By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News
The tides are beginning to change for small school football teams in Southeast Iowa, as more and more teams look to move from 11-man football to Class 8-Man.
With a wave of schools holding sessions to look at the possibility of the move, ahead of IAHSAA redistricting this winter, the pressure is on all the area teams to make a decision.
New London, which is coming off a third-place district finish and a playoff berth in 2017, isn?t immune to talks, and Superintendent Chad Wahls says it?s not out of the question.
The Tigers are under the required BEDS number to move to the 8-Man class, meaning they could make the switch over without petitioning the state. Although the Tigers have found recent success in Class-A, Wahls fears that travel times will begin to grow as their Class-A competition moves over to the 8-Man game.
?A lot has changed in football in the last two years, just in schools being able to put (11-Man) teams out there,? Wahls says. ?You look at the amount of teams that forfeited this year, it?s ridiculous.?
Another potential problem down the road, Wahls says, is the possibility of New London having a down year on numbers. The Tigers graduate 18 seniors and only have five juniors out this year, meaning a handful of younger kids will have to step in to roles they may not be ready for.
Although the Tigers haven?t yet seen the effects quite yet, the Tigers lose a majority of their offensive line, a more dangerous position for underclassmen to have to step in for.
?It?s like getting in a boxing ring,? Wahls explained. ?I?m a lightweight and I?m fighting a heavyweight.?
New London is yet to have a serious discussion about the potential switch, and no decision has been made, but much like other area teams, the Tigers are on a ticking clock. Teams must notify the association in early December.
Danville, which had to forfeit games in 2015 and combined with West Burlington-Notre Dame, is looking to combine with different teams this year. The Bears will not be able to play with WB-ND this season, but have been in talks with Mt. Pleasant about a potential sharing agreement. Mt. Pleasant will talk more in detail about that in a session on Monday, Nov. 27.
Two days after that, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, Winfield-Mt. Union will look to make their decision. The Wolves have been discussing a potential switch this month. WACO has been playing 8-Man for two years already. Even Montezuma, a team from New London?s district (Class A, District 6) is rumored to be looking at the switch.
Wahls says the combination of the potentially harsh travel times next year and not wanting to put younger, smaller kids in dangerous situations has pushed him into early talks, but says he will have discussions with players and the community before any decisions are made.
Although community support could be hard to win over if the school did decide to make the switch, Wahls says eventually people would come around, citing another example of when the playing field changed in high school sports.
?When they went from six-on-six (girls?) basketball to five-on-five, did everybody freak out?? Wahls recalls, ?Now they look back on it and say, ?How did they ever play six-on-six.??
Other potential reasons cited in the discussion involved the possibility of fielding a JV schedule, and renewing rivalries with area teams such as WACO, Lone Tree, and W-MU, if the Wolves do follow that path.
The News will have continued coverage on the area?s small school teams as everything plays out this winter.