UNI-Dome sees unique circumstances for high school football

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University of Northern Iowa

The UNI-Dome has hosted high school football championships since 1976, with this year having the site host its most unique set of games yet.

DAVID WARRINGTON

The UNI-Dome is no stranger to high school football. State championship football games have been held at the venue ever since it was first opened in 1976. Now both the semifinal and championship games for all six classes of high school football are played at the Dome.

While these games are still taking place this year, things are definitely different than in past years. On the first day of state football, history was made off of the field, with all of the new guidelines related to COVID-19, and on the field with multiple records broken in an unbelievable opening game.

Four high school sports seasons have now been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. State basketball attendance was limited to 100 fans for each school, spring sports were cancelled, baseball and softball were delayed and the football season had its schedule adjusted along with having some pretty major alterations to attendance at the UNI-Dome. In a stadium that can hold just north of 16,000 people, only 2,400 fans are being allowed inside for each game. In the 48 hours leading up to the opening kickoff of the first game, it was a whirlwind of announcements attempting to determine how the UNI-Dome would handle attendance limitations.

On Tuesday afternoon, Governor Kim Reynolds put out an announcement in response to the rising coronavirus cases throughout Iowa. One announcement said that at indoor sporting events there may only be two family members in attendance for each athlete. The UNI-Dome is an indoor facility, so many people assumed this would be included. Later that day, however, Reynolds announced that she was considering the UNI-Dome an outdoor facility, because although it does have a roof, it is such a large stadium that there is ample room for social distancing.

At that time, it was announced that 7,000 fans could be in attendance, with tickets first opening up to family members of the participating teams, and after that opening to the general public. However, this was again changed on Wednesday, less than 24 hours before the first game, to only 2,400 fans being allowed, restricted to only family members. The participating schools are provided with online codes, and those codes are the only way to purchase tickets to a game.

There have been various safety measures put in place in order to keep everybody safe at the UNI-Dome. For starters, as is the case in Black Hawk County and the UNI campus, masks are required at all times inside the UNI-Dome. This goes for fans, media, coaches, referees and anybody else who may be inside the Dome. The one exception is for players, who do not have to wear a mask while they play. Fans are also spread out, with tickets being purchased by families in pods of two to six people. These pods are required to socially distance themselves from others around them. Lastly, there are intensive cleaning processes being implemented between every game.

After the conclusion of each game, the stadium is emptied of all fans, and the entire stadium is cleaned and disinfected before fans are allowed to come in for the next game.

In the opening game, the Montezuma Braves took on the Remsen St. Mary’s Hawks in an eight-player semi-final matchup. In a game that saw the two teams combine for 1,497 yards of offense and 202 points while lasting just over four hours, the Hawks came out on top 108-94. This game broke the record for most points scored in a game in the state of Iowa, breaking the previous record of 178.

Montezuma’s junior quarterback Eddie Burgess threw for 689 yards and nine touchdowns in the losing effort. His 689 yards broke the previous record of 591 yards for most passing yards in a game. After a semi-final win like no other, Remsen St. Mary’s will move on to the eight-player state championship game after being taken out in the semi-finals a year ago.

There were three other games throughout the day, although they were slightly delayed after the marathon opening game. The reigning state champions of the eight-man class, the Don Bosco Dons, took on the Fremont-Mills Knight, and in a much more traditional game, the Knights upset the defending champs 32-30. They will take on Remsen St. Mary’s in the eight-player championship. Moving onto Class 3A, the undefeated Harlan Cyclones had their way with the Boyden Hull/Rock Valley Nighthawks, winning 44-7.

In the final game of the day, the North Scott Lancers, in their first ever appearance in the Dome, defeated the undefeated Xavier Saints 17-10 in overtime. Xavier’s kicker Lincoln Oakley made a 33-yard field goal at the end of regulation to force overtime, but it wasn’t enough as the Lancers got a score and a stop in the extra session to move onto the championship game where they will take on Harlan.

Overall, it was a very unique day at the UNI-Dome. Like everything else this year, changes have had to be made to regular routines in order to continue playing state football at the UNI-Dome. Fortunately, the University of Northern Iowa has still been able to allow the Iowa High School Athletic Association to use the UNI-Dome as it’s facility for state football in 2020, just with some new procedures in place. The finals will be held this coming weekend with similar protocols expected to be in place at the Dome.