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Monday, May 2, 2016

Going the distance: Football teams extend travel in 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bruce Held doesn't claim to be the brightest graduate of Orange City's Northwestern College or the smartest teacher in the employ of Hinton Community School.

But the longtime co-head football coach can do enough basic math to know that the Blackhawks will be taking district road trips that are longer than any others he's had in his three decades as a coach.

Since 2001, Hinton's furthest district opponent has been Ruthven-Lakeland team, about 100 miles away during the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

But when the bi-annual districts came out last month, Hinton found itself with five new district opponents, including Prairie Valley in Gowrie, about 130 miles from Hinton.

Rather than drawing the districts on a north-south grid as it has done in the past, the Iowa High School Athletic Association drew them on an east-west grid and Hinton now has three district foes at least 100 miles away.

"Our first reaction was, 'We should write a letter,'" Held said. "Not of protest but of concern about the traveling...After we saw everybody else's problems we saw maybe ours aren't as bad as some people's. I guess we should be thankful we're playing and it's part of the deal."

Still, Held maintains that the huge district creates a number of logistical concerns - not the least of which is how early Hinton will have to leave for some of its away games.

"We're going to have to get out of school to go to football games," Held said. "That's unprecedented as far as I know...To me that's crazy. We don't want to take away from our educational time. That's one of my biggest concerns."

From a reporter's perspective, I would have to concur that the 7 p.m. start time was nice because it allowed enough time to get to and from an event while making it home for the recaps on television. That could be hurt, as could the fan contingent of visiting teams.

Held said Hinton depends on those ticket sales to help fund its program.

"When the governor cuts 10 percent across the board and now we're going to spend more on transportation and lose revenue from gate receipts, I don't know if that all adds up," Held said. "That concerns me a little bit. (But) again, I don't know if anything else could have been done."

The new opponents also create a whole new preparation for coaches who will have to watch that much more film to determine new game plans. That's both good and bad, said Held's co-leader Steve Diediker.

"A lot of times if you wind up in the same district year after year, kids come in with preconceived notions no matter how much you try to work it the other way," Diediker said. "(There's) a little bit of excitement in traveling to different places.

"A bus trip is a good time to collect your thoughts and get your mind focused," Diediker continued. "I don't know if we need two-and-a-half hours to do that, but that's what we're going to have."

The coaches also do not know what to expect from the district as a whole. The new district could be stronger or weaker than their previous one and Hinton's postseason path could be even tougher as Emmetsburg and West Lyon are in the cross-district.

"That comfort level is gone right now," Held said. "You don't know what you're getting yourself into. But if we make it to the playoffs this year, we know we're going to see a really quality opponent from the north."

Long bus trips don't really concern Gehlen head coach Tony Gunter, but he has found a way to avoid them: he drives the van that pulls the equipment trailer.

"The problem is going to come with whatever the state does for our cross-district game,"  said Gunter, who originally hails from (Everything - presumably even football districts - Is Bigger In) Texas. "We get to pick two ourselves and we'll stay close with those. We'll probably get Hinton and I don't know what our other one will be. But that cross-district game could be out there. We could have at least one long road trip."

The Jays added West Sioux, but lost Alta (combined with Aurelia) and Kingsley-Pierson (moved to 8-man) from their district. The bad news is that the other district includes North Iowa High in Buffalo Center - nearly 150 miles away.

The home-and-home schedules, which alternate each year, were not available at the time of this writing. But by the time you read it, they should be available online at www.iahsaa.org.

After the initial knee-jerk reaction, Held and Diediker are focusing on preparing their team for its opponent, regardless of the travel distance.

That's something that comes from decades of coaching experience and can be tough to convey to teenage kids.

"Complaining doesn't help - you just take what you get and make the best of it," Held said. "You teach your kids that you can always make something good out of something bad if you try hard enough."

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A-W is in a six team district this year and next. I wish it was eight teams. Also, I wish the districts were four or six years instead of just two. Rivalries come and go in two years.

When I was in school, we were in a six team War Eagle Conference, and had a long road trip to Pocahontas. We also went to Emerson-Hubbard and West Lyon. We thought that was a long trip in the 80s.

-- Posted by westerner88 on Wed, Mar 3, 2010, at 8:17 PM

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