116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Gazette staff answers questions about the Iowa high school football season. This time, we added a question from Twitter followers.
1st & 10: If you had a game ball to hand out to an individual, who would it be and why?
Jeff Linder: I would go with Cam Guenther specifically and the Linn-Mar defense collectively. The Lions held Cedar Rapids Washington to less than zero yards of total offense until the game’s final drive in a 36-7 win Friday. Linn-Mar collected five turnovers, with Guenther intercepting two passes.
Jeff Johnson: I'm going to give mine to Western Dubuque quarterback Jack Clemens. He completed 18 of 20 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns as the Bobcats steamrolled Dubuque Hempstead, 65-35. Class 4A WD had a whopping 600 yards of offense in beating a 5A team.
K.J. Pilcher: Monticello bounced back from its first loss with a 44-0 win over Tipton. Preston Ries was a big part of that, passing for 172 yards and rushing for 146 and four touchdowns. He also added a team-high 6.5 tackles, four solo, two sacks and two tackles for loss.
Nathan Ford: Dawson Forgy rushed for 388 yards and six touchdowns on 21 carries as Class 4A No. 9 Winterset handed Adel ADM its first loss, 60-36. His third quarter alone was enough for a game ball, with touchdown runs of 68, 65 and 73 yards. By the way, 58 entire teams have yet to compile 388 yards rushing this year.
2nd & long: Mid-Prairie, Van Buren County and Cedar Rapids Jefferson have forfeited games this season. Ottumwa is forfeiting to Cedar Rapids Prairie this week. Is this concerning or just a “new norm?”
Linder: Unfortunately, I think it’s both. Whether it’s COVID, injuries or other issues, participation numbers continue to slide. Hopefully teams are forfeiting for genuine reasons rather than to take a beating on the field, then jump back into competition when the level of opponent drops.
Johnson: It's the new norm in a pandemic.
Pilcher: I don’t know if it will be the new norm but do believe it will be more common. With COVID, there will still be teams that lose players to positive tests and affect the program’s status each week. The concerning part is if it is caused by shrinking numbers. Programs cannot hemorrhage upperclassmen from the sport. They have to remain invested and involved. As for “just bring sophomores up to varsity,” that can be done on a small scale but most sophomores are not physically ready for nine games against more mature juniors and seniors.
Ford: It's concerning and so is the amount of lopsided, uncompetitive games. The IHSAA took a solid first step with the addition of a class this year, but more outside-the-box thinking might be required to keep kids involved in football (if that's the goal). I wouldn't mind seeing programs with low participation numbers merge, even at bigger schools. The tricky part is you take away some of that school pride and tradition, but smaller schools like Sigourney and Keota and Boyden-Hull and Rock Valley (big rivals in other sports) have done it with great success. More innovative scheduling might be helpful, too.
3rd & short: Most interesting 4-0 matchup this week: Sigourney-Keota at Pella Christian, Iowa City Regina at Wilton, Turkey Valley at Janesville or Anita CAM at Audubon?
Linder: At a statewide level, it’s the 8-Player showdown at Audubon, a 1-vs.-2 battle. Locally, I think the battle at Pella Christian will be a dandy.
Johnson: Don't know why, but I'm intrigued by that S-K/Pella Christian matchup. The single wing against a more pass-oriented offense. They're ranked in Class 1A, this is a district game. Let's go!.
Pilcher: Both teams average more than 30 points a game, while their defenses allow about nine points per contest. Their opponents’ overall record are above .500. Impressive, honestly. Give me Sigourney-Keota and Pella Christian. The 8-Player games are compelling and Regina is just on a roll. S-K has rushed for 1,333 yards already. Pella Christian is at nearly 1,000. The two teams have combined for 18 takeaways. Which defense will be able to limit the posing offense? Or will we see alternating TDs?
Ford: I'm curious to see how that Sigourney-Keota/Pella Christian game plays out. The top few teams in Class 1A, right now, seem multiple tiers above the rest, even the other ranked teams. But the Cobras and Eagles have both been impressive so far and I want to see if one of them can really make a statement this week.
4th & goal
Linder: Dowling and Bettendorf have had an extreme problem in scoring. The Maroons are averaging 13.5 points per game, the Bulldogs 14.3. It’s hard to win that way. West has suffered its three losses all by 13 points or less, and now the Trojans play their Battle for the Boot game Friday at unbeaten City High.
Johnson: I don't know. I mean, West lost to graduation an otherworldly QB in Marcus Morgan, as well as other really talented guys. Bettendorf has played multiple quarterbacks in its first four games. Dowling lost QB Jaxon Smolik to a broken collarbone in the season opener. He's a potential D-I college guy. That was a huge hit. Of the three, I like Dowling's chances to rebound the best.
Pilcher: Sometimes these things are cyclical. Add in injuries and the emergence of other programs and it is harder than ever to stay on top. Look at their rushing attacks, though. Iowa City West is 15th in 5A. Bettendorf shockingly sits in 25th and Dowling is 29th. Don’t ignore the strength of schedule. Dowling and Bettendorf opponents have combined for a 21-15 record, while West’s are 20-16.
Ford: I still can't write off Dowling yet because it's figuring things out with a tough schedule and quarterback injury. Maybe get back to me after we see how Iowa City West does against City High this week, though. As far as West and Bettendorf, is it just a matter of the other schools in their neighborhoods (City High, North Scott/Pleasant Valley) happening to have more talent this year? Or is this the start of a trend? Get back to me in a few years.