Eight-man football teams in Eastern Iowa are fighting a war on all fronts this season. All three of the area’s eight-man football teams will be representing Iowa in cross-state games in the first three weeks of the season.
New London, WACO and Winfield-Mt. Union will each play one out-of-state team in the first three weeks. This is due to a handful of eight-man teams being forced to drop football for the 2019 season because of low numbers.
The first team to take on a foe from a different state will be defending Class 8-Man champion New London. They’ll be heading all the way to Williams Bay Wisconsin, a four-hour bus ride away.
Williams Bay is a school in Southeast Wisconsin, less than an hour away from Milwaukee, and also less than an hour away from Lake Michigan.
While going four hours northeast seems like quite the jaunt, coach Mark McSorley says it’s not much farther than their originally scheduled opponent in Southeast Iowa.
“We were going to play Clarinda Academy, and about two-and-a-half weeks ago, Clarinda forfeited their whole season,” New London head coach Mark McSorley says. “Another team out west, Esses, forfeited their whole season as well (but) I think the Essex cancelation happened before the Clarinda one, so some of the teams out west were able to manipulate their schedule a little bit and play each other.”
With most Iowa eight-man teams having their full schedule covered, it was a challenge for New London to find a ninth opponent, but they lucked into finding a team in a similar situation.
“We kind of found out at the last minute, and we were kind of scrambling to find a team,” McSorley says. “We started looking on MaxPreps and actually Williams Bay had a team pull out of their league, so it actually worked out pretty well. The travel time for us to go to Clarinda or us to go to Wisconsin is about the same.”
Indeed, while the trip to Williams Bay is listed at four hours and one minute away (via Google Maps), the trip west to Clarinda is just over 10 minutes shorter, at three hours and 50 minutes. But while the travel was the same, the Tigers have found themselves in a bit of a time crunch. The game will be a special Saturday Week 0 matchup on Aug. 24, giving both teams short time to prepare.
And would an eight-man coach in southeast Iowa know much about a team all the way up in Wisconsin? Coach McSorley says, “not really.”
“We’re just going to prepare for everything,” he says. “We saw pretty much every formation you can run in eight-player last year against the teams we competed against. We’ll touch bsae on all that stuff, and hopefully we do get some film and can key on some of their more advanced or skilled players. I’m just thankful we found a game, really.”
Six days after New London travels to Wisconsin, WACO will get their turn at representing the state of Iowa when they head two hours south to North Shelby High School in Shelbyville, Missouri
Unlike New London’s situation, WACO has a little bit of familiarity with North Shelby. The small Missouri school played a junior varsity game against WACO last year.
WACO was forced to look for another game after Tri-County forfeited their season. The Trojans were set to play New London, WACO and W-MU this season.
“That threw our schedule up in the air,” says WACO head coach Chad Edeker. “When the state took our bye week out and re-did our district schedules, that opened up one or two for us, and the state said, ‘You need to find your own games.’”
The Warriors already had five home games on the schedule, so they didn’t mind picking up another away game. The Warriors were then able to move the originally scheduled Week 1 Janesville home game back a week, which allowed Janesville to find an opponent to fill in their schedule as well. Lone Tree and Easton Valley were among other teams who were affected by the re-arranging of the schedules.
WACO’s two hour ride south is nothing like what their Week 1 opponents face every week. Eight-man isn’t as popular in Missouri and most of the small schools who decided to go to eight-man play out west. North Shelby is the only eight-man team in the entire eastern half of Missouri.
Coach Edeker says the schedules fell into place perfectly. The only trouble he says, is that he knows the Warriors will be in for a tough game when Aug. 30 rolls around. North Shelby made the Missouri state playoffs last season, advancing to the second round before losing to an eventual final four team.
“The only bad thing is, they’re going to be really good,” Edeker says. “They were 6-3 last year and they have quite a bit coming back.”
Edeker says North Shelby has found success on the ground.
It’ll be an interesting game,” he says. “They’re a triple option offense and want to run the ball every done, and it will be a good test for us.”
W-MU won’t be doing any traveling when they play their psuedo border-battle. The Wolves will host River Ridge High School, a team from Hanover, Ill.
The Wolves will have two weeks of preperation before they play River Ridge, a team that enters its first year in eight-man. W-MU does play a Week 0 home game, but has Week 1 off before they take on their Illinois opponents.
Much like WACO, W-MU’s game hatched from trying to replace the void left by Tri-County.
“I connected with a coach out of Missouri looking for a game,” says head coach Scott McCarty. “He put me in contact with the eight-man association in Illinois and I was able to connect with them and get a game.”
The W-MU coach had to get creative to fill the schedule. McCarty utilized social media in finding an out-of-state opponent.
“The Twitter community of football coaches is a wonderful thing,” he says.
All three out-of-state games will be before the district games kick off, but due to the state’s usage of the RPI system, the contests could affect the playoff race. Rules on how much playing out of state opponents are a little hazy, but the WACO head coach says you just have to play the game and let the chips fall.
“I don’t get too worked up with the RPI,” Edeker says. “We just play and they’ll tell us where we’ll be at the end of the year.”