Cary-Grove, which won the Class 6A state championship last season, could find itself playing in Class 7A when the IHSA is scheduled to move to a district system in 2021, according to an IHSA projection sent to schools Wednesday.
Cary-Grove, which won the Class 6A state championship last season, could find itself playing in Class 7A when the IHSA is scheduled to move to a district system in 2021, according to an IHSA projection sent to schools Wednesday. — Matthew Apgar file poto – mapgar@shawmedia.com

Perhaps the most intriguing aspects of the IHSA’s district format for football, which will be used starting in fall 2021, is which classes some of the local teams will find themselves in.

Shaw Media obtained the IHSA’s mock-up of what district football could look like in two years. The prototype came with the disclaimer that, “It is with 100 percent certainty that this district model will not match the district model that could be implemented in 2021.”

The first model has Cary-Grove projected as a Class 7A team and Jacobs in Class 8A.

That would eliminate some natural rivalries for C-G, which along with Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South and Prairie Ridge (the three of them projected in Class 6A) are in High School District 155. In the model, C-G is in 7A’s North District B, a nine-team district, meaning it would have one nondistrict game on its schedule.

That would mean the Trojans would not play a single team from its current Fox Valley Conference in district play, but C-G coach Brad Seaburg said a lot can change before Illinois adopts the district format in 2021.

“There’s so many variables between now and 2021,” Seaburg said. “It’s almost certain there will be a repeal vote on districts, there’s a chance it won’t even happen.”

In the mock-up C-G would be grouped with Buffalo Grove, Grant, Highland Park, Lake Zurich, Libertyville, Carmel, Mundelein and Wheeling.

Jacobs was placed in 8A’s North District A, along with current FVC members Huntley and McHenry. Barrington, Round Lake, Stevenson, Warren, Waukegan and Zion-Benton rounded out that nine-team district.

Jacobs coach Bill Mitz was shocked that the Golden Eagles projected to 8A.

“There’s going to be a lot of speculation until it actually comes out,” Mitz said. “Nobody knows for sure. It’s a couple years away.”

Huntley coach Matt Zimolzak thought that district would be challenging.

“There’s a lot of good teams out there,” Zimolzak said. “As coaches, we all just have to prepare for what’s going to come our way.”

The district format would eliminate conferences for football and was designed to make it a more even field for some teams to make the playoffs by playing teams closer their enrollment throughout the regular season.

Also, the district takes away the question of which classes teams would be in at the end of the season. Currently, the IHSA selects the top 256 teams, then puts 32 in each of the eight classes by enrollment. Some schools end up on the bubble between classes each year.

That has happened to C-G through the years. The Trojans played for the 7A state title in 2004 and 2014. They won 6A in 2009, were runners-up in 2012 and were state champions again last season.

C-G matching up with Prairie Ridge for a nondistrict game seems as if it is a clear fit since they are natural rivals and have won the past three Class 6A state titles. But Seaburg pointed out it might not be that simple. Schedules would have to line up with the corresponding district.

“That is why many teams are lukewarm to this idea,” Seaburg said. “When you look at it closely, it’s extremely messy.”

Zimolzak agreed.

“I understand what the IHSA’s trying to do,” Zimolzak said. “It affects a whole lot more than what they’re looking at, some teams will be traveling large distances. The potential’s there to get pushed aside.”