The Ballard-North Polk football rivalry is back on after the new Iowa High School district football assignments for the 2018 and 2019 seasons were released last week.

The Highway 69 rivals both landed in Class 3A District 8. They hadn’t played in football outside of scrimmages since 2009.

“Excited about the new district,” Ballard head football coach Al Christian said. “We’re playing teams we haven’t played in a few years and renewing old rivalries.”

The other teams in 3A District 8 are Bondurant-Farrar, Carlisle, Gilbert and Norwalk.

“It will be a fun district from a standpoint of schools that are closely located, which creates a lot of natural rivalries,” North Polk head coach Evan Groepper said. “There are some really good programs and will be highly competitive.”

Ballard and North Polk both will only have five district games, with four non-district games

After having to play its initial season of 8-man football without a district last season — or a chance to qualify for the playoffs — the Collins-Maxwell football program finally finds a home in 8-man District 5.

The Spartans will have to face off against former teammates from the Collins-Maxwell-Baxter days as Baxter will also be a part of the district. Colo-NESCO, Meskwaki, AGWSR, Melcher-Dallas, Twin Cedars and Meskwaki make up the rest of the district.

“The coaching staff and the team were excited on Thursday when the new districts came out!” Collins-Maxwell head coach Cory Crnkovich said. “The traveling won’t be nearly as far as last year. Plus, we won’t have as tough as schedule as we had last year, (where) we played four teams that made the playoffs, plus two teams who were ranked in the top 10 at some point in the year. We have a more favorable district than our open schedule last year. There are still very good teams in our new districts, but more favorable for us! The players are excited to be in a district where we are playoff-eligible.”

Collins-Maxwell will face seven district foes with two non-district games.

As for the playoffs, there were some significant changes made by the Iowa High School Athletic Association Board of Control regarding playoff qualification for 2018-19.

The playoff system will remain 16 teams, but only the district champion and/or co-champion will be automatically eligible. The 17-point district tiebreaker has been eliminated and now other at-large selections will be determined by a new RPI formula.

The new RPI will focus on the following criteria:

• A team’s overall win-loss percentage (37.5 percent of the index)

• The win-loss percentage of a team’s opponent (37.5 percent)

• The opposing team’s opponent win-loss percentage (25 percent)

Another major change is that for the first time ever, all nine games will count toward playoff qualification instead of just district games. The wins count the same for all classes.

The changes have been a mixed bag for several coaches, most of whom want to return to a 32-team field.

“I am disappointed the (IHSAA) didn’t listen to the coaches and go back to 32 teams qualifying for the playoffs,” Christian said. “Players, coaches and communities deserve it.”

Groepper weighed in:

“The RPI system is a move in the correct direction,” Groepper said. “I think it is going to make it a little more risky for teams from different classifications to play each other due to wins counting the same for all classes.”

Also of note: For the first time, Iowa teams can now play games against opponents from outside the state. They will be able face off against schools from bordering states — Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri, as well as Kansas.