2016 Prep Football Preview

2016 Prep Football Preview

August 21, 2016 | 7:00 am
Chapter 1:

Feature: Area players strive to get noticed by college programs

For some, the prep football season lasts two to three months from the start of practice to the final whistle.

For others with the goal of playing beyond their high school days, football is a constant in their lives.

The chance to secure a college scholarship or even the opportunity to play competitively at lower levels of college motivates players to devote large amounts of time, effort and travel. The hope is to make an impression on college programs and their coaches.

“It takes a lot of work, first and foremost,” Cedar Rapids Washington lineman Andrew Todd said. “It takes being really dedicated to your craft and being able to wake up every single day to go and get better. That’s the only way you can do it.”

NCAA Division I talent has blossomed in the Gazette area’s senior class. Iowa City West wide receiver Oliver Martin surged in the national recruiting rankings this year. Mount Vernon’s Tristan Wirfs has developed into one of the country’s top prospects at offensive tackle, committing to the University of Iowa. He will join Solon’s Jacob Coons and Mid-Prairie defensive end Levi Duwa.

Vinton-Shellsburg’s Drew Wiley garnered attention and accepted an offer from Kansas State. West Delaware’s John Nagel and Iowa City Regina’s Jared Brinkman have committed to Northern Iowa. Cedar Rapids Washington’s O’Rien Vance has committed to Iowa State, while his teammate, Todd, is a promising performer in the 2018 class.

Earning scholarship consideration is a 12-month process.

“It’s a year-round thing, now,” said Todd, a 6-foot-4, 270-pounder. “I do weight lifting year-round. I’m running all year. I work on technique year-round.”

 

Cedar Rapids Kennedy Coach Brian White has coached multiple D-I athletes, including Shaun Beyer and Dalles Jacobus, who are true freshman for Iowa this fall. He also helped coach Christian French, who went to Oregon. He also coached D-I athletes Adrian Arrington, Maurice Cantrell, Gavin McGrath and Rob Bruggeman as an assistant at Washington.

With the increasing popularity of camps to gain exposure to desired programs, White has seen on-campus morph from five-day endeavors to one-day affairs.

“That’s a way for the college coaches to get you on campus,” White said. “No. 1 is to talk to you and No. 2 is to get a look at you in person.”

Todd attended six camps overall, including a Nike camp. He logged a lot of miles, attending camps at Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and a satellite camp in Detroit. Todd sits as high as 47th for offensive tackles of 2018 in national rankings and the first in-state tackle.

“I had a busy summer,” Todd said. “I was traveling a bunch, but they were schools I targeted and that I would like to potentially play at.”

Martin spent the off-season juggling two other varsity seasons with football training. The effort paid dividends when he thrived at camps and 7-on-7 competition this year.

“Nike’s The Opening Finals camp helped me get attention in early July,” said Martin, a standout swimmer and baseball player for the Trojans. “I think seeing me go against the top recruits they realized how good I can be and how good I am. I did well there and got a lot of attention from that.

“But, doing well at college’s one-day campus camps is what really got me attention. The big thing was being seen by coaches at those one-day camps.”

Martin is listed as the 10th receiver in the 2017 class, according to 247sports.com. He has had at least 15 scholarships, including Big Ten programs Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and national power Oregon.

The moment he made his mark and garnered an offer the rest followed.

“I’m not surprised that colleges were wowed by Oliver’s abilities,” West Coach Garrett Hartwig told The Gazette. “Like anybody in this part of the country, I am surprised how nationally known he became. What’s been most surprising to me is how quickly word travels from literally one end of the country to the other end and how fast schools jump on board and go after him.”

One of the misconceptions is that year-round football means athletes have to specialize, eliminating other sports and activities. In addition to Martin, Todd wrestles and participates in track. Nagel played basketball and was on the baseball team. Brinkman was a state champion wrestler, while Duwa, the 35th-ranked defensive end of 2017 nationally, was a state finalist. Todd said coaches look for athletes to be well-rounded and versatile.

White said Iowa assistant and recruiting coordinator Reece Morgan is a regular at the Drake Relays and the state track meet. White said that French received added interest in football, following a 10.7-second 100-meter dash in track.

