The time was right for a couple area schools to switch their Class A 11-player football teams to the growing number of 8-player teams as enrollment numbers continue to decline in rural Iowa schools.
The latest area programs to switch to 8-man football are River Valley and Kingsley-Pierson, along with Newell-Fonda, southeast of the Chronicle Times coverage area.
With the State re-districting all high school football teams every two years, the time was right this year and the decisions had to be made by December 1.
Therefore, the RV and K-P school boards voted unanimously recently to switch their 11-man prep football programs to 8-man, which will bring about all new opponents and, hopefully fewer miles traveled.
RV and K-P, along with Newell-Fonda, now join existing Northwest Iowa 8-player programs such as Remsen-Union, Remsen St. Mary's, Whiting, Charter Oak-Ute, Granville-Spalding, and Harris-Lake Park.
Aurelia has fielded an 8-man team for the past several years, but will be sharing football next season with neighboring Alta as part of a whole-grade sharing choice, and will be an 11-man program.
It's likely this year's re-districting will pair up several of these area schools into a competitive 8-player district that will create some natural, neighborhood rivalries.
Some schools, such as Galva-Holstein/Schaller-Crestland, and Odebolt-Arthur/Battle Creek-Ida Grove, have opted to join forces for Class 2A 11-man teams as part of their whole-grade sharing plans already under way.
The G-H/S-C full athletic merger will now be called the Ridge View Raptors. The two-year football arrangement between the two schools formerly called the Buffalo Ridge Bison, will no longer exist. Odebolt-Arthur/Battle Creek-Ida Grove will stay the OA-BCIG Falcons.
Schools with an enrollment of 115 or less in grades 9-11 are eligible to switch from 11-player to 8-player football in Iowa. River Valley projects to have 95 students in those three grades next year, while Kingsley-Pierson is projected to total 114 next year, and 102 in 2011-2012.
River Valley had previously proposed a football sharing agreement with K-P for the next two seasons and that was voted down by the K-P School Board. Surveys were then circulated in the K-P District to parents, students, and coaches, and more than two-thirds of the 85 responses favored 8-man football versus sharing a program with RV or any other neighboring school district. K-P also has reportedly dicussed possible sharing with Woodbury Central on Moville.
Ironically, K-P Superintendent Scott Bailey was an assistant football coach and teacher at Aurelia when it ended an athletic sharing agreement with Alta in 1996 and switched to 8-player football. Current K-P head football coach is Adam Rapp, an Aurelia graduate who also was an assistant football coach at Cherokee before going to K-P.
River Valley Athletic Director Bill Mathers, who guided the Wolverine football team to great success in the past, led the charge for RV to switch to 8-man football. "It's the right thing to do," said Mathers. "We just don't have the numbers anymore."
The Wolverines are now coached by Brian Winkler, a former Galva-Holstein assistant football coach. He will now guide the RV 8-man team.
Some other area Class A football programs also have considered or are considering switching to 8-player programs, or possibly sharing programs with neighboring schools in the future, including Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn, Akron-Westfield, Le Mars Gehlen, and Woodbury Central.