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IHSAA unveils postseason structure

First-round byes, early-round pods to be implemented

WCHS assistant coach Clint Howard watches from a crouched position on the sideline during last week’s 42-7 win over Mason City. The No. 7-ranked and unbeaten Lynx will be at Gilbert on Friday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — First-round byes and three- to four-team pods for the opening two rounds highlight the upcoming prep football postseason.

In other words, forget about a March Madness style bracket. And don’t worry about staying up late next Friday night following the completion of the regular season either. First-round match-ups won’t be released until the following afternoon.

In an email to high school athletic directors, coaches and officials on Monday, the Iowa High School Athletic Association unveiled its plans for the upcoming postseason, which will get underway with first-round games on Friday, Oct. 16.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, changes have been made to the postseason. With the exception of the Des Moines public schools due to the fact that they are currently not participating in in-person learning, as well as several 8-man programs that have opted out, every team will be eligible to compete.

What does that look like? There will be six rounds to the postseason, with the “playoffs” officially beginning once each of the six classes is down to 16 teams in the third round. And since only 8-man has the required 64 teams for a full six-round structure, there will be first-round byes in each of the other five classes.

South Hamilton linebacker Tycin Barkema (5) knocks down a pass against Madrid earlier this season. The Hawks take a 5-0 record into Friday’s Class 1A District 3 game at East Marshall. DFJ photo/Angela Hewitt

Fifth-ranked (Class 1A) South Hamilton and seventh-ranked (3A) Webster City are both in line to receive a first-round bye if they win out and claim their respective district championships. But neither program’s head coach is overly excited about that possibility.

“This isn’t the pros, I don’t want to take a week off,” WCHS head coach Bob Howard said. “Honestly, I don’t know what we would do during the week when you don’t know who you’re preparing for. We’ve never been faced with it, but I guess we’ll figure it out if we get there.”

“I would rather be playing that week (of the first round),” South Hamilton head coach Corey Klemp said. “But the other side of it is it allows you to get healthier and one less game for potential injuries.”

In both 1A and 3A, there are 54 eligible teams. That means 10 teams would receive first-round byes — the nine district champions as well as one additional team chosen by the IHSAA.

The first- and second-round pairings will be based on geography, which could lead to numerous district rematches.

“I’d like for it to be seeded clear across the state, but that’s unrealistic,” Howard said. “With geography, it almost ensures you’re going to play somebody you’ve already played.”

Following the opening two rounds, the IHSAA will redraw the postseason into four-team pods, four in each class. And following the third and fourth rounds, the pairings will again be redrawn for the semifinals, which will take place inside the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.

Host sites will be determined by regular season success. If WCHS and South Hamilton both run through the regular season unbeaten, there is a chance both could play at home through the quarterfinals.

With only 36 teams currently eligible in 4A, there will be only four first-round games. The 8-man class began with 67 teams, but Clarksville currently ended its season and the IHSAA said two other teams have decided to forego the postseason and instead play one another in what would be Week 8.

But nothing has been set in stone for either WCHS or South Hamilton. Both still need to win out to ensure district titles and first-round byes.

WCHS will head to Gilbert on Friday to serve as the Tigers’ Homecoming opponent. The Lynx will end the regular season on Oct. 9 against winless Boone.

South Hamilton will travel to LeGrand on Friday to face East Marshall, followed by a Week 7 home date with Aplington-Parkersburg.

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