District football assignments for the 2014 and 2015 seasons were released by the Iowa High School Athletic Association on Thursday afternoon.
Fort Dodge will now compete in Class 4A, District 4 with Indianola, Marshalltown, Mason City, Urbandale and Waukee. In 1A, District 7, defending state runner-up St. Edmond will be joined by Manson Northwest Webster, South Central Calhoun, Madrid, Ogden, South Hamilton and Woodward Academy.
"We kept two traditional rivals in there with Marshalltown and Mason City, which I think is important," FDSH head coach Matt Miller said. "This will maybe be the seventh time in a row we've played Urbandale. We obviously haven't faced Waukee in the last couple of years, but it'll be good to see them again. I'm sure they're probably still loaded with talent. Indianola we haven't played for quite a long time, either, but I know Coach (Eric) Kluver down there. (The Indians) are similar to us in size, and they have great facilities at the Simpson College field."
Waukee reached the 4A state quarterfinals this past fall, while Urbandale advanced to the second round. Mason City and Indianola are also defending playoff qualifiers.
"Overall, I'm pretty happy with (the district assignments)," said Miller, whose Dodgers have made the postseason in five of the past six years. "Nobody really ever knows how things are going to be split up. I do know (the IHSAA) tries to balance it out the best they can. We just have to wait for about another month now to find out the other teams on our schedule."
In addition to the Gaels, Manson Northwest Webster, South Central Calhoun, Madrid, Ogden, and South Hamilton all punched playoff tickets in 2013. The Bulldogs made the quarterfinals, while the Cougars and Tigers were both ousted in the second round.
Messenger-area District Football Assignments
District 4: Fort Dodge, Indianola, Marshalltown, Mason City, Urbandale, Waukee
District 2: Algona, Boone, Carroll, Greene County, Humboldt, Perry, Webster City
District 2: Clarion-Goldfield, Clear Lake, Estherville-Lincoln Central, Forest City, Garner-Hayfield/Ventura, Hampton-Dumont, Osage
District 8: Clarinda, East Sac County, Carroll Kuemper, Prairie Valley, Red Oak, Shenandoah, West Central Valley
District 3: Central Springs, Eagle Grove, Emmetsburg, Lake Mills, Pocahontas Area, Saint Ansgar, West Fork
District 7: St. Edmond, Manson Northwest Webster, South Central Calhoun, Madrid, Ogden, South Hamilton, Woodward Academy
District 3: Belmond-Klemme, Bishop Garrigan, Nashua-Plainfield, Mason City Newman, North Butler, North Union, West Hancock
District 1: Ar-We-Va, Boyer Valley, Exira/Elk Horn-Kimballton, Kingsley-Pierson, Newell-Fonda, River Valley, West Harrison, Woodbine
District 2: Clay Central-Everly, Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire, Harris-Lake Park, Laurens-Marathon, Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn, Remsen-Union, Remsen St. Mary's, West Bend-Mallard
South Central Calhoun is dropping down from the 2A ranks. Madrid and Woodward Adademy each moved up from Class A.
"The good thing is we have to travel a lot less than before," said SEHS head coach Dick Tighe, who has guided the Gaels to the playoffs in eight of the last 10 seasons. "Every year I try to predict (the district assignments), and every year I get faked out. I thought we might go the same direction as we did, but you never know what (the IHSAA) is thinking. From top to bottom, this looks to be a stronger district. We also still get to play our old nemesis in Manson (Northwest Webster), who I'm sure will have to be one of the favorites.
"It's going to be a challenge, but I think all the teams are beatable. We're looking forward to (the 2014 season). We just need to get everyone in the weight room and working hard."
The 2014 regular season starts Aug. 28, with the first round of the playoffs scheduled for Oct. 29. According to the IHSAA, no Week 0 games are expected this year.