He figured his team’s district would be tough. Kevin Miller didn’t know the half of it.
The Iowa High School Athletic Association released district pods for the six classes Thursday, and it’s difficult to find more quality than in Class 3A, District 4.
There are Miller’s Solon Spartans, a 3A semifinalist last season and one of the best, most consistent programs in Eastern Iowa, regardless of class. There are DeWitt Central, Maquoketa and Western Dubuque, all 3A playoff qualifiers in 2013.
There’s Marion, which always is good. Then, just for fun, throw in Cedar Rapids Xavier and Dubuque Wahlert, dropping down from Class 4A and the old Misissippi Valley Conference.
It’s still difficult to say “old” MVC, by the way.
“We had a pretty good idea we would be paired with Xavier, Wahlert or possibly Assumption,” Miller said. “We didn’t think we’d get two of those three.”
The Spartans did, and Miller is relishing the opportunity. He has no choice, no one does.
Keep in mind, Solon was a Class 2A state champion as late as 2009, winning a championship its first year in 3A in 2010. Many people believe Xavier will excel in its new class, especially considering the sustained success it enjoyed in 4A.
The Saints won a Class 4A state title in 2006 and were runners-up the past two seasons.
“It raises the bar for us because this is a very competitive district,” Miller said. “From top to bottom, you have outstanding teams. I’m not one to complain or whine about it. We have got to go to work, elevate the expectations of our kids. We know we have to do better than we have before.”
“What do you do?” said Marion Coach Tony Perkins. “Stuff like that is out of your hands. There is no sense getting upset about it. There’s no sense complaining about it. We’ve told our guys that it’s a challenge. Just go out and play the game.”
Miller was asked if he thinks Xavier’s perceived advantage in 3A is real.
“The biggest thing they bring to the table is depth,” he said. “Not just depth, but quality depth.”
This coming season will be the first with full district play in Class 4A, and the IHSAA surprised by not divvying up schools evenly. There are 22 4A schools on this side of the state and 24 in Central and Western Iowa.
Ottumwa was the only school moved west to east, placed into a district with Burlington, Cedar Rapids Prairie, Cedar Rapids Washington, Iowa City High and Muscatine. City High and Iowa City West are in separate districts.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Linn-Mar are in the same district but aren’t with Prairie and Washington, obviously. The top four teams in each district in each class qualify for the playoffs.
Schools can request non-district opponents, though there are no guarantees since the IHSAA does all scheduling. If two schools place each other at the top of their respective non-district wish lists, they are guaranteed a game.
The presumption is Washington and Kennedy, City High and West, and Jefferson and Prairie will continue their rivalries. City High Coach Dan Sabers confirmed Thursday that it is very possible his team will play Ames in a non-district game that would be played Friday, Sept. 12, the night before the Iowa-Iowa State game in Iowa City.
“That would be a plus,” Sabers said. “I am certainly on board with that. I think everybody that needs to be on board with that is on board.”
Full schedules for each school are expected to be released by late February or early March.
Other district events of note:
– Iowa City Regina finds itself in a Class 1A district with Columbus Junction, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, Highland, Pella Christian, Sigourney-Keota and West Marshall. The Regals have won a state-record 56 consecutive games.
– Maquoketa Valley, a 1A quarterfinalist in 2013, has dropped to Class A. The Wildcats are paired with East Buchanan, Easton Valley, Edgewood-Colesburg, Lisbon, North Linn, Postville and Starmont.
Easton Valley played 8-Man football this past season but does not have that option this district cycle because its enrollment is too big.
– North Fayette Valley was a 1A semifinalist this season but will jump to 2A in 2014, as expected. NFV is in a district with Center Point-Urbana, Dyersville Beckman, New Hampton, Oelwein (moving down from 3A), Waterloo Columbus and Waukon.
– Turkey Valley and English Valleys have elected to play 8-Man football in 2014. Turkey Valley won seven games, including a playoff game, in Class A this season.