Iowa high school football preseason rankings 2021: Class 5A

Central Iowa is the center of attention again: Southeast Polk, Ankeny, Dowling are 1-2-3

Central Iowa suburbia rules big-school football.

Again. Still.

Southeast Polk appears to be the new king of the hill in a newly constructed Class 5A. Led by all-staters Xavier Nwankpa, Jaxon Dailey and Titus Christiansen, the Rams (10-1 and the 4A state runner-up last year) are a unanimous preseason No. 1 this season.

Ankeny, which ended West Des Moines Dowling’s seven-year title reign last season in the semifinals, then handled Southeast Polk in the championship game, is second. Dowling is third.

Take it back to 2010, and Central Iowa has won 11 consecutive big-school titles. Iowa City High (2009) was the last Eastern Iowa team to earn a championship.

Nwankpa is a highly-coveted safety with offers from many of the nation’s top programs. He intercepted six passes last year.

Dailey passed for 1,859 yards, and Christiansen ran for 1,380.

Ankeny still has plenty of firepower in a bid to repeat, with three all-staters back. Dowling has a returning first-teamer in defensive lineman Jaylen Pettus-McMullen.

Cedar Falls and Pleasant Valley share the No. 4 slot. PV reached the semifinals last year.

Cedar Rapids Prairie is seventh, Cedar Rapids Kennedy eighth. The Hawks and the Cougars do not play in the regular season this year.

Capsules on the Class 5A contenders:

1. Southeast Polk

Poll points: 50 (5 first-place votes)

2020 record: 10-1

2020 postseason: Class 4A runner-up

Key returners: CB Xavier Nwankpa, sr. (380 rushing yards, 8 TDs, 41 tackles, 6 INTs, 1st-team all-state), QB Jaxon Dailey, sr. (68.6 comp. pct., 1,859 passing yards, 19 TDs, 2nd-team all-state), RB Titus Christiansen, sr. (1,380 rushing yards, 16 TDs, 19 receptions, 161 yards, 2 TDs, 2nd-team all-state), LB Andrew Reed, sr. (60 tackles)

Key games: West Des Moines Dowling, Aug. 27; West Des Moines Valley, Sept. 3; at Ankeny, Sept. 17; at Cedar Rapids Prairie, Oct. 8; at Ankeny Centennial, Oct. 15

2. Ankeny

Poll points: 40

2020 record: 11-1

2020 postseason: Class 4A champion

Key returners: TE/LB Tamden Webb-Tate, sr. (47.5 tackles, 2nd-team all-state), WR/S Ryan Crandall, sr. (55 tackles, 3 INTs, 2nd-team all-state), LB Jackson Penningroth, sr. (42.5 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries, 3rd-team all-state), RB Colin Kadolph, sr. (840 rushing yards, 15 TDs, 11 receptions, 146 yards)

Key games: At Ankeny Centennial, Sept. 3; at West Des Moines Dowling, Sept. 10; Southeast Polk, Sept. 17; at West Des Moines Valley, Oct. 1

3. West Des Moines Dowling

Poll points: 39

2020 record: 7-2

2020 postseason: Class 4A semifinalist

Key returners: DL Jaylen Pettus McMullen, sr. (28.5 tackles, 1st-team all-state), QB Jaxon Smolik, jr. (794 passing yards, 6 TDs), RB Khameron Middleton, sr. (584 rushing yards, 8 TDs)

Key games: At Southeast Polk, Aug. 27; Ankeny, Sept. 10; at West Des Moines Valley, Oct. 15

T-4. Cedar Falls

Poll points: 31

2020 record: 5-3

2020 postseason: Class 4A Round of 16

Key returners: QB Hunter Jacobson, sr. (659 passing yards, 11 TDs, 218 rushing yards), WR Trey Campbell, sr. (19 receptions, 164 yards, 2 TDs), LB Ryley Barnett, sr. (47.5 tackles), RB Jordan Hoeppner, sr. (43 tackles, 2 INTs)

Key games: At Cedar Rapids Prairie, Sept. 10; Ankeny Centennial, Sept. 17; at Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Oct. 1

T-4. Pleasant Valley

Poll points: 31

2020 record: 10-1

2020 postseason: Class 4A semifinalist

Key returners: PK/P Rhys Ward, sr. (8-9 FG, 31-31 PAT, 2nd-team all-state), DT Luke Vonderhaar, sr. (21 tackles, 3rd-team all-state), RB/LB Rusty Van Wetzinga, jr. (56 tackles), QB/DB Barrett Lindmark, sr. (783 passing yards, 666 rushing yards, 18 TDs)

Key games: At Cedar Rapids Prairie, Aug. 27; at Bettendorf, Oct. 1; Iowa City High, Oct. 8

6. West Des Moines Valley

Poll points: 19

2020 record: 4-4

2020 postseason: Class 4A quarterfinalist

Key returners: QB/S Mason Morrow, sr. (551 passing yards, 3 TDs), RB Danny Rankins, sr. (203 rushing yards, 2 TDs), TE Eli Raridan, sr. (22 receptions, 237 yards, 2 TDs), LB Drew Henderson, sr. (37 tackles)

Key games: At Southeast Polk, Sept. 3; Ankeny, Oct. 1; West Des Moines Dowling, Oct. 15

7. Cedar Rapids Prairie

Poll points: 18

2020 record: 5-3

2020 postseason: Class 4A Round of 16

Key returners: TE/DE Gabe Burkle, sr., (10 receptions, 155 yards, 1 TD, 2nd-team all-state), QB/CB Dionte Fliss, sr. (908 passing yards, 7 TDs), WR/CB Elijah Ward, sr. (20 receptions, 346 yards, 4 TDs), TE/LB Maguire Jones, sr. (41.5 tackles)

Key games: Pleasant Valley, Aug. 27; Cedar Falls, Sept. 10; Bettendorf, Sept. 17; Southeast Polk, Oct. 8

8. Cedar Rapids Kennedy

Poll points: 15

2020 record: 4-4

2020 postseason: Class 4A quarterfinalist

Key returners: RB/CB Jazan Williams, jr. (115 rushing yards), RB/LB Alex Koch, sr. (35 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries), TE/LB Dylan Davis, sr. (23 tackles)

Key games: At Iowa City West, Aug. 27; Bettendorf, Sept. 3; at Cedar Rapids Washington, Sept. 10; Cedar Falls, Oct. 1

9. Waukee

Poll points: 13

2020 record: 7-3

2020 postseason: Class 4A quarterfinalist

Key returners: Unknown which top players will be at Waukee, which will be at Waukee Northwest

Key games: At Ankeny, Aug. 27; at Ankeny Centennial, Sept. 10; at West Des Moines Valley, Sept. 17; West Des Moines Dowling, Oct. 22

10. Ankeny Centennial

Poll points: 10

2020 record: 2-6

2020 postseason: Class 4A Round of 16

Key returners: RB/LB Trey Porter, sr. (582 rushing yards, 5 TDs, 3rd-team all-state), WR/DB Peyton Goode, sr. (20 receptions, 351 yards, 3 TDs), WR Isaiah Sterns, sr. (24 receptions, 310 yards), LB Zach English, jr. (43.5 tackles)

Key games: At Indianola, Aug. 27; Ankeny, Sept. 3; Waukee, Sept. 10; at Cedar Falls, Sept. 17; Southeast Polk, Oct. 15

Others receiving votes

Bettendorf 5, Urbandale 3, Johnston 1

Comments: jeff.linder@thegazette.com