By Travis Mounts
New district assignments for football teams were released last week, and teams now know who they will face in district football games during the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
This primarily impacts the smaller schools in classes 3A, 2A and 1A, and in the 8-man and 11-man football divisions. In the TSnews coverage area, that includes the Argonia-Attica Titans, Cheney Cardinals, Clearwater Indians, Conway Springs Cardinals and Garden Plain Owls.
The 2022 season will bring big changes to 3A, 2A and 1A. In 3A and 2A, the classes are dropping from 48 to 40 teams. That means each district will shrink by one team, down to five teams, and schools will play four district games instead of five. That also will mean an extra non-district game, which should limit travel and possibly return some league rivalry games for many teams.
Class 1A, which was reinstated as a standalone class starting in 2017, will grow from 28 to 42 teams. Eight districts of either five or six teams will replace the four eight-team districts, thus reducing the number of district games for each school. This realignment was designed in part to give 1A teams more flexibility in scheduling. That in turn should allow teams to play nearby schools in different classes, thus reducing the length of travel for teams. Conway Springs’ 2021 schedule includes road trips to Elkhart, Stanton County and Ellinwood.
Cheney, which in 2020 and 2021 has been the eastern-most team in a district that stretches to far western Kansas, will move back to 3A District 7 and have a more localized schedule. The Cardinals are grouped with Andale, Smoky Valley, Nickerson and Pratt. Nickerson and Pratt are currently in District 8 with Cheney.
Clearwater will move to 3A District 6 and will no longer have to face Andale, which has been the dominant team in 3A for several years running. The Indians’ new district schedule will include familiar foes Collegiate and Hesston, along with Chapman and league rival Wichita Trinity.
Garden Plain’s 2A District 6 schedule will have a strong Central Plains League feel, with Chaparral, Douglass and Kingman. Only Haven is not a CPL member.
Conway Springs will move to 1A District 7, and have a more travel-friendly schedule. The Cardinals’ five district opponents will be Ellinwood, Trinity Catholic in Hutchinson, Inman, Medicine Lodge and Sterling.
The Argonia-Attica Titans, an 8-man Div. I team, will be in District 3 and face several South Central Border League teams. The most interesting part of the schedule will be the debut of South Sumner, as longtime rivals Caldwell and South Haven combine their resources into a single team, the way Attica and Argonia have successfully done. The district also includes SCBL members Central-Burden, Oxford and Udall, and the Independent Panthers of the Central Plains League, who are moving to 8-man football starting in 2020.
In classes 4A, 5A and 6A, teams primarily play their traditional league schools. The 16-team playoffs in the east and west divisions of each class are seeded, with higher seeds hosting.
Teams do face opponents outside of their classes, but those games still count in the standing. For instance, the Goddard Lions face mostly 5A schools in the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League Div. II but were a 4A team for football during the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
The Campus Colts will remain in the 6A West Division, and the Eisenhower Tigers and Goddard Lions will be in the 5A West Division.
There was only minimal movement of schools in the largest divisions. Wichita Northwest and Wichita Heights move up to 6A, while Great Bend and Lansing move up to 5A. Wichita West and J.C. Harmon of Kansas City, Kan., will move down to 5A, and St. Thomas Aquinas and K.C. Schlagle will move down to 4A.