By Doug Brenneman, JOURNAL Sports
New Washington High School head coach James Harris has had his football team out on the practice field Wednesday learning as they prepare for the upcoming season.
The Iowa High School Athletic Association allowed football practice to start Monday for teams which have their first game Aug. 24. Teams which have their first game Aug. 17 started practice July 30.
Washington?s first game is at home at Case Field against fellow Class 3A school Marion, a team that was 6-3 last year. Last year?s opener was also at home and it was a 64-7 win over Class 2A Albia, which won just three games in 2017.
?I think it is better to have a tougher opponent this year,? Washington assistant coach and offensive coordinator Don Miksch said. ?We are looking forward to the challenge.?
Class 3A has 54 teams with six teams in each of nine districts.
The IHSAA has changed how teams qualify for the playoffs.
1. Only the district champion or teams tying for a district championship receive automatic qualification.
2. For the first time since the debut of district football, all nine games will count toward postseason
3. The 17-point district tiebreaker will be eliminated and not factor into qualification.
4. Remaining at-large qualifiers will be determined by a Ratings Percentage Index formula. The RPI will use three criteria to determine postseason qualification.
a) Team?s overall win-loss percentage (accounting for 37.5 percent of the index)
b) Team?s opponent?s win-loss percentage (37.5 percent
c) Team?s opponent?s opponent?s win-loss percentage (25 percent)
5. Classification differences between non-district opponents do not affect RPI.
The NCAA uses RPI in several men?s and women?s sports. The Colorado High School Activities Association debuted a similar RPI system in 2016.
?Our goal is to have the best 16 teams in each class qualify for the playoffs,? IHSAA executive director Alan Beste said. ?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.?
Practice starts slowly with no contact allowed the first two days and only helmets and mouth guards are worn. Today the Demons will don shoulder pads as well and contact above the waist is permitted.
Thursday contact with blocking sleds and tackling dummies may begin.
Four hours of total coach/athlete contact is OK, but a maximum of three hours of physical activity is allowed.
Harris was pleased with how the first two days of practice went.
?We expect you to know what you need to know, but we also expect mistakes,? Harris told his team.
Learning from mistakes is how a team will get better.
?It was an intense practice and that?s what we need,? Harris said.
The team is also selling cards to promote the program.
There is an incentive for players to sell as many as possible.
A certain amount sold by a player will allow him to avoid running gassers at the end of practice.
Safety is a large part of preparation for the season.
Each school district must provide to the parent or guardian of each student in grades seven through 12 a concussion and brain information sheet as provided by the Department of Public Health,
Players have to take a concussion test before the season to provide a baseline for any possible head injury.
Students who suffer a concussion cannot return to play until being cleared by a medical professional in writing.
?Player safety is the number one priority,? Beste said.