Football: Greene County stays in 2A, familiar district as Iowa embraces new system
By BRANDON HURLEY
Tweaks have been made. Now we wait.
For the most part, football in Jefferson next fall will look and feel pretty much the same, except for a few, minor structural changes.
The Iowa High School Athletic Association announced last week new classifications and district assignments for use during the 2021 and 2022 fall schedules. Iowa is now home to seven classes with the addition of Class 5A, which initiated an altered playoff qualifier system.
Greene County High School remained in Class 2A for the fourth consecutive year.
The jump to seven total classes, the IHSAA announced last month, is in an effort to improve competitive balance.
Class 2A is comprised of 48 teams and eight different districts, down from nine districts and 54 teams the three years prior. Each of the eight district groupings is home to six teams.
Outside of a slightly tweaked pool of 2A athletes, the most glaring change is to how the 32 playoff qualifiers are determined. Only 16 of Class 2A’s 48 teams will not advance to the playoffs, with the top four schools in each district earning an automatic berth.
Class 2A playoff qualifiers will be determined by district standing only. No at-large berths will be granted. Only the top four teams in each district qualify. This decision eliminates the use of RPI, which factored in strength of schedule and win totals, which had been in play for three of the last four seasons.
IHSAA communications director Chris Cuellar said the move away from RPI creates a more straight-forward system.
“The idea being that finishing in the top four out of six (or seven) teams in your district getting you into the playoffs is already pretty inclusive,” he said. “It’s a clear path to qualification rather than formula based, which takes out guesswork or math for any teams on the bubble.”
Only three of Iowa’s seven classes will not field at-large playoff qualifiers. Class 2A’s interesting tweak is joined by Class A as well as Class 1A. All teams in each class automatically qualified for the playoffs last fall which was the IHSAA’s idea to plan ahead for any potential COVID-19-related postponements.
For reference, the fourth place team in Greene County’s district last fall was Des Moines Christian. The Lions were 1-2 in district play in 4-3 overall. Likewise, the 32nd-best team, record-wise in 2020 was Center Point-Urbana with a record of 3-5 overall. The 32nd-best team in 2019 was a tie between a quartet of programs with 4-5 records. The fourth-ranked team in Greene County’s district that year was Kuemper Catholic, sporting a 3-6 overall record and a 2-3 district record.
Each team moving forward, will play eight regular season games with five required district competitions and a trio of non-district contests. The 2021 season will be the second year the IHSAA has trimmed the regular season down to the traditional nine game slate.
To offset the increase in playoff teams and to help the teams who may be limited to just eight games, the IHSAA has allowed space for a possibility of any of the 16 non-qualifiers in Class 2A to schedule a ninth game. This provision will also be available for teams in Class 1A and A.
The class re-structuring benefits Greene County slightly.
A few of the most dominant 2A programs over the last several years are now members of Class 3A. The list of departures includes schools such as Algona, Atlantic, MOC-Floyd Valley, Boyden Hull/Rock Valley and Solon while powerhouse programs like Waukon, Spirit Lake and PCM remain in Class 2A.
OA-BCIG returns to Class 2A after winning back-to-back state championships, including the 1A title last fall and the 2A championship in 2019. They’ll be without all-world quarterback Cooper Dejean, though, which will be a major hit as he trots off to the University of Iowa.
Greene County is now a member of Class 2A, District 8 along with five others. It’s a district almost exactly the same as Greene County’s district last season with the addition of Clarke (Osceola). The Rams will be joined by Clarinda, Des Moines Christian, Red Oak and Shenandoah. Clarke replaces 2020 district 9 champion, Atlantic, who bumped up to 3A. Greene County finished second in district play last fall with a 3-1 record. The Rams defeated Red Oak, Clarinda and Shenandoah as part of a six-game winning streak which ended in the third round of the playoffs. Greene County’s original Week 4 matchup with Des Moines Christian was canceled due to a positive Coronavirus test within the Lions program.
Clarke won just a single game last fall while losing seven. The Indians were shutout in three of their contests while they only managed to score more than 20 points on two occasions. Clarke has not tallied a winning season in the last 15 years, having never once won more three games in a single season at any point during that span.
Class 5A, now Iowa’s biggest football classification, is comprised of the state’s 36 largest schools. Class 4A is comprised of 36 teams as well while Class 3A also houses the next 36 teams, based on size. Class 1A is now home to 48 teams though Class A rounds out the remaining 11-man schools, which totals the 56 smallest districts in the state. Thirty-two teams will qualify for the playoffs in both Class A and Class 1A while 16 teams will make up the playoff field in Class 5A-3A.
Class 3A and 4A will place four at-large teams into their respective playoff fields while all 16 of Class 5A’s teams will be determined by the RPI system.
The complete 2021 and 2022 schedules, including Greene County’s non-district foes, will be released in April. Week 1 will begin Thursday, Aug. 26.