Post season playing in six-round brackets based on geography, quality and team availability as considerations
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DES MOINES – The Iowa High School Athletic Association released a condensed version of the 2020 fall football schedule Friday afternoon that includes five mandatory games, two optional games and all teams qualifying for the post season.
Fort Madison competes in Class 3A and the new schedule allows 3A schools and below to play their previously scheduled district games by moving each week up two weeks.
Fort Madison Activities Director Jeremy Swink said his conversations with Head Coach Derek Doherty focused on playing all seven games, but he said which two fit into the optional weeks is yet to be determined.
“I obviously haven’t had a chance to talk with any schools yet, but when Derek and I chatted we decided we would like to find an opponent for those first two weeks. But I don’t know who that’s going to be,” Swink said.
He said initially the home/away schedules should stay intact for district games starting Sept. 11.
As it stands currently, Fort Madison will play Washington on the road Sept 11, Keokuk at home on Sept 18, Burlington on the road on Sept. 25, Mt. Pleasant at home on Oct. 2 and Fairfield at home on Oct. 9, with the playoffs starting the following week.
The other four games the Bloodhounds had scheduled include West Burlington/Notre Dame, Centerville, Albia, and Clear Creek-Amana. Fort Madison could will likely grab up two of those four.
“Our position on wanting to play all seven games goes back to giving the kids the opportunity to compete and putting themselves in the best position to win,” Swink said. “But, like we did with Muscatine in softball, if there is a game of concern or a hot spot, that’s not something were interested in playing.”
Doherty said he was happy that the state was looking for creative ways to make the season happen, rather than shut it down.
“Honestly, my fear was that they were going to shut it down,” he said.
“Were just excited for opportunity to play and our goal is to play those optional games as of now. Jeremy is going to start making some calls to see what’s happening, but he reached out right away to see if we wanted to play those.”
Doherty said he understands the all-in on the playoffs considering what the state is up against, but he wouldn’t want a format like that on-going.
“I understand for this year and that’s one of the things they’ve talked about in the past. But the competitor in me doesn’t like that. We wanna do it the right way. Fort Madison hasn’t made the playoffs since the late 80s, but the competitor in me wants to earn it. I’m not a fan of an every-year thing.”
Swink said allowing everyone in provides some room for schools that may encounter the virus and have to miss a couple games. The state encountered that issue with a few high-caliber teams that got left out of the summer post season due to virus’ impact.
“I think the rationale to allow everyone to play in the playoffs is that if a strong team were to be unfortunate enough to catch this and would have to be out 14 days or whatever, that wouldn’t hurt the team in the playoffs,” he said.
Central Lee, playing in Class 2A, will have it’s first district game against Mid-Prairie on the road Sept. 11, followed by Davis County at home, Eddyville-Blakesburg at home, West Burlington on the road on Oct. 2 and Williamsburg at home on Oct. 9, with the first round of playoffs on Oct 16.
Banks said he anticipates the Hawks will keep their first two games, drop the second two and then districts will start.
“I don’t know anything 100% solid at this point, but that would be my guess and I would think that’s probably what other schools will do as well,” Banks said.
“I just want football – plain and simple. I just want a season and I back the IHSAA 100%. They’ve done a great job with baseball this summer and now our kids can go out and compete.”
Banks agreed that having everyone make the playoffs isn’t the best option, but considering the circumstances he understands the decision.
He said Central Lee Superintendent Dr. Andy Crozier, who is on the IHSAA Board of Control, and AD Jerry Ireland have been instrumental in helping the sports program adhere to guidelines and recommendations for the safety of the programs.
The Hawks’ out-of-district games were Pekin, Van Buren, Cardinal and Louisa-Muscatine in that order. Banks said he would guess the Pekin and Van Buren games would stay on the schedule and the other two would just drop off.
The new scheduling does not penalize teams for missing games due to the potential of positive COVID-19 cases forcing players and teams to miss games in the regular season. A missed game due to COVID-19 will be considered a “no contest” and will not be made up. Teams may work with the IHSAA and new possible opponents should they have open dates due to scheduled opponents missing games.
The state will also not be compiling the regular RPI Power index this year and post season assignments will be based on geographic, quality and team availability as the primary considerations.