least two years.

“I’m happy that they stayed with the nine games. The 8-game thing was not a good option,” he said. “The tabling the action to study it for a couple of years is certainly better than playing eight games.”

The Board of Control did make a change to the playoffs. The board eliminated sister districts as well as a predetermined bracket system. Now the potential playoff match-ups will be unknown until released and they can change from round to round.

“Doing away with the bracketing, that’s the way it used to be,” Howard said. “I don’t know that that’s a big deal because they’re still going to seed it, but you may be playing someone from your own district.”