By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News
WINFIELD ? A big decision is about to be made for the Winfnield-Mt. Union football team.
On Wednesday, the W-MU school board will look at a proposal for the school to move from Class A football to Class 8-Man football for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Every two years, the Iowa High School Athletic Association re-classifies teams around the state according to their BEDS report and puts out new districts for a two-year span. That process will take place this winter, meaning Class A teams who want to move to 8-Man can notify the IAHSAA.
The BEDS report must be below a certain number in order to move down to 8-Man, but W-MU is currently under the limit, so they could make the change as soon as this year and be playing on an 8-Man field as soon as next fall.
The arguments for moving to 8-Man are simple. Less kids being forced to play allows younger players to grow, and the ability to field a junior varsity team allows players to get playing time before their varsity careers, a thought echoed by W-MU superintindent Jeff Maeder.
?With less participation in football for a variety of reasons, playing 8-Man helps us be more competitive and develop younger players,? Maeder says. ?(Players) will have the ability to practice with real players rather than using trash cans, coaches, and sometimes managers to show formations of other teams.?
W-MU did have a relatively young team this year, and will only lose four players to graduation, but Maeder says the team will still be dangerously short-handed if the school stays in Class A next season.
?We?re still going to be one of the smallest schools currently playing Class A football,? Maeder says. ?It?s not a good situation to be wondering week to week if you?re going to have enough kids to play on Friday night. We?ve been doing that for two years now.?
W-MU head coach Scott McCarty, who led the team to the Class A postseason in 2014 and 2015, says he is in favor of the potential switch.
?I think that the move to 8-Man would be a positive move for W-MU,? McCarty says. ?It would allow us to develop players through JV games and proper competition in practice and game opportunities. It would also allow us to be on a level playing field with our competition that we face both district and non-district.?
Even with agreement from coaches and a proper BEDS count, however, the move to 8-Man isn?t always as easy as it would seem. Often in these situations, communities look at the 8-Man game as a lesser version, especially those who played and are used to seeing 11-Man football played every Friday night.
Chad Edeker, athletic director and head football coach at WACO High School knows that all too well. The Warriors were the first Henry County team to look into the possibility of a switch, and pulled the lever two years ago. WACO has played a Class 8-Man schedule for the past two years.
Edeker says his advice to community members is to look at who a potential change benefits.
?I would tell them to look at their situations and see who the change will effect,? Edeker says. ?Is the change a good think for the kids (and) does it put the kids in a position to be competitive and have a positive experience in sports? Look at all the things that you think are reasons not to switch, and are they really reasons that effect kids or just excuses why not to change??
A popular argument against the 8-Man switch is the amount of travel teams face when they have to find other 8-Man schools to play, but with schools breaking away from the class to combine programs or move to 8-Man, that may just be reality for both 8-Man and Class-A squads.
When W-MU won the district in 2015, the other teams in the area were local squads Cardinal, Danville, Lone Tree, New London, WACO, Van Buren and Pekin. Every team in the district was also a part of the Southeast Iowa Superconference in other sports.
Flash forward to today: Lone Tree and WACO have moved to 8-Man. Danville forfeited their schedule and combined with West Burlington-Notre Dame, and Van Buren combined with Harmony, which moved them up to Class 1A. That left teams like W-MU and New London playing Lynnville-Sully, Montezuma and North Mahaska, all schools which are over an hour and a half away.
On the other side of the coin, WACO has to travel to Preston and Baxter, which are over two hours from Wayland.
And if you?re lucky enough to make the postseason in either class as a Southeast conference team, your first round game could be quite the drive as well. Just ask New London, who lucked out to draw Lynnville-Sully in the first round this year, the closest eligible first round opponent at a steady one hour and 55 minutes.
The board will look carefully at both sides on Wednesday, as the decision will effect communities and football programs around the area both positively and negatively. W-MU has to decide soon, as the districts will be announced this winter.