Our odyssey through the 12 high school football districts involving area teams continues with a gander at Class 3A District 5.
Oskaloosa, Washington, and Fairfield are in this eight-team district that should be wide open in 2016.
Class 3A differs from Class 4A, as there are only seven districts with eight teams each. The top two teams from each district will advance to the playoffs with the top two teams who finished 3rd in their district qualifying as wild cards to fill out the 16-team bracket.
Washington had the best record of the eight teams in District 5 in 2015, going 7-2 in the regular season before being upset by Solon in the first round of the playoffs, 17-14 in overtime. Solon is also in District 5, and after bowing out in the second round at West Delaware, 37-14, finished 6-5.
Smart money would be on these two teams to be at the top of District 5 this year, although Solon will need to replace a lot of their key playmakers from a year ago.
After that, there was no team in this district that had a winning record or made the playoffs in 2015. Oskaloosa will be a key team to watch, as all of their games will be broadcasted on 99.5 FM/740 AM KMZN, the KMZN mobile app, and radiokmzn.com.
The Indians went 2-7 last year, and are 3-15 the last two years. New Head Coach Jake Jenkins will turn a page in Osky football history with a new system and several capable returners to make the adjustment. Osky lost only 11 seniors and most of their playmaking core is back for 2016.
Osky has to feel like they can contend at the top of this district with Washington and Solon. Fairfield was a mediocre 4-5 in a weak district in 2015. That district also included Fort Madison (2-7), Keokuk (3-6), and Mount Pleasant (1-8). None of those teams will likely see much growth from their performance last season unless drastic leaps are made from key players.
West Burlington/Notre Dame rounds out District 5, and they went 4-5 last year in Class 2A, missing the playoffs. They also lost a couple of their top athletes.
As that collection of teams appears to leave a space, it should be an entertaining race for the top spot in the district.
Washington should be the prohibitive favorite, as they return quarterback Ryan Reighard from the 7-3 team last year. Solon would appear to be the #2 pick, but after losing so many top players on a team that barely made the playoffs and then pulled an overtime upset, they are far from a clear-cut contender.
Oskaloosa’s athletes could put them in a position to win enough games against their competition to put them in a spot to qualify for the playoffs.
Regardless of the lackluster record of most of the teams in this district, this will be a scintillating race in the first year of the reformatted playoff system.
While it will be hard to justify any of these teams as true state championship material, the reality is that Class 3A in general may not have the types of dominant teams we’ve seen in years past.
Expect plenty of coverage on Class 3A District 5 throughout the season as the Oskaloosa Indians look to battle alongside Washington and Fairfield for a playoff spot.
Tomorrow, we look at two-time defending state champion Pella and Class 3A District 6 as a part of our comprehensive previews of every district in our listening area.