Keegan Simmons had a tough act to follow.
“One of my goals at the beginning of the season was to re-break my (rushing) record from last year,” said Simmons, a running back from Cedar Rapids Prairie.
Consider it done.
Simmons ran for 2,025 yards and 25 touchdowns this season as Prairie assembled an 8-2 record and reached the Class 4A playoffs. That came on the heels of a 1,822-yard, 25-TD output as a junior.
“The numbers from the last two seasons, it’s kind of crazy,” Simmons said. “I did a lot of training in the offseason. The rest of my teammates played a big role in it. I always give them a lot of credit.”
Credit them for this, too: Simmons is the 2018 Gazette area offensive player of the year.
Simmons was selected the offensive player of the year; West Liberty’s Spencer Daufeldt is feted on defense.
A 6-foot-2, 205-pounder, Simmons averaged 7.2 yards per carry. He was sixth in the state among 11-player running backs in yards gained, second to West Des Moines Dowling’s Jayson Murray (2,061) in 4A, and Murray played three more games.
The question now for Simmons is, where next?
“Recruiting has been kind of slow because a lot of colleges are still in-season,” said Simmons, who has an offer from the University of Northern Iowa. “I’m waiting to see what my options are.”
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Daufeldt has been the anchor as West Liberty as risen into football prominence, qualifying for the Class 2A playoffs in each of the past two seasons, including a run to the semifinals this year.
“My dad made it to the semifinals his senior year (1987), and I had to do it too,” Daufