One thing that I’ve figured out in my time here is that you never stop learning.
Yesterday’s powerhouse might be tomorrow’s doormat. There’s a fine line between winning big and going home early.
I’m starting my 30th school year of covering sports in this area. I started in the fall of 1990 and in the time I’ve been here, I’ve learned many things.
• Nothing is certain — I’ve heard rumblings about a can’t miss team and many times, those come true. A truly phenomenal team steps up early and carries through. Sometimes, they run into another one of the team types in the postseason.
• Underdogs can flourish — I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a team that has struggled through a season, but has played close games or matches. Somehow, near the end of the season, the team starts to pick up its play and win some of the games it was losing earlier. In the postseason, these teams can knock off one of the sure things.
• There’s always a twist — This might come in the form of injuries, players becoming eligible, or perish the thought, ineligible. I’ve seen injuries turn sure things into also-rans. It’s a shame, but it’s part of the game. Another side of the twists is...
• MSHSAA can upset the apple cart — In the last few years, many of the twists are coming from the top. It’s almost like mythology where the deities decide to interfere in the human sphere. While MSHSAA class and district assignments aren’t the Trojan War, they have a massive effect on the postseason.
It used to be that football and basketball districts were announced in April at the annual athletic directors’ conference at the Lake of the Ozarks. Enrollment figures also were revealed so folks could figure out the rest.
In the last couple of years, MSHSAA has delayed announcement of all sports until practices have been underway for a couple of weeks.
The reasoning given was that every year, schools tell MSHSAA they will field teams in particular sports, but have to drop them due to insufficient numbers. Unfortunately, those things happen. Students, who may be gung ho about playing at a spring meeting, might not be so thrilled about playing a few months later. Then, there are injuries, students who move out and other issues, etc.
Unfortunately, this also brings up the fact that schools on the edges of particular classes might be shuffled up or down unexpectedly. We saw some of that movement this year with St. Francis Borgia Regional and Sullivan moving down in football, Borgia going down in boys soccer and Union pushing up in volleyball.
Moving down usually is seen as a beneficial action. Many figure those teams have an advantage against the lower class as it’s assumed the competition level is better in the higher classes.
For those moving up, it can be rough. Take New Haven for instance. New Haven’s cross country teams finished near the top of the state standings in Class 1 two years ago while the volleyball team placed second in the state tournament. As a Class 2 school last year, New Haven volleyball got put into a district with the eventual state champion, Hermann, and the boys cross country team still made the podium.
If you weren’t a fan of having classes and districts announced until two weeks into practices, you probably won’t like the fact that cross country districts won’t be announced until Sept. 13, well after the teams start the season.
If you think things are odd now, the 2020-21 school year will be postapocalyptic for many programs. The automatic 1.35 multiplier will be dropped for nonpublic schools and a success factor will be used instead. The past six seasons will be used to see if a nonpublic school moves up a class for the next year.
This goes on a team-by-team basis.
Public schools are immune from the success factor, which means no matter how many football titles Webb City wins, it’s not going to be in with the bigger programs.
Additionally, there’s a new rule about classes. Schools can be grouped with others a certain amount larger. The exact details are being worked out, but it’s likely going to mean classes being added in many different sports. It will be the brave new frontier until everyone gets a handle on how things are going to be implemented.
• Polls are for entertainment purposes — I see high school sports polls and chuckle sometimes, even at our football poll. There are teams I know are much too high and those who haven’t been ranked highly enough. We’ve run our football poll for the better part of the time I’ve been here. We used to do basketball, volleyball and baseball at different times but haven’t been able to get enough interest or reliable records in a timely manner. Perhaps, that’s something we can revisit in the future.
I think if you take the preseason poll we ran last weekend and compare that to the final one, there will be quite a bit of movement. There are some good teams which have been ranked lower than I would have expected. They should move up if they get the favorable results.
You’ve got to remember that many polls are mosaics. Our football poll has voters from Warren County to Phelps County and they rarely see the teams from the other end of the area. That’s why it’s vital that everyone votes to represent their area. In theory, it is supposed to balance out. If someone doesn’t vote, it doesn’t.
It’s going to be another interesting fall season. As always, we’ll see upsets, surprises, favorites and twists. Hopefully, we have some representation in the state events. It would be even nicer if area teams or individuals were able to bring home state championships.
And that’s reason enough to keep coming back to this section to see what happens.