Football Kickoff: What does 5A mean for players and spectators

PV+Football+squares+off+Against+Dubuque+Hempstead+in+the+Home+Opener.

Photo Credit to @PVSpartanPride

PV Football squares off Against Dubuque Hempstead in the Home Opener.

Mitchell Wood, Sports Editor

Coming off of an incredibly successful 2020 campaign that led to a long-awaited state appearance, Pleasant Valley football has been anticipating yet another successful season. 

There are more implications for this season than years past for a variety of reasons. The team is coming off an undefeated season and Dome appearance. While the hype that the team has received is noteworthy, this is also the first year of the newly implemented 5A class level. In the IHSAA and IGHSAU, class levels are assigned to teams and help determine regular-season matchups and state placement. Teams are assigned their level based on total student enrollment and some other demographic factors. Not all sports have five levels though; it varies from sport to sport, so a school will not necessarily be limited to being a ‘4A school’ or ‘5A school’ so to speak. It will depend on the sport.

What does this new level mean for this football season? Simply put, it means new regular-season matchups, longer travels for away games and missing out on some local rivalry games. The team will not be playing against North Scott or Assumption this year. Senior Barrett Lindmark, the team’s starting quarterback, voiced the team’s disappointment. “Those are the games you look forward to playing in as you grow up and especially knowing kids from those schools” he said, “it’s a bummer we don’t get to play against them.” 

It is not just the team itself that is affected, though. Home and away spectator turnouts may look different than years prior due to the implications of 5A. Longer travel times between schools will inevitably impact the visiting teams’ fan turnout. Driving across town is an easier ask for the majority of spectators to take on Friday nights, as opposed to getting on the interstate for a prolonged period of time to catch the game. 

Head Coach Russell Vanwetzinga believes this year’s home-field advantage will be bigger than ever. Coming off of the season opener at Cedar Rapids Prairie, he said, “It’s a hard ask to get a huge crowd at some of these away matchups. They just can’t make the trip to [Cedar Rapids]. As opposed to a game up at North Scott, that place would be packed.”

When you rewind the clocks about a year, things looked entirely different. Players were only going to school every other day and attendance was only as big as the four tickets each player and band member could hand out to friends and family. Senior Elsa Gilbeck thought that the circumstances of last year have led to overwhelming anticipation for games this season. “I feel like the crowds and overall support for games are supportive and strong,” she said, “I know a lot of people are really excited to attend games this year.”

It is safe to say a lot of factors are in play this year for the Spartans–both positive and negative. When it comes to the team’s expectations this year, the team is navigating new ground. Multiple players on the team are managing collegiate attention, some even at a national level. Coming off of an undefeated season is bringing upon more attention to the team on top of individual accolades. Not to mention other PV sports bringing home state championships this past year. Vanwetzinga added, “You get a lot of noise out there for a variety of reasons from individuals to the other sports to your own expectations. You have to tread carefully. Keeping the guys humbled, hungry and focused is what’s most important.”

Football season is back, and anyone who wants to go to the games can attend games. While the new 5A class level shakes the playing field in a new way, anticipation is high. Players cannot wait to play, and the fans cannot wait to watch.