Football shake up
BOONE — For those who haven’t seen the shakeup caused by the creation of new football districts, the changes bring a mixed bag for area teams.
After going undefeated in Class 2A District 4 the past two seasons, Estherville Lincoln Central returns to Class 3A. The Midgets basically take Spirit Lake’s place in District 1.
In the 2008 and 2009 seasons, ELC’s district opponents are Bishop Heelan, Denison-Schleswig, LeMars, MOC-Floyd Valley, Sergeant Bluff-Luton, Spencer and Storm Lake.
“We’re excited about our return to 3A,” said ELC coach Jerry Shultz. “There are many teams we’ve competed with in the past.”
While road trips to Sioux City and Sergeant Bluff may seem long, ELC is used to traveling due to Estherville’s location at the top of the state.
Shultz know the district will have its share of challenges too.
“Heelan was the runnerup last year and I expect them to be rated at the top,” he said. “But we feel we’ll be very competitive.”
The Midgets non-district games are Sheldon and Sibley-Ocheyedan, both Class 2A schools.
Spirit Lake and ELC won’t renew their football rivalry yet. The Indians dropped into Class 2A and will play the Midgets’ playoff nemesis of the past two seasons, Central Lyon/George-Little Rock. Other Class 2A District 1 teams are Boyden-Hull, Sheldon, Sibley-Ocheyedan, Sioux Center, Unity Christian and Western Christian.
“We’re happy to play schools closer to our size instead of being a small fish in a big pound,” said Spirit Lake coach Brad Grimmius. “I don’t think this district is easier, but we’d rather play Central Lyon than Heelan, LeMars and Spencer. This district still isn’t a cakewalk by any means.”
Graettinger/Terril drops from Class A and 11-man football to play in its first season of 8-man. Cornbelt Conference rival West Bend-Mallard also will join the 8-player ranks this season.
Both join several other schools from the Cornbelt Conference including last year’s state runnerup, Armstrong-Ringsted.
North Kossuth and Sentral, which began sharing in every sport but football this past season, will begin play in 2008 as North Sentral Kossuth. Other conference teams in 8-player District 2 are Harris-Lake Park, Ruthven-Ayrshire, Twin River Valley. Joining this group is Laurens-Marathon, who will play its first season of 8-player football.
“We know we get to play our rivals and the players are looking forward to that,” said G/T coach Karlton Hector. “But there’s a lot to do in developing a new offense and defense.”
The Knights have struggled in the gridiron the past few seasons playing in Class A against schools that continuously drop down from 1A as smaller schools began playing the 8-player game.
“This should give us opportunities to be more successful than playing larger schools,” said Hector.
Armstrong-Ringsted discovered immediate success in the 8-player game two years ago, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in school history in 2006 and following with a runner-up finish in 2007.
While coach Robert Zotz observed less traveling in this new district (no school is more than an hour away), he doesn’t expect the competition to get easier.
“There’s three teams that dropped from 11-man and we also get a district champion in Harris-Lake Park,” he said.
The Wolves were 8-player District 3 champions while the Mustangs were champions in District 2.
Zotz also looked to rival North Kossuth which finished as the runner-up behind A-R in District 2. Adding athletes from Sentral will make that team tougher.
With the expansion of the playoffs though, four teams from each 8-player district will qualify for a substate game.
“Any of those teams could do damage,” Zotz said.
On a final note, former ELC district rivals Emmetsburg and Garner-Hayfield both dropped into Class 1A. Other schools in District 2 include Belmond-Klemme, Lake Mills, Rockwell-Swaledale, St. Edmond (Fort Dodge) and West Hancock.