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Delaware high school football realignment tweaked, big changes in store

Brad Myers
Delaware News Journal

The state high school football realignment wheel keeps spinning.

The Delaware Association of Athletic Directors presented an updated high school football realignment proposal at Thursday’s special meeting of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Directors, and there were some dramatic changes.

Three of the most noticeable:

  • Howard moving into the highest of the three classes after winning the last two DIAA Division II state titles.
  • Wilmington Friends and Tower Hill – two perennial Division II playoff teams – dropping from the middle class into the lowest class.
  • Middletown, a longtime member of the upstate Blue Hen Conference, moving into a revised district to compete against downstate teams.
Middletown's Colby Chambers (12) hands off to Michael Pearson during the DIAA Division I championship game on Dec. 19. The Cavaliers have played in the upstate Blue Hen Conference for many years, but would move into a new district and compete against downstate teams under a revised DIAA football realignment proposal.

The athletic directors group originally presented its proposal to the DIAA board in November. Changes were made after receiving input from member schools, including concerns about increased travel costs and competitive balance.

The updated proposal still increases the number of football divisions from two to three. The November proposal called for splits of the top 12 teams in Class 3A, the middle 16 teams in Class 2A and the lowest 16 teams in Class 1A. The new plan calls for 12 teams in 3A, 21 in 2A and 13 in 1A.

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It is hoped that the realignment will increase the number of competitive games. Dickinson athletic director Andy Dick, who also serves as president of the Blue Hen Conference, said that statewide last season 48 percent of all games played were decided by 24 points or more.

Howard players celebrate their second straight DIAA Division II football title on Dec. 19. The Wildcats would move into Class 3A - the highest division - under a revised DIAA football realignment proposal.

The updated classes and divisions break down as follows:

  • Class 3A, District 1: Appoquinimink, Hodgson, Howard, St. Georges, Salesianum, William Penn.
  • Class 3A, District 2: Caesar Rodney, Cape Henlopen, Dover, Middletown, Smyrna, Sussex Central.
  • Class 2A, District 1: A.I. du Pont, Archmere, Brandywine, Concord, Delcastle, Mount Pleasant, St. Elizabeth.
  • Class 2A, District 2: Caravel, Christiana, Conrad, Delaware Military Academy, Glasgow, Newark and St. Mark’s.
  • Class 2A, District 3: Delmar, Lake Forest, Milford, Polytech, Red Lion Christian, Sussex Tech, Woodbridge.
  • Class 1A, District 1: Charter of Wilmington, Dickinson, McKean, St. Andrew’s, Tatnall, Tower Hill, Wilmington Friends.
  • Class 1A, District 2: Early College HS@DSU, First State Military Academy, Indian River, Laurel, Odessa, Seaford.

The new proposal would also expand the postseason.

Currently, 14 teams (six in Division I, eight in Division II) make the playoffs, although that number was reduced to just four in each division in 2020 to squeeze into a shortened, two-week playoff period due to coronavirus concerns.

Under the new proposal, twice as many teams – 28 – would make the postseason. There would be eight playoff teams in Class 3A and Class 1A, and 12 playoff teams in Class 2A.

The regular season would be 10 games for Class 3A and Class 1A teams, but only nine games in Class 2A to accommodate an extra round of playoffs.

The plan also offers flexibility to allow schools to continue to play rivalry games and other traditional opponents that may be moving to a different class or district. Teams in each class would have some common open weeks to make scheduling non-district games easier.

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Class 3A teams would have five open dates – in Weeks 1, 3, 5, 8 and 10 – to fill.

Class 2A teams would have three open dates – in Weeks 1 and 5 and one floating week – to fill.

Class 1A, District 1 teams would have four open dates – Weeks 1, 5, 10 and a floating week. Class 1A, District 2 teams would have five open dates – Weeks 1, 3, 5, 7 and 10 – to fill.

Tower Hill's Brendan Hickey runs for a touchdown against Charter of Wilmington on Oct. 31. The Hillers have made the Division II playoffs in six of the last eight years, but would drop into Class 1A - the lowest of three divisions - under a revised DIAA football realignment proposal.

Postseason teams and seedings would be determined by a points system similar to what is used now. Playoff games would be played on the home fields of the higher-seeded teams through the semifinals.

No vote was taken on the new proposal Thursday. DIAA Board Chairman Bradley Layfield, principal at Sussex Central High School, said the plan is still being discussed by the state’s school superintendents and heads of schools and the Delaware Interscholastic Football Coaches Association.

Delaware Military Academy athletic director Jeremy Jeanne – DAAD president and a DIAA board member – presented the new proposal at a meeting of the state’s top school leaders earlier Thursday.

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“I think overall, the feeling is in support of realignment,” said Kevin Fitzgerald, a DIAA board member and superintendent of the Caesar Rodney School District. “But there still remain some questions that we have that we would like to have answered before a vote is taken. … I don’t feel that the questions that were posed would be the kind that would derail the realignment direction that we’re moving in.”

Dick said after months of feedback from various groups, the new proposal has widespread support among the state’s football teams.

“We rolled this out on Monday, I think, to the athletic directors and asked them to speak to their coaches,” Dick said. “We only got two negative responses out of 46 schools.”

The next DIAA board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 21. It is not yet known if a vote on the new proposal will be taken then.

Contact Brad Myers at bmyers@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