Two regular questions White fields from college coaches are about grades and whether the player is a multiple-sport athlete. His D-I athletes have had some commonalities.

“They were all multisport athletes and good students,” White said. “That’s the key.

“We live in an age where some people are saying you have to specialize. Well, not in football. if you focus on one sport and specialize, it reduces your chance, I think, of landing that scholarship.”

Players and their families are more proactive about distributing highlight reels. Hudl, the software that allows coaches and players to record and edit footage to create game film and highlight videos, can instantly put players in front of distant coaches. The internet is a valuable resource to learn about recruits as well.

“One of the biggest eye-openers to me is how people from such a long ways away can figure out about you and your personality,” said Nagel, who went to camps at Iowa, Iowa State and Nebraska, receiving eight offers before committing to the Panthers in June. “They can figure stuff out about you and they live 700 miles away.”

 

Even though camps and 7-on-7 leagues are great ways to increase your stock, nothing can replace on-field performance and character off the field. Nagel (6-6, 230) turned a lot of heads, amassing 155 receiving yards on six catches and a touchdown in the state semifinal against eventual champion Pella.

“My advice to people is you need to go out and play very well with your high school team and be a good individual around your community,” Nagel said. “Satellite camps are a good way to get an offer but the way you’ll get the most attention is how you do with your high school team, what you’re like around the area and your academics.”

Players have to take matters into their own hands. Work has to be done on the field during the season and off-season, in the classroom and a little promotion doesn’t hurt.

“If it’s your goal, it’s your job to get it done,” Todd said. “Don’t rely on anybody else.

“Our coaches do a great job of getting information to us, putting us out there and advocating for us, but really take it upon yourself to wake up, work hard every day and put yourself out there.”

-- K.J. Pilcher

Chapter 2:

Preseason Rankings

Rank School 2015 Points
1 West Des Moines Valley (4) 10-3 67
2 West Des Moines Dowling (3) 13-0 66
3 Cedar Rapids Washington 10-2 42
4 Ankeny 9-2 39
5 Cedar Rapids Kennedy 13-1 38
6 Bettendorf 12-1 28
7 Johnston 9-3 23
8 Muscatine 6-4 18
9 Ankeny Centennial 8-3 17
10 Lewis Central 8-4 12

First-place votes in parentheses


District 5

Known in recent years for its athletic playmakers, Cedar Rapids Washington shifts identities this season. With the return of five of their top six tacklers from 2015, the Warriors should own one of the stingiest defenses in the state. At the heart of it is O’Rien Vance (101 tackles), last year’s Gazette defensive player of the year. The race for the remaining playoff spot appears to be a three-team chase between Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Falls and Waterloo West. The J-Hawks have things moving in the right direction, despite significant graduation losses, and return two-way star Tavian Rashed (687 rushing yards, 117 tackles).

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Cedar Rapids Washington*
2. Cedar Rapids Jefferson*
3. Cedar Falls
4. Waterloo West
5. Waterloo East
6. Mason City

O'Rien Vance's versatility will be on display for Washington

O’Rien Vance hadn’t played a down of football in his life.

 

He never attended a practice or made a tackle.

His father, Johnnie Vance, approached one day before his sixth-grade year and asked if he would be interested in joining his friends on a team. The younger Vance found a perfect fit.

“I played on the Warriors travel team,” Vance said during the first day of practice. “May dad asked me if I would ever play football. I was like ‘yeah.’ Ever since then I’ve been loving it.”

Read more.

Jefferson targets sustained success

The hardest work is over. Or is it?

 

Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s football program is respectable again. Its metamorphis is the ultimate compliment to Coach Brian Webb and his staff.

In 2015, the J-Hawks had their first winning season in 15 years (7-4). They won a playoff game for the first time since 1992, qualified for back-to-back playoffs for the first time in school history.

That’s pretty incredible stuff, especially considering where things were a short time ago. But the westside still isn’t quite the best side, and that’s the goal.

Read more.


