Teams in 8-Player District 7 have been left scrambling for the 2019 season as two schools have discontinued their football programs.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Iowa High School Athletic Association announced its class and district assignments for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Teams were slated to play a home and home series with the nine teams on their schedule.
However, heading into the second year of the schedule, both Clarinda Academy and Essex have dropped their football programs. IHSAA Assistant Director Todd Tharp, who oversees football for the state organization, said one other school elsewhere in the state has also dropped its program for this season.
As a result, 61 schools will be playing 8-Player football in 2019. Last season, there were 64 schools divided into eight districts of eight teams each.
Essex shared its football program with South Page last season. However, in 2019, the Trojans will be sharing a team with fellow District 7 member Stanton. Tharp said the total enrollment for the two schools still falls below the limit of 120 students for the 8-Player class.
South Page, meanwhile, has entered into a sharing agreement with Clarinda and will join the Cardinals for all athletics.
Tharp said he was notified last spring of the change in sharing agreements with Essex.
“We appreciated the good communication we had with Essex. We were able to give the schools in their district the opportunity to find other contests,” Tharp said.
Then, in late June or early July, Tharp said he was notified by the administration at Clarinda Academy the Eagles would not be able to field a team for the 2019 season.
“The Clarinda Academy situation was a little more frustrating. It was disappointing to find out that late because it has been almost impossible for the other schools to secure games. But given the number of kids they would have and the risk minimization involved, I respect their decision,” Tharp said.
As a result, District 7 has been left with only six teams for the 2019 season. Those schools are Bedford, East Mills, Fremont-Mills, Griswold, Sidney and Stanton.
“That has really put some schools in a bind trying to find contests. They will play five district games and have had to find two extras non-district games. I know some of them have really struggled to find a ninth game,” Tharp said.
The reason for the difficulty is other 8-Player schools in the state are already locked into schedules featuring seven district games and two non-district games. A school could add a tenth game to their schedule as a Week 0 contest, but that would only bring the total number of games for a District 7 team to eight games.
“To help these schools we have reached out to Nebraska. There may be a school in central Nebraska that has a low number of games, but we have not heard back from them,” Tharp said.
Despite the fact the teams in District 7 will only play five district games this season, Tharp said the district champion will still receive an automatic playoff berth.