THE EARLY LEAD: Exciting wrinkles await Greene County football
By BRANDON HURLEY
Who would’ve thought we’d have so much high school football-related topics to discuss in the dead of winter?
A bevy of intriguing story lines suddenly emerged in the last week, all with ties to football.
Schedules, classification and playoff ratings have become the hot button issues and I doubt it slows.
A new qualification system will determine the seven at-large playoff teams in Class 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A and the six at-large teams and eight in eight player. For the first time in the history of district groupings, all nine games will count toward determining at-large qualifiers. There’s no longer a 17-point district point-differential in use.
As explained in a press release inside the Jefferson Herald:
“The Ratings Percentage Index formula will rely on three prongs to determine qualifiers:
a. Team’s overall win-loss percentage (accounting for 37.5% of the index)
b. Team’s opponent’s win-loss percentage (37.5%)
c. Team’s opponent’s opponent’s win-loss percentage (25%)
“Our goal is to have the best 16 teams in each class qualify for the playoffs,” Iowa High School Athletic Association executive director Alan Beste said in a release announcing the change. “We believe we get closer to that goal by having only district champions as automatic qualifiers, and the remainder of
qualifiers determined by their success and the success of their opponents and other successful teams.”
While RPI may be a somewhat flawed system, with no extra points for margin of victory or wins against teams in bigger classes, second-year Greene County head coach Mitch Moore is fully on board.
“I love it, other than the fact that (it doesn’t account for) a win over a 3A team, that I don’t like. But I’m not a guy that thinks a lot of teams need to go to the playoffs,” Moore said. “I don’t want to water down the playoffs. I think you have to earn your right to go to the playoffs and that’s why it’s called the playoffs. It’s important. Not everybody gets the opportunity.”
I tend to agree with the coach here, sticking with 16 teams is far and away better than bumping back to 32. It makes the playoffs more of a prestigious club, and frankly, we won’t see as many first round blowouts.
“To me, that’s how it should be,” Moore said. “You earn your rite to be there and if you win the games you’re supposed to win, you’ll have a chance to go to the playoffs.”
Less is more in this case. With 54 teams in 2A, almost two-thirds qualifying for the postseason makes little sense. Moore is on-board as well, the regular season remains important.
This playoff system rewards the entire process, not just any team that manages to win a handful of games. Of course, as you probably know by know, Moore is huge on preparation, workouts and staying the course. The playoffs should be the prize for several long months of two-a-days, 6 a.m. lifting sessions in the dead of winter and the hours and hours of community service.
“It’s a culmination of all the hard work and discipline and dedication you’ve put in,” Moore said. “If you put in the work, you have a plan to succeed and you win those games in August. Then you have a rite to make the playoffs. If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do and you don’t win the games that you play, then you don’t make the playoffs.”
Perhaps the most significant – but least surprising – bit of news came simultaneously with the release of the new district cycle Jan. 25, a day after the RPI announcement.
Greene County will join Class 2A for the next two years, dropping down from 3A. While they were certainly no slouch numbers-wise, Dallas Center-Grimes, a former district opponent in 3A, dwarfed the Rams’ enrollment by nearly 200 students. That’s something Moore knows will play to the Rams advantage as they drop to 2A, as it presents a more level playing field.
“Certainly, I think we are going to be more competitive, its more in our wheelhouse in terms of numbers,” Moore said. “Instead of being the smallest in 3A, we are going to be one of the higher teams in 2A. It’ll benefit us athletically and a depth stand point.”
While a move to 2A is welcomed for a program that has not had a winning record since 2011 and tallied just two wins in the last two years (2-16 overall), having that experience of playing a ridiculous 3A schedule a year ago is priceless. Moore is still pulling teaching moments from that 19-game stretch.
“We had multiple conversations about last year, that experience will never get taken away from us,” Moore said. “To have the experience we had a playing against the best teams, not just your average run-of-the-mill teams. We played three or four of the top 10 teams in 3A. We had a young group of guys getting that experience and that is undeniable.
We played good programs who prepared the right way, who played the right way. It gave our kids kind of a blueprint of what we want to see how we how we do things.”
That and a culmination of being on campus for more than a year, has started to pay dividends, at least in the weight room and on the practice field. The coach – using his Iowa State University connections and his ties to a top-notch D-II program in Wisconsin-Whitewater, has brought in coaching staffs from Minnesota, North Dakota State and ISU. And each coach, he said, has noticed that change in culture Moore is striving for.
“They say ‘boy, you can tell it’s year, two,’” Moore said. “Those seniors and juniors, they know they don’t just get credit for showing up at 6 a.m. They understand now you better work your tail off until school starts. All of those things are starting to pay off.
And I’m teaching different things then I was a year ago. I’m not teaching effort and discipline and organization. I’m getting to teach the skill.”
Things are bubbling in Greene County, and a strong performance in a new division and district could go a long way in setting the tone. We’ll just have to wait a few more months, won’t we?