Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 17, 2017

Another team switches to 8-man football

W-MU school board unanimously approves move to Class 8-Man football
Nov 30, 2017

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News

 

WINFIELD — Three Henry County teams will now be playing Class 8-Man football next season as the Winfield-Mt. Union School Board unanimously approved the move Wednesday night during a special session.

Earlier this month, the board heard from the public regarding the matter and was set to decide the issue during the 6 p.m. meeting in the media center. However, the votes would not be cast before several more community members said their final peace on the matter.

Freshman Seth Schurr, who previously addressed the board members on behalf of the football team, reiterated his comments from last month. “We would like to go 8-man,” he said. “That would make our practices more beneficial, being able to scrimmage against each other rather than going against trash cans and it would give us a JV, which would help our younger kids be better and more ready for varsity.”

Mark Wilkerson asked that the board think about long-term solutions rather than just a short-term fix like going to 8-man. “I’m not sure if even going from 11-man to 8-man will fix the problem we’ll have the next two years of having enough kids to support a varsity and a JV (team),” he said. “I don’t want to make a drastic decision to solve a short-term problem.”

Wilkerson went on to say that if the district could just “push through the next couple of years” he felt the future of the Wolf football program would be bright. “We’re a couple years off from a pretty good season,” he added.

Chris Oepping, however, was concerned about the current high school squad. “My biggest concern is obviously the safety of the kids, and I think that’s why we’re all here,” he said.

Oepping said as the majority of the team and the coaching staff have all stated they would prefer to move to Class 8-Man, he felt the board members should comply. And as for waiting a couple of years for a bigger class size to enter high school, Oepping said “unless their 14-year-old son is being pushed down by an 18-year-old man, I don’t value their opinion.”

Superintendent Jeff Maeder acknowledged the move to 8-man football would be difficult as it bucks tradition, but as an administrator he has to consider enrollment, participation level, age and physical development of the players. That’s why he recommended a move to 8-man football to the board.

In October, the district surveyed students from middle school to high school juniors to gage their feelings on moving to 8-man. “By and large we have a better chance of keeping (participation) numbers if we play 8-man,” he said.

Maeder continued saying he spoke to other districts that have made the move to 8-man and they said although there were some concerns at first, “none have said they regret making the change.”

And should the district make the change, Maeder said, it would not have to be forever, as the Iowa High School Athletic Association redistricts every two years, so if participation numbers began to increase the district could move back to 11-man.

Maeder also signaled that if enrollment increased over the course of the next few years, the district would be forced to move back to 11-man. The enrollment cap for 8-man is 120 students. W-MU is currently at 111. The district is hoping to pass a bond referendum in order to renovate portions of the school, which the school board hopes will bring more families into the district. “If the numbers demand it, we will go back to 11-man.”

Board members questioned what would happen if enrollment spiked in the middle of the two-year commitment to the new football district. For example, if the district moved to 8-man for the 2018 season, but in 2019 enrollment increased to 125. Would the district have to move back to 11-man even though it was not a redistricting year for the state athletic association? The answer is no. Once in a division, the district will have to stay there for two years.

Board member Dan Schurr said he worries if the district does not move to 8-man, they may be at risk of having to share a football program because participation numbers are so low. Danville High School has asked to enter into a sharing agreement with Mt. Pleasant High School because their participation numbers are not enough for a team of their own.

Ashlei Venghaus, board member, asked if there were any clinics or support for the coaches to help them with the switch to 8-man. “We’re doing this for the kids, for their protection, but also nobody wants to play on a team that’s not successful.”

Before calling for a motion, board President Klay Edwards took a moment to speak to the football players present. “I love football. It’s probably my favorite sport to play,” he began. “At first I was completely against it and I understand the arguments both ways. I just hope the kids understand that just by going to 8-man you’re not automatically going to be super competitive and going to win a bunch of games. The work has to be put in. You have to dedicate yourselves and push yourselves to be better players.”

Following a unanimous “yes” vote from the board members, the team huddled up in the back of the library. There were no “whoops” or cheers, just a meeting to ready them for a new district and a lot of hard work ahead.

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