INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
Independence nearly matc ... »
Q: Through two weeks of the district season, has anything been decided in Class 2A District 4?
JL: Along with 3A-7, this is the deepest district in the state, in any class. It’s a district in which multiple high-quality teams will fall short of the playoffs. The upper crust now consists of three teams unbeaten in the district (North Fayette Valley, Union and Waukon). Another (Dyersville Beckman) has one loss and can creep back into the race if it upsets Union on Friday at home. At 0-2, Cascade probably is relegated to spoiler status. In a long-winded answer, no, not a lot has yet been determined.
Q: Who is the biggest surprise in Class 4A?
JJ: If you stay local, I’d have to say Cedar Rapids Prairie. The Hawks are 3-1 going into a big game Friday night against Iowa City West, with the only loss to Washington, and only by a 27-14 score. If you are talking state, I’d go with Waterloo West. No, the Wahawks haven’t played the toughest schedule (Dubuque Hempstead, Dubuque Senior, Western Dubuque, Marshalltown) but they’ve won every game. It’s not inconceivable for you to see a West-Cedar Rapids Washington matchup to end the regular season, with both teams coming in 8-0.
Q: Who is your Coach of the Year for the first half of the season?
KJP: The area is littered with candidates. Look at the start North Fayette Valley’s Bob Lape has produced in arguably the toughest district in the entire state and of all classes. West Delaware’s Doug Winkowitsch has led the Hawks to an unbeaten start after having to reload most of its production from a year ago. Same with Cedar Rapids Washington’s Paul James. Marion’s Tim Lovell took a program mired in losses and won two straight, leading the Indians to a .500-record through two weeks. I’m going with the Clear Creek-Amana combo Matt and Ronnie Hughes. The Clippers are off to possibly their best start ever and could be 5-0 after this week. CCA is setting up a matchup of undefeated teams next week against West Delaware, which will help decide the district title race.
Q: Who is The Gazette area’s top NCAA Division-I recruit?
JL: Yet to commit. That’s Oliver Martin, the explosive receiver from Iowa City West. Martin has 27 catches, 417 yards, four touchdowns, and a closet full of offers.
JJ: Have to mention Cedar Rapids Washington defensive end O’Rien Vance, because he has been a beast for Class 4A’s third-ranked team. He’s an Iowa State commit. But my vote goes to Mount Vernon lineman Tristan Wirfs. He is one of three University of Iowa commits who have been picked to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, in January. You don’t get to that game without being really good.
KJP: Mount Vernon’s Tristan Wirfs is impressive. He reminds me slightly of Austin Blythe coming out of Williamsburg. He is big, mobile and knows how to get leverage. Although I think he is firmly tackle material, as Blythe’s versatility allowed him to move to the interior. Wirfs is a strong get for University of Iowa.