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Football Lewis Central at Sioux City North

Sioux City North's Jayse Martineck rallies his team before a high school football game against Lewis Central on Sept. 8. North High finished 0-9 on the year. A parent and former coach on Monday urged the Sioux City school board to combine North, East and West into a single football team for competitive reasons.

SIOUX CITY | A former middle school coach stood up at a Sioux City School Board meeting Monday and aired a novel idea -- combine all three public high school football teams into one more competitive squad.

Joel Longtin told the board members the recent low winning percentages for East, North and West warrant such a move. He noted the three schools rarely win against teams from metro Des Moines, adding many of their few victories come from beating each other. This fall, the teams went a combined 6-21, with East at 4-5, West, 2-7, and North, 0-9.

"The level of football has fallen to dramatic levels," said Longtim, who noted his two sons, both North graduates, went on to play college football.

Neither Superintendent Paul Gausman nor any of the seven school board members responded to Longtin's remarks, which were limited to the five-minute time limit for individual public comments.

Longtin encouraged people with "creative minds" to join district officials to study if one team could be formed from the three high schools. He noted he helped launch and coach middle school football in the district, when like-minded people banded together with the goal of improving the high school teams. Before that, Sioux City had been the last metro in Iowa to not have district-sponsored middle school teams.

Lamenting the recent decline of the three high school teams, he noted North and West last made the state playoffs in 2013 and East qualified for the last of seven consecutive seasons in 2015, when 32 Class 4A teams qualified. Since 2016, when the field was reduced to 16 teams, no metro team has qualified for the Class 4A postseason.

"I want to give kids a chance to succeed..It is borderline tragic," Longtin said.

While acknowledging his proposal is outside the regular norm, Longtime cited a precedent for such a move. The three high schools currently share one swim team.

Longtin added one derogatory factor that will continue to dog football participation in Sioux City is that parents are increasingly concerned about reports of concussions and brain injuries. He cited recent research about chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is caused by repeated hits to the head, regardless of whether or not they are concussive.

With worries about CTE, "the trend lines are not going to turn around," Longtin said, so the few remaining players will be set up "for public failure, public humiliation" as losses pile up.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misspelled Joel Longtin's surname.

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County and education reporter

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