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 ... »
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Area football capsules for Week 1:
Time and site — 7:15 p.m. Thursday, at Kingston Stadium
Records and rankings — Class 4A eighth-ranked Muscatine was 6-4 last year; No. 5 Kennedy was 13-1.
Overview — Last year’s 4A runner-up, Kennedy faces a major challenge right out of the chute. The Muskies return the majority of their top skill personnel, including quarterback Luke Wichers (1,783 passing yards, 17 TDs), RB Alphonso Soko (1,161 rushing yards, 18 TDs) and receiver Drew Greenhaw (30 catches, 514 yards, five TDs). Kennedy’s Nick Duehr passed for 1,716 yards and 20 touchdowns against two interceptions. The Cougars’ line will be anchored by Jackson Coker.
Time and site — 7:15 p.m. Friday, at John Wall Field
Records and rankings — Class 4A third-ranked Washington was 10-2 last year; Prairie was 4-6.
Overview — Washington rolled to a 39-14 win over the Hawks last year at Kingston Stadium, and the Warriors ought to be extremely strong again after a 4A state-quarterfinal appearance, particularly on defense, where five of the top six tacklers return. O’Rien Vance, the 2015 Gazette defensive player of the year, leads that group after compiling 101 stops a year ago. Prairie is in Year 2 of the Mark Bliss era, and the Hawks hope to shore up a defense that allowed 31.1 points per game in 2015.
Time and site — 7 p.m. Friday, at Kingston Stadium
Records and rankings — Pleasant Valley was 8-3 last season; Jefferson was 7-4. Both teams are unrated.
Overview — Jefferson’s program has gained some traction, reaching the playoffs each of the last two years (advancing to the second round in 2015). Graduation losses were significant, and the J-Hawks will rebuild around two-way standout Tavian Rashed, who rushed for 687 yards and three touchdowns while compiling 117 tackles. Pleasant Valley also reached the second round of the playoffs last year and return their top three rushers, led by junior Arthur Braden (914 rushing yards, eight touchdowns).
Time and site — 7:15 p.m. Friday at Bates Field
Records and rankings — Linn-Mar was 4-6 last season; City High was 8-4. Both are unranked.
Overview — Possibly the best matchup of the area 4A games Friday. It’s a rematch of last year’s first-round playoff game, won by City High. 26-16. The Little Hawks welcome back quarterback Nate Wieland, the starter in 2014 who missed most of last year due to injury. Signal-caller Reese Phillips is coming off a 1,587-yard, 13-touchdown campaign for the Lions, who could be the most improved team in the Metro. Josh Gassman caught 25 passes for 321 yards and three touchdows.
Time and site — 7:15 p.m. Friday, at Saints Field
Records and rankings — Class 1A top-ranked Regina was 13-1 last season; 3A No. 2 Xavier was 9-1.
Overview — Six-time defending state champion Regina has dropped only two of its last 84 games, but one was against the Saints last season, when Xavier rallied from a 35-7 halftime deficit to win, 38-35. The Saints welcome back quarterback Bryce Schulte (1,516 passing yards, 20 touchdowns) and running back Maliki Wilson (1,273 rushing yards, 12 TDs). Regina Coach Marv Cook faces a reloading project, but returns an ace on defense in Jared Brinkman (72.5 tackles, three fumble recoveries).
Time and site — 7:15 p.m. Friday, at Trojan Field
Records and rankings — Southeast Polk was 6-5 last year; West was 4-7. Both are unrated.
Overview — West recovered from an 0-4 start last year to win four of its last seven games, reaching the second round of the 4A playoffs. The Trojans have one of the state’s most coveted playmakers in Oliver Martin, who is being pursued by the majority of the Big Ten. Martin caught 73 passes for 1,187 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. On the other side is DeVontae Lane (49 receptions, 810 yards, six TDs). Southeast Polk also reached the second round of the playoffs and brings back WR Jackson Cole.
Time and site — 7:30 p.m. Friday, at La Porte City
Records and rankings — Marion was 0-9 last year; Class 2A seventh-ranked Union was 6-4.
Overview — The Tim Lovell era begins at Marion, and the first order of business is to discontinue a 17-game losing streak. Lovell’s debut will be a challenge; Union returns much of its roster from last year and figures to make a big jump this fall. UNI recruit Brock Hadachek caught 25 passes last season and led the team with 60 tackles. Marion brings back its quarterback, Isaak Hahn (1,181 passing yards, eight TDs), and a good two-way performer in Owen Carstensen.
Time and site — 7:30 p.m. Friday, at Solon
Records and rankings — Class 2A top-rated Mount Vernon was 11-3 last season; Solon was 6-5.
Overview — Solon owns a 14-game win streak in this rivalry, but Mount Vernon has the horses to turn the tables. University of Iowa recruit Tristan Wirfs is among the top linemen around, and quarterback Drew Adams returns after throwing for 3,391 yards and 38 touchdowns. The Mustangs reached the 2A final last year; Solon got to the second round in 3A. Halston Durr caught 25 passes for 457 yards and seven touchdowns for the Spartans, and Trevor Nelson led the team in tackles with 61.5.
Time and site — 7:15 p.m. Friday, at Independence
Records and rankings — West Delaware was 12-1 last year; Independence was 8-2. Both are unranked.
Overview — District foes a year ago (West Delaware prevailed, 13-9, in a Week 8 encounter that ultimately decided the title), the Highway 20 rivals were split up for this two-year cycle. Both teams face a significant retooling job. West Delaware, which reached the 3A semifinals before bowing to eventual champion Pella, returns receiver John Nagel, who caught 22 passes for 453 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Time and site — 7 p.m. Friday, at Anamosa
Records and rankings — Monticello was 4-5 last season; Anamosa was 11-1. Both are unranked.
Overview — After a remarkable two-year run in which it transformed itself from downtrodden to a state quarterfinalist, Anamosa faces a reload project. The Raiders lost their quarterback, their top three backs, their top four receivers and their top 10 tacklers to graduation. A 52-28 loser to the Raiders last year, Monticello has some good pieces back, including QB Jacob Manternach (1,179 passing yards, 12 TDs) and running back Max Keleher (689 rushing yards, seven TDs).
Time and site — 7:30 p.m. Friday, at Decorah
Records and rankings — Class 2A second-rated North Fayette Valley was 10-3 last year; Decorah was 6-6.
Overview — Decorah experienced a rare losing regular season last year, then caught fire in the playoffs, knocking off Independence and Cedar Rapids Xavier before the run ended against West Delaware in the 3A quarterfinals. North Fayette Valley tripped the Vikings in last year’s season opener, 22-7, and eventually reached the 2A semifinals. Trey Kuhens, Tanner Kuhens and Jesse Mackey combined for 2,415 yards and 33 TDs on the ground for NFV.
Time and site — 7 p.m. Friday, at Brooklyn
Records and rankings — Class A ninth-ranked Montezuma was 7-4 last year; No. 8 BGM was 11-1.
Overview — BGM is coming off a state-quarterfinal season in which it blanked five opponents, including a 5-0 victory over Montezuma in Week 9. Eric Weiss returns from that stout defensive unit; he amassed 58.5 tackles. Montezuma returns a veteran squad, including four of its top five tacklers. Carson Losure heads the Braves’ offensive attack; he amassed 1,176 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in 2015.
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