Subscribe for 33¢ / day

Moline coach Mike Morrissey was thrilled to learn Wednesday that the Iowa High School Athletic Association approved a recommendation to allow Iowa teams to play out-of-state competition. It gives Moline an opportunity for out of conference games closer to home.

Meg McLaughlin, Lee News Network

The possibilities are intriguing.

Alleman vs. Assumption? Rock Island vs. Bettendorf or North Scott? Moline vs. Pleasant Valley? Fulton vs. Clinton? United Township vs. one of the three Davenport public schools?

The Iowa High School Athletic Association's board of directors approved a recommendation Wednesday allowing varsity football teams to play games against nearby opponents in border states starting in the 2018 season.

It could restore some of the bleacher-filling, cross-river rivalries that haven't taken place since the Mississippi Athletic Conference expanded to 10 teams in 1985.

"For us, there is a lot of benefit," Moline coach Mike Morrissey said. "We can play teams more local. We can save money, save time."

With five league contests each season, every Big Six school is searching for four out of conference opponents.

Moline has Geneseo scheduled for the opening week this fall while Rich South and Stagg — both Chicago suburbs — are slated for Week 3 and Week 9.

The Maroons were scheduled to play Thornridge, another Chicago suburb, in Week 2, but Morrissey confirmed Wednesday afternoon the school has gotten out of its contract for that game.

The chance to add a Bettendorf, PV or North Scott is compelling.

"To stay local means a lot," Morrissey said. "The long-term benefits are there — great games, exciting atmospheres.

"I can't stress the excitement of bringing back the old-school Quad-City rivalries."

The Quad-Cities Metro Conference disbanded after the 1977 season. Several schools still played non-conference games until the MAC added Davenport North and PV.

Athletic directors have seen the excitement and interest the Genesis Shootout (boys basketball) and IHMVCU Shootout (girls basketball) have created.

Just imagine the Friday night gate PV could generate for Moline or Bettendorf for Rock Island? It would be far greater than what they draw for a Cedar Rapids or West Des Moines school.

There is a built-in story line with PV and Moline. Morrissey's father, Ed, who is on the staff at Moline, won 177 games and a state championship leading the Spartans. Mike played on two playoff teams for PV.

"That would be a lot of fun, but not because of myself or my dad," Morrissey said. "It is the chance to play somebody different, and the history of it. You could have kids whose fathers played against each other back in the day.

"It is a chance to relive those memories and rivalries. That's exciting."

For Assumption, the likely matchup is Alleman. Both are parochial programs. Both have developed rivalries in boys basketball and girls soccer in recent years.

"Similar school, that's a logical choice," Assumption football coach and activities director Wade King said. "If we can do it, it makes sense for both schedules. We'd definitely want to do it."

King said the tricky part is getting the schedules to mesh.

Iowa's non-district games will be contested Weeks 1 through 4. The Western Big Six plays its conference games Week 4 through 8, meaning the only possibilities are in the opening three weeks. Many of the Illinois schools already have contracts signed for 2018.

Alleman's activities director Joe Conklin was on King's staff at Assumption.

"We've talked about it a little bit, but we've got to see if it can actually be done for both schools' schedules," King said. "We'll have to see how it works out."

Iowa is expected to release its district assignments for the 2018 and 2019 seasons Thursday.

Once schools learn their district opponents, they'll begin compiling their lists for who they want to play in the non-district.

"A lot of people," Morrissey said, "are going to be pretty proactive on this. There are a lot of great opportunities here."


Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.