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The Winter Ritual

By Staff | Jan 28, 2016

The Bi-annual rites of Winter have occurred within the past week, and actually almost went by unnoticed by a majority of folks.

I speak of the re-districting of high school football in Iowa, brought to you by the folks at the Iowa High School Athletic Association in Boone.

As a bit of history, the football playoff system in Iowa dates back to the mid-1970’s when a series of playoffs were developed by the Athletic Association, and culminated with championship games in the various classes at the UNI?Dome on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

The playoffs became an instant hit.

Prep football fans could watch their hometown team play football in shirtsleeve comfort the weekend before Thanksgiving. The players got to play a game on artifical turf inside a domed stadium, as opposed to muddy or frozen fields, under dry conditions, as opposed to bitter cold, rain or snow.

Community pride swelled when the local team made the playoffs – signs would appear in store windows: Closed For Playoff Game and neighboring communities on the route to the playoffs in Cedar Falls would often boast signs wishing their neighboring communities “Good Luck”.

The Athletic Association then introduced district football, placing schools of similar enrollment into eight-team districts to play each other, with the top teams meeting in the playoffs. That structure has been modified to take the top four teams from each district into the playoff field.

However, for the upcoming 2016 season, the qualifying procedure has been changed, and now only the top two teams from each district will qualify for the playoff field in the post season. That means just 16 teams will meet in the playoffs in each class, rather than the 32 teams that have met over the last few years.

Over the years, schools have closed and merged and student enrollments have changed, prompting the Athletic Association to have to reset and revamp districts on a two-year cycle. The re-districting, or matching of schools by size into the appropriate classes, took place again after the end of the 2015 season, and was announced last week.

For our Palo Alto County football programs, there will be new opponents to face in 2016 and 2017, but the teams will remain in their same classes as during the past season.

For the Emmetsburg E-Hawks, their campaign will continue in Class 1A District 1 for the next two seasons. However, the landscape will change as the E-Hawks will play opponents to the west. For 2016-2017, the E-Hawks will face Alta-Aurelia, Hinton, Okoboji, Sibley-Ocheyedan, Unity Christian of Orange City, West Lyon and Western Christian of Hull.

As a sidelight, Class 1A will only have seven districts for the next two seasons, as opposed to eight districts in years past.

In the Eight-Player game, both the Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire Titans and the West Bend-Mallard/Gilmore City-Bradgate Wolverines will both remain in District 1 for the next two seasons. Several of their opponents will remain the same, but a couple of new teams will join the district for the coming year. Teams in the district along with the Titans of GT/RA and Wolverines of WBM/GCB will be Clay Central-Everly, Harris-Lake Park, Kingsley-Pierson, Newell-Fonda, Siouxland Christian of Whiting and St. Mary’s of Remsen.

While it may seem strange to be thinking about playoff football when the thermometer flirts with zero and snow and ice are a daily fact, when you think about it, there really isn’t all that much time to wait before football will be on the minds of many.

In today’s society, the calendar pages seem to have the ability to fly by – we’re already looking towards St. Pat’s and Spring sports such as track and field and golf, and once the athletes get outdoors, softball and baseball aren’t far behind and before you know it, the crack of pads and cadence of a snap count will be heard across practice fields.

But before we get carried away, we need to remember our winter sports athletes as they close in on their respective post seasons. Wrestlers will start their trek to Des Moines in another week, with Sectional Tourney action on Feb. 6. Girls basketball start their tournaments on Feb. 11 and boys teams will begin the post season a few days later.

This is a busy and exciting time for our student athletes and a great time to take in a game or match and support our young people with our attendance at their events!