OTTUMWA – For the second straight season, the landscape of the high school football season will look different for the Ottumwa Bulldogs.
Ottumwa officially learned they will be part of the first group of Class 5A high school football teams in the state after the announcement on Friday of the districts and groups for the upcoming season. As was the case going into last season, Ottumwa will again be placed in what the the IHSAA Board of Control has called a “group” format based on a success model for its highest class as part of its normal district realignment among the seven classes.
Ottumwa will play in Class 5A Group 5, but the Bulldogs won’t play every team in the group. The six teams in the group — Southeast Polk, Cedar Rapids Prairie, Linn-Mar, Waterloo West, Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Ottumwa — are in one of six tiers based on playoff success the last four years and the RPI rankings.
Ottumwa is a Tier 6 team, which is the lowest tier based on success. The Bulldogs will face Linn-Mar (Tier 3), Waterloo West (Tier 4), Cedar Rapids Prairie (Tier 2) and Cedar Rapids Jefferson (Tier 5) within the group; they won’t face Southeast Polk (Tier 1).
The Bulldogs, because they are a Tier 6 team, will face Des Moines North (Tier 6) from a correlating group in what are called “assigned” games. All five games fall under the “success model schedule.”
The 2021 football season will be the first with a new seventh classification (Class 5A), approved in January by the Board of Control to reduce the disparity in enrollment in the IHSAA’s largest class of football, and to increase the number of participating teams and student-athletes in the postseason across all classes. Following the one-year assignments in 2020, districts and Class 5A groups are effective for a two-year cycle.
Class 5A’s group and success model format is based on information outlined in February 2020, before COVID-19 related changes were made in July to the IHSAA’s football scheduling and postseason.
Ottumwa is one of 36 teams to be grouped into Class 5A. There will be nine regular-season games per team with 16 of the 36 teams qualifying for the playoffs all of which will be at-large berths based on RPI rankings.
Each of the top three classes in the state (3A, 4A, 5A) will have 36 teams and 16 playoff qualifiers. Both Class 3A and 4A will have six districts with the top two teams from each district earning automatic postseason berths while the final four at-large berths will be determined by RPI.
Fairfield will remain in Class 3A and will play next season in District 5. Joining the Trojans will be Grinnell, Keokuk, Solon, Washington and West Burlington-Notre Dame.
For most of the area schools, there will be at-large postseason tickets to fight. Classes A, 1A, 2A will all feature eight districts with top four teams in each district making up the 32 playoff qualifiers in each class.
Albia, Centerville, Davis County and Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont will compete in Class 2A, where six teams will battle for four playoff spots in each district over an eight-game regular season. Centerville, Davis County and EBF will be joined by Central Lee, Mid-Prairie and Williamsburg in 2A, District 6 while Albia joins Chariton, Iowa Falls-Alden, PCM, Roland-Story and West Marshall in 2A, District 7.
Class 1A will follow the same format as 2A with an eight-game regular season for all teams and four teams in each six-team district earning a postseason berth. Cardinal, Sigourney-Keota and Van Buren County will all face off in Class 1A, District 6 along with Central Decatur, Pella Christian and Pleasantville during the five weeks of district play after three opening weeks of non-district action.
Pekin will be one of the 56 teams competing in Class A with four playoffs spots going to the top-four teams in each seven-team district. The Panthers will play six district opponents during their eight-game regular-season battling in A, District 5 along with Alburnett, Columbus Junction, Highland, Lisbon, North Cedar and Wapello.
Moravia will be one of 72 schools to compete this fall in eight-player football, leading to 10 districts with eight districts featuring seven teams and two district featuring eight. Of the 32 playoff qualifiers, 30 will be determined by the teams that finish top three in their districts while the final two are at-large berths determined by point differential in district play.
Moravia will be in District 8, a seven-team district, facing Lamoni, Martensdale-St. Mary's, Mormon Trail, Murray, Seymour and Southeast Warren. The Mohawks will have two non-district games to round out their eight-game schedule.
Week one of the 2021 high school football season is scheduled to begin on Thursday, Aug. 26 with a majority of teams playing on Friday, Aug. 27. Priority lists for non-district opponents will be available for member schools on Wednesday with teams in 2A, 1A, A and eight-man permitted to play a ninth regular-season contest should they not qualify for postseason play.
Schedules for the 2021-22 season will be released in April.