By BRANDON HURLEY
Class 2A, District 9
It has arrived.
A belated Christmas gift to sports nuts and concerned relatives throughout the county was unveiled last week. The newest cycle of Iowa High School football districts were released Jan. 25, welcomed by a throng of old and familiar teams.
Once Greene County found out they’d be joining Class 2A district 9 along with the likes of Kuemper and Atlantic for the 2018 and 2019 football campaigns, it sent the local high school – and community – into a tizzy, even if actual meaningful football is still seven months away.
“It was a really important day for a lot of kids in our school and they were really excited about it,” Greene County head football coach Mitch Moore said. “And you can definitely tell there’s some momentum for the season.
I know I need to certainly be politically correct (here), “ the GCHS activities director said, “but let’s not make a mistake, I still believe football is king and football drives athletic departments. it was a really important day for for Green County football players and all involved. It was neat to feel that buzz.”
The Rams will also compete against Red Oak, Shenandoah and new 2A squad, OA-BCIG (who spent the last two years in 1A) along with the aforementioned Kuemper Knights and Atlantic Trojans. It’s a fairly reasonable district, Moore feels, one that sets up well for Greene County and includes a natural rival in Kuemper, who the Rams played toe-to-toe with in 2017. To see that tradition-rich program within their district is a welcome challenge, the coach said.
“Kuemper will be a great rivalry for us. We played them pretty tough last year. We were all hands on deck, healthy and young, wide eyed and fresh,” Moore said. “Carroll Kuemper will be a great team for us to measure ourselves to. They have had a great run the last 10 years and are a great program in 2A. That will be circled on our calendar.”
Kuemper compiled a 7-3 record last fall and has qualified for the playoffs the last two years while also capturing the 2013 state championship.
The Knights defeated Greene County 21-14 in the 2017 season-opener but will be without a few key players next fall. Running back Miles Rupiper is gone as are their top WRs, Parker Badding and Sam Auen as well as starting quarterback Joey Pottebaum.
OA-BCIG was 6-3 last fall in Class 1A. They were members of district seven along with IKM-Manning and AHSTW.
Atlantic was in Class 3A a year ago in a tough district that included top 10 ranked Harlan and Winterset as well as Carroll. The Trojans were 5-4 a year ago and could provide a formidable test.
Shenandoah was 2-7 last fall while Red Oak was 1-8. Red Oak has produced just six wins in the last three years while Shenandoah put together a strong, 7-3 season as recently as 2015. Kuemper, Red Oak and Shenandoah spent the last four years together in the same district while Greene County, Kuemper, Shenandoah, OA-BCIG and Red Oak were all members of the same 2A district back in 2012 and 2013.
The Rams last made the playoffs in the 2014 season despite a losing record, losing to Creston/Orient-Macksbug in the first round.
Scheduling for the next two years quickly becomes a lightning rod for discussion as well. With a six member district, Greene County will only square off in five league games each fall through 2019, leaving four possible non-district opponents to fill the nine-game schedule.
It’s a blessing in disguise, Moore said. The non-district schedule is essentially a warm-up for district play. With a combination of wins and losses throughout the two, every game matters. Playoff qualifiers now not only need to rely on district records. They can go out and put forth an impressive non-district run and play their way into the playoffs once district play starts. Or vice-versa – have a disappointing non-district performance but turn things around once the district schedule commences.
It’s a notion that he hinted being nothing but beneficial.
“By week five in district play, we will know who we are. We’ll have everybody in the right spots and it will give us an opportunity to go for it in district play,” Moore said. “You feel really good if you’re first or second in your district, you’re probably going into the playoffs.
But, if you go 1-3 in non-district play, you can hit the reset button and win, you’re in. So that’s kind of a benefit of some of those things.”
Moore has his eyes set on taking on some big boys in the coming years. The full schedule has not be finalized, which leaves the head coach and Greene County activities director with some wiggle room.
“Well I think it gives us an opportunity to kind of pick and choose some teams,” he said. “You know where you stand with them. You know there are some teams that you can be really competitive with and you know you’ll try to pick a team or two that you think, from a program standpoint, is maybe a little farther along than we are. It’ll give us a great barometer going into district about exactly who we are.”
Moore wants to keep the Cowbell rivalry alive and well, all but guaranteeing Perry as an opponent and touched on a possible renewal with Carroll while perhaps adding Denison-Schleswig, Gilbert or Pochantoas Area. He wants a nice mixture of programs to test his unit. With the amount of returning players, including a huge chunk of offensive weapons that battled through a brutal 3A schedule not even six months ago, Moore said he’s received a number of inquires from outside teams.
“We are a hot commodity right now for a number of reasons. I think teams understand and know that we are building something and we are going to be better,” the coach said. “They think that we can maybe be OK in terms of winning some games and it doesn’t hurt them.”