District 6

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Pleasant Valley*
2. Dubuque Hempstead*
3. North Scott
4. Western Dubuque
5. Pleasant Valley
6. Dubuque Senior


District 7

An unfortunate byproduct of the new playoff system is that some quality teams will left home after Week 9, and thus is the race in this district, which houses three very good squads. Bettendorf is a perennial power that reached the semifinals last season, and Iowa City High returned to prosperity last fall. Beware of Muscatine, which has skill players galore, led by quarterback Luke Wichers. Bettendorf returns its top two tacklers (Keegan Glaus and Jacob Durkin) from a team that allowed 14.8 points per game last season. City High rose from 2-7 to 8-4 and the 4A quarterfinals, and looks to continue the ascent behind RB Bryce Frantz (763 yards).

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Muscatine*
2. Bettendorf*
3. Iowa City High
4. Clinton
5. Davenport North
6. Davenport Central

City High inspired by late manager's attitude, selflessness

Coach Dan Sabers loves the camaraderie and selflessness of his veteran team.

 

For the longtime Iowa City High coach, there isn’t a better way for his players to honor the legacy of their friend and manager Martin Luna, who died in June after a two-year battle with cancer.

“We’re really coming together,” quarterback Nate Wieland said. “Nobody is just playing for themselves right now. We all want to play for each other and win together.”

Read more.


District 8

After a magical season that saw Cedar Rapids Kennedy reach unmatched heights — a rise from 3-8 to 13-1 and advancement to the 4A championship game — what happens next? If the Cougars slide, it won’t be far. All-stater Jackson Coker anchors the line, quarterback Nick Duehr is back, and so are top tacklers Johnson Mator and Garrett Kubovec. Linn-Mar and Iowa City West are the top two challengers. The Lions figure to be the most improved team in the Metro, and should be able to score plenty of points around QB Reese Phillips. West should rebound from a 4-7 campaign and has a blue-chip recruit in WR Oliver Martin, who caught 73 passes for 1,187 yards and 14 TDs.

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Cedar Rapids Kennedy*
2. Linn-Mar*
3. Iowa City West
4. Cedar Rapids Prairie
5. Burlington
6. Ottumwa

Kennedy intent on remaining a state contender

The Cedar Rapids Kennedy Cougars are determined not to be a one-hit, one-year wonder.

 

They had the best football season in school history in 2015, winning their first 13 games en route to the Class 4A state championship game. They lost to West Des Moines Dowling.

It simply can’t get any better than that, though don’t tell this team. It doesn’t agree.

Read more.

'Sandlot type' QB Reese Phillips leads motivated Linn-Mar

You’ve got a returning quarterback, you’ve got a chance. Not sure anyone has ever really said that, but it does make sense.

 

Linn-Mar has Reese Phillips back, and the Lions appear to have a chance at being a pretty good football team.

The senior signal caller threw for about 1,600 yards last season and 13 touchdowns. Five of those came in one game against Clinton, which set a school record.

Phillips also rushed for about 200 yards and three more scores, earning first-team all-district and all-Metro honors. With a year under his belt, look for the 6-foot, 180-pounder to improve all of his stats in 2016.

Read more.

Talented Iowa City West hopes for turnaround

Oliver Martin’s story is just beginning.

 

Considering how much already has been written, that’s a scary thought for opposing defenses this fall.

The Iowa City West receiver was an all-state pick as a sophomore and junior. He’s already tallied 2,177 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns in his high school career.

Coach Garrett Hartwig calls him one of the most talented players to come through West’s program.

Read more.

Prairie comfortable in Year 2 under Mark Bliss

Cedar Rapids Prairie football practice is a little more relaxed this year.

 

Make no mistake: the Hawks have practiced hard and with the intensity of a group that wants more than anything to improve upon a 4-6 record and first-round playoff exit last season. But the stress of 2015’s fall camp seems to have melted away, replaced by a much smoother one this season, and that’s all owed to it being Year 2 in the Mark Bliss era.

Bliss, who took over as head coach last season, has seen a marked improvement in his players, and where they are at this point is light years ahead of where they were last year.

Read more.

