IHSAA reduces regular season to 7 games, all teams in postseason

WCHS all-state tailback Trey Mathis (32) is dragged down from behind during a game against Waterloo East last fall. The Lynx will play a seven-game regular season in 2020, it was announced on Friday. DFJ file photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — The Iowa High School Athletic Association announced on Friday a revised schedule plan for the 2020 football season due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has held the country hostage since mid-March.

Adopted by the IHSAA Board of Control, the new plan reduces the regular season from nine to seven games. Every team will now qualify for the postseason, which will begin on Oct. 16.

The first day of practice will be on Aug. 10, and Aug. 27 will be the first date of competition. Schools have the option of reducing their regular season schedules to as few as five games.

The IHSAA, which says this new format is for one year only, plans to release further fall season and sport-specific guidelines this week.

“I think it’s a pretty good plan considering the situation we’re in,” WCHS Hall of Fame head football coach Bob Howard said. “The association did a good job on this. I think they are trying really hard to save the football season, and now we’ll see what the guidelines are when they come out, as far as protocols for practicing and contact and locker room use.”

South Hamilton halfback Trevor Thompson runs in the open field during a game last fall. The Hawks will open up the 2020 season at home against Roland-Story on Friday, Aug. 28. DFJ file photo/Tracy Queen

The plan considers flexibility for school return concerns, geography, postseason qualifying and COVID-19 cases, the IHSAA says. Allowing every team entry into the postseason guarantees schools won’t be punished if a season is forced into suspension because of a potential outbreak.

In Classes A, 1A, 2A and 3A, schools will play their originally scheduled district games in Weeks 3-7. The opt-out dates in those classes are Weeks 1-2.

Webster City and South Hamilton have both confirmed that they will play seven games.

WCHS added home dates with Spencer and Carroll on Aug. 28 and Sept. 4, and will follow with district games against Ballard, Humboldt, Mason City, Gilbert and Boone over the final five weeks of the regular season.

Five of the Lynx seven games will be at home, which helps to alleviate Howard’s concerns with regards to locker room use on the road. Their only two games away from Lynx Field will be at Humboldt on Sept. 18 and Gilbert on Oct. 2.

“We got really lucky with our schedule,” Howard said, referring to the five home games, including three in a row to start the season. “(WCHS athletic director) Joe Shanks did a good job (on Friday) of getting that schedule done. This thing came out at noon on Friday and nobody was around any of the schools. Joe was on the road as well, but he managed to communicate with the ADs (at Spencer and Carroll) to get those games scheduled.”

South Hamilton athletic director Todd Coy spent Friday afternoon getting the Hawks’ schedule in order, and it will now include a season-opening home game against Roland-Story on Aug. 28, followed by a Week 2 road trip to take on Madrid. Dike-New Hartford, South Hardin, Hudson, East Marshall and Aplington-Parkersburg, all previously announced district opponents, round out the schedule.

South Hamilton has just three home dates — the opener against Roland-Story, Sept. 18 against South Hardin and Oct. 9 against Aplington-Parkersburg.

“I’m not surprised (by the changes), but I guess I was a little surprised by the timing,” Coy said. “With only three home games, getting Roland-Story at home will help financially, so that’s good.”

In 8-man, teams will have scheduled games in Weeks 1-2 with the opportunity to opt out of those games. In 4A, schools have been forced to schedule their own regular season games. The previously announced group format and success model will not be implemented this fall, and the RPI has also been eliminated since every team will advance to the postseason.

What the postseason will look like is still anybody’s guess. The IHSAA announced there would be six rounds of playoffs, which would be 64-team brackets. However, none of the classes sets up perfectly for that bracket. There are 40 schools in 4A; 54 in 3A, 2A and 1A; 60 in A; and 68 in 8-man.

Will there be byes? Will the first and second rounds be set up by geography? Will the entire bracket be seeded in each of the classes? Those are all questions the IHSAA still hasn’t revealed answers to.

“My first reaction is they’re going to seed it, but gosh, how do you do that?” Howard wondered. “That would be a heck of a deal and there would be some kickback about traveling and visiting locker rooms. And if they give byes, there will be hell to pay because that’s always been resisted so much. So it’s going to be interesting.”

Coy had similar questions.

“If COVID is important, I would think you would go geographically seeded the first two weeks, and then reseed after that,” he said.

Coy also wondered if this will be a one-year change, or if this will be the norm going forward.

“I’m thinking now that they’ve gotten this, I’ll be shocked if it goes back to a situation where not everybody qualifies,” Coy said.

Howard, a long proponent of maintaining the stature of the state playoffs, says he’s taking the IHSAA at its word that this is a stop-gap measure.

“I believe them when they say that it’s a one-year deal,” he said. “Right now, people just ought to be happy that we’re getting to play the season.”

2020 Prep Football Schedules

Webster City

Date Opponent

Aug. 28 Spencer

Sept. 4 Carroll

Sept. 11 Ballard

Sept. 18 at Humboldt

Sept. 25 Mason City

Oct. 2 at Gilbert

Oct. 9 Boone

South Hamilton

Date Opponent

Aug. 28 Roland-Story

Sept. 4 at Madrid

Sept. 11 at Dike-NH

Sept. 18 South Hardin

Sept. 25 at Hudson

Oct. 2 at E. Marshall

Oct. 9 A-P


Date Round

Oct. 16 First Round

Oct. 23 Second Round

Oct. 30 Third Round

Nov. 6 Quarterfinals

Nov. 12-14 Semifinals

Nov. 19-20 Finals


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