Chapter 3:

Preseason Rankings

Rank School 2015 Points
1 Norwalk (2) 12-2 55
2 Cedar Rapids Xavier (1) 9-1 47
3 Pella (4) 14-0 46
4 Harlan 8-2 35
T-5 Creston/Orient-Macksburg 6-5 25
T-5 Washington 7-3 25
7 Glenwood 8-2 24
8 Sioux City Heelan 8-2 21
9 Carroll 7-4 20
T-10 Dallas Center-Grimes 9-3 18
T-10 Spirit Lake 14-0 18

First-place votes in parentheses


District 3

Another fine season for Cedar Rapids Xavier was cut short last year; Decorah upset the Saints in the second round of the playoffs. Now, those two teams are in the same district, and figure to be the top contenders for the crown. Xavier has a super run-pass duo in Maliki Wilson (1,273 rushing yards, 12 TDs) and Bryce Schulte (1,516 passing yards, 20 TDs), and you know the Saints will be tough defensively. The Saints have a challenging non-district schedule, opening with Iowa City Regina and Linn-Mar. The showdown with Decorah is on the road Sept. 23.

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Cedar Rapids Xavier*
2. Decorah*
3. Charles City
4. Vinton-Shellsburg
5. South Tama
6. Independence
7. Benton Community
8. Waverly-Shell Rock

Early exit in last year's playoffs drives Xavier

Having a football season end on its home field was doubly painful for Cedar Rapids Xavier last fall.

 

A 30-21 playoff loss to red-hot Decorah not only ended Xavier’s unbeaten 2015 season, it left a sting for a prideful junior class that hoped to send a decorated group of seniors to the UNI-Dome for the fourth year in a row.

“It pissed a lot of the juniors off that we couldn’t give our seniors a good year,” Xavier senior defensive lineman Zach Barish said.

Read more.


District 4

This should be a balanced district with a potential surprise champion. West Delaware and Davenport Assumption probably will be the picks by many, but don’t sleep on Clear Creek Amana. The Clippers return a 1,000-yard rusher in Drake Brezina, and a good share of their defense. They won five of their last six regular-season games last year after an 0-3 start. West Delaware has some holes to fill, most notably running back Coy Roussell and QB Max Ridenour, who combined for more than 4,000 yards. Marion welcomes new coach Tim Lovell, who will try to close the book on a 17-game losing streak.

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Clear Creek-Amana*
2. West Delaware*
3. Davenport Assumption
4. DeWitt Central
5. Maquoketa
6. Marion
7. Dubuque Wahlert
8. Center Point-Urbana

UNI commit John Nagel working to keep West Delaware tradition strong

West Delaware senior John Nagel is a big-time player with a big frame.

 

The Hawks will need to rely on every bit of that 6-foot-6, 230-pound brawn from the athletic tight end and defensive end.

Nagel is ready to step to the forefront and serve as a leader for West Delaware, which graduated a plethora of seniors from last year’s team that went 12-1 with a trip to the Class 3A state semifinals.

Nagel, who committed to Northern Iowa in July, is ready to take the reins and help his teammates take the same steps to continue the Hawks’ success.

Read more.

Tim Lovell hopes to get Marion climbing again

A red tarp is fastened to a white shed at the south end of the Marion High School practice field.

 

On that red tarp are scripted the “Covenants of Marion Football,” six pillars that first-year coach Tim Lovell demands from his new team.

“We will be successful if we do these things, all the things we talked about all summer,” Lovell said.

Success is relative. And for a traditional strong program that enters the season with a 17-game losing streak, goals are modest. Instead of talking about playoffs, the Indians are talking about progress.

Read more.


District 5

It’s a virtual dead heat at the top of this district, then a big gap between the top two and everybody else. Solon and Washington (Iowa) are the frontrunners, without much debate. The showdown is Sept. 16 at Washington. The Demons are led by junior quarterback Ryan Reighard, who completed 64 percent of his throws last year. Reighard can run a little, too — he netted 1,579 yards on the ground, with 21 TDs. Solon counters with the pass-catch combo of Blaze Griffis and Halston Durr. It anybody else is going to crack the top two and snag a playoff spot, it might be Oskaloosa, a 2-7 outfit last year.

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Solon*
2. Washington*
3. Oskaloosa
4. Mount Pleasant
5. West Burlington/Notre Dame
6. Fairfield
7. Fort Madison
8. Keokuk

Reflective offseason gets Solon back to its roots

A rare five-loss season had Solon Coach Kevin Miller re-examining every facet of his program.

 

Everything from team leadership to strength and conditioning to player development came under close scrutiny in an effort to flip the script for the 2016 season.

“I think our theme has been, ‘Just get back to the things that have made us who we are,’” Miller said. “Where excellence is a tradition. We’re kind of getting back to our roots, if you will. We made some changes and revisions to basically every aspect of our program. Sometimes you don’t excel at the level you want to, I don’t care if it’s the football field or beyond. When you lose, you reflect on the things that you can do better and we’ve kind of changed our method of operation.”

Read more.

Experienced Washington 'smarter, stronger' in 2016

For much of the 2015 high school football season, Washington (Iowa) appeared ahead of schedule.

 

Armed with a sophomore-laden roster, the Demons won seven of their first eight games and looked poised to claim a district crown.

Losses to Davenport Assumption and Solon in the final two games of the season denied the Demons the district title and a second-round playoff game, which has this year’s team of 15 returning starters ready to take another step.

“Obviously a bitter taste with the way it ended, losing two games in a row at the end of the year there,” third-year Washington Coach Garrison Carter said.

Read more.

Chapter 4:

Preseason Rankings

Rank School 2015 Points
1 Mount Vernon (6) 11-3 69
2 North Fayette Valley 10-3 59
3 Dike-New Hartford 11-2 41
4 Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley 8-3 39
5 Albia (1) 12-1 23
6 Aplington-Parkersburg 8-3 17
T-7 Central Lyon/George-Little Rock 7-5 14
T-7 Hampton-Dumont 8-3 14
T-7 Union 4-6 14
10 Williamsburg 7-4 13

First-place votes in parentheses


District 4

No doubt about it, this district is stacked. It’s probably safe to say five of these teams are among the top 20 in 2A, and at least two (and very possibly three) will miss the playoffs. A semifinalist last year, North Fayette Valley is probably the favorite, but not a prohibitive one. The TigerHawks had four rushers of 600-plus yards last year, and three of them are back, led by Trey Kuhens (953). Waukon figures to be strong again. The dark horse is Union, which went 4-6 last year but returns the most of anybody in the district, including recent UNI commitment Brock Hadachek. Dyersville Beckman and Cascade can’t be overlooked. If anybody gets out of this district without a loss, it will be a major accomplishment.

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. North Fayette Valley*
2. Union*
3. Waukon*
4. Dyersville Beckman
5. Cascade
6. Monticello
7. Oelwein
8. Waterloo Columbus


District 5

Lance Pederson has successfully brought Mount Vernon back to the football upper crust. The Mustangs avenged a regular-season loss to Anamosa in the 2A quarterfinals last year, then reached the championship game before dropping a 70-56 decision to Spirit Lake. The Mustangs are the favorite not only to win this district, but to make another deep run in November. Lineman Tristan Wirfs is a University of Iowa recruit, and junior Drew Adams passed for 3,391 yards and 38 touchdowns. Picking the second playoff team is more tricky, with Mid-Prairie rating a very slight favorite over Williamsburg and Anamosa.

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Mount Vernon*
2. Mid-Prairie*
3. Williamsburg
4. Anamosa
5. Mediapolis
6. Northeast
7. West Liberty
8. Camanche

Mount Vernon not worried about weight of expectations

The weight of expectation can be heavy.

 

A year ago, as the Mount Vernon football team made its way through an 11-3 season that ended in the state championship game, the Mustangs were most often the “nobody believes in us” team. With a sophomore quarterback and multiple players thrust into unexpected roles, Mount Vernon rarely was picked to win — especially in the Class 2A playoffs, facing three district champions — but proved its doubters wrong over and over.

Headed into 2016, despite losing, 70-56, to Spirit Lake in that title game, the Mustangs are the No. 1 team in 2A, have the core of their high-flying offense back and are hungry to finish what they started last year. They’re up against that shift in perception — and more importantly shutting out what anyone thinks of them — while living up to their own expectations.

Read more.

Chapter 5:

Preseason Rankings

Rank School 2015 Points
1 Iowa City Regina (7) 13-1 70
2 Western Christian 11-3 57
3 West Branch 11-1 56
4 Pella Christian 7-4 41
5 Hinton 10-2 37
6 Denver 11-2 32
7 Madrid 8-3 27
8 Van Meter 11-2 25
9 Jesup 6-4 9
T-10 South Winneshiek 8-3 8
T-10 West Lyon 6-4 8

First-place votes in parentheses


District 2

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Denver*
2. South Winneshiek*
3. MFL MarMac
4. Conrad BCLUW
5. Belmond-Klemme
6. Sumner-Fredericksburg
7. Central Springs
8. Lake Mills


District 3

Barring injury, Luke Lenoch will become West Branch’s all-time leading rusher early this season. He has amassed 4,184 yards and 57 rushing touchdowns in three seasons, including 1,824 and 24 last fall. The Bears are, without question, the team to beat in this district, with Maquoketa Valley — up a class from the last two seasons — the top challenger. The Wildcats have their own returning ground star in Alec McDowell (1,374 yards, 18 TDs). McDowell also accumulated a team-high 79 tackles. Clayton Ridge is a sleeper behind the aerial game between QB Jace Moore and receivers Robby Sweers and Sawyer Schmelzer.

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. West Branch*
2. Maquoketa Valley*
3. Clayton Ridge*
4. Tipton
5. Bellevue
6. Jesup
7. North Cedar
8. Durant

Pride pushing West Branch into another season

There’s no doubting or denying losing is hard.

 

No amount of “we played a great game” numbs the pain from a loss in the playoffs, especially when it comes to a heated rival and marks your first loss of the season.

No one at West Branch is denying those facts.

That also is something those returning can use. Of course motivation from a painful loss is not the sole reason to come back and play harder than ever, but to deny its power is foolhardy. Fortunately for West Branch, the man in charge has been doing this a while, and knows what buttons to push.

Read more.


District 4

In addition to its six consecutive state titles, Iowa City Regina has been money in district play for a long time. The Regals have won 39 consecutive district games in a streak dating back to 2009. It’s difficult to imagine that streak ending this year, despite some heavy graduation losses. Jared Brinkman is a good pillar to reload around; he accumulated 72.5 tackles and three fumble recoveries last season. Wilton is best-equipped to challenge the Regals from this district. The Beavers welcome back 800-yard rusher Bryce Oveson (who also led the team in tackles, with 91) and top receiver Evan Reifert.

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Iowa City Regina*
2. Wilton*
3. Sigourney-Keota
4. Wapello
5. Highland
6. Louisa-Muscatine
7. Columbus Community
8. Van Buren

Regina looks to reload as it eyes another state title

All eyes are on Iowa City Regina. Again.

The Regals are on the greatest championship run in the history of Iowa high school football. Marv Cook’s program has an 82-2 record the last six seasons and will go for a seventh straight title this fall.

The target couldn’t be any bigger on the Class 1A preseason No. 1 Regals, who will break in new starters at nearly every offensive skill position.

“Even though Regina has had success and won some titles, for a lot of these guys it will be their first chance to be a starter and win a state championship,” Cook said. “That’s a lot more rewarding and memorable than being a backup or being a freshman on the sideline.”

Read more.

Chapter 6:

Preseason Rankings

Rank School 2015 Points
1 Akron-Westfield (4) 11-3 53
2 Algona Garrigan 11-1 49
T-3 Gladbrook-Reinbeck (2) 12-2 48
T-3 Saint Ansgar (1) 10-2 48
5 West Sioux 11-1 37
6 West Hancock 7-3 29
7 Council Bluffs St. Albert 6-4 19
8 BGM 11-1 18
9 Montezuma 7-4 15
10 Hudson 8-3 14

First-place votes in parentheses

 

District 4

This is the most difficult area district to handicap, with the top four teams just about dead even. Despite a 3-6 record in 2015, Wapsie Valley might be ready to rebound and capture the crown. The Warriors possess a strong junior class, featuring Jake Kuhlman (743 rushing yards, 44.5 tackles). Lisbon, North Linn and East Buchanan also are capable of winning the district, and Alburnett (which moved down from 1A) can’t be overlooked. Jack Butteris (843 rushing yards) stakes Lisbon’s hopes, and North Linn returns QB Logan Novak and its top six tacklers.

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Wapsie Valley*
2. Lisbon*
3. North Linn
4. East Buchanan
5. Alburnett
6. Starmont
7. Postville
8. Edgewood-Colesburg

District 5

Defending state champion Gladbrook-Reinbeck was hit significantly by graduation, but still rates as a slight favorite to win the title. BGM is the chief challenger, and has an outside threat in receiver Jayce Knight (32 catches, 796 yards, 11 TDs). Belle Plaine’s Joey Schwenn rushed for 947 yards, and the Plainsmen return their top two tacklers.

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Gladbrook-Reinbeck*
2. BGM*
3. Hudson
4. Belle Plaine
5. Garwin GMG
6. Colfax-Mingo
7. North Tama
8. Grand View Christian

BGM plans to use team speed in new offense

Taking over at quarterback for a team that finished 11-1 is a tough task.

 

For BGM senior Jayce Knight, the pressure of repeating that record may be the least challenging part.

Not only is Knight switching from wide receiver, where he led the team with 32 receptions and 11 touchdowns in 2015, he’s also coming off shoulder surgery. Knight went under the knife in November to repair a torn muscle in his right shoulder. One shoulder screw and four months of rehab later, Knight was cleared to resume activity.

Read more.


District 6

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Montezuma*
2. Lynnville-Sully*
3. Pekin
4. Winfield-Mount Union
5. North Mahaska
6. New London
7. Danville
8. Cardinal

Chapter 7:

Preseason Rankings

Rank School 2015 Points
1 Don Bosco (5) 11-1 63
2 Fremont-Mills (1) 9-2 36
3 Ar-We-Va (1) 8-3 35
4 Audubon 8-2 30
5 Coon Rapids-Bayard 6-4 27
T-6 Exira-EHK 8-2 23
T-6 Glidden-Ralston 11-1 23
8 Bedford 6-4 18
T-9 Elkader Central 11-1 17
T-9 Lenox 10-1 17

First-place votes in parentheses


District 2

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Turkey Valley*
2. Ackley AGWSR*
3. North Iowa
4. Northwood-Kensett
5. Janesville
6. Riceville
7. Clarksville


District 3

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Don Bosco*
2. Elkader Central*
3. Dunkerton
4. Tripoli
5. West Central
6. Lansing Kee
7. Central City


District 4

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. Lone Tree*
2. Midland*
3. Easton Valley
4. Iowa Valley
5. WACO
6. Springville
7. English Valleys

Lone Tree, Iowa Valley the latest schools to go 8-player football route

There are little things about moving from 11-player to 8-player football that you wouldn’t realize.

It’s still running, passing, blocking and tackling. That’s never going to change.

Physically making a field narrower and shorter is easy. Just move the yard markers and out-of-bounds lines.

But the goal posts? That’s another story.

Those suckers are heavy.

Read more.


District 5

Predictions (*Playoff qualifier)
1. HLV*
2. Colo-Nesco*
3. Moravia
4. Twin Cedars
5. Meskwaki Settlement
6. Melcher-Dallas
7. Seymour/Moulton-Udell
8. Tri-County

Highlights from this story


Welcome to The Gazette's 2016 prep football preview.
Browse through for team previews, district predictions and this year's feature story: The time, effort and money it takes for prep prospects to get noticed by college programs.

Feature: K.J. Pilcher
Predictions: Jeff Linder
Team Previews: Jason Brummond Jeremiah Davis, Jeff Johnson, Jeff Linder, Douglas Miles, K.J. Pilcher, Matt Sulentic
Photos: Cliff Jette, Liz Martin, Rebecca Miller, Jim Slosiarek, Adam Wesley

Highlights from this story


Welcome to The Gazette's 2016 prep football preview.
Browse through for team previews, district predictions and this year's feature story: The time, effort and money it takes for prep prospects to get noticed by college programs.

Feature: K.J. Pilcher
Predictions: Jeff Linder
Team Previews: Jason Brummond Jeremiah Davis, Jeff Johnson, Jeff Linder, Douglas Miles, K.J. Pilcher, Matt Sulentic
Photos: Cliff Jette, Liz Martin, Rebecca Miller, Jim Slosiarek, Adam Wesley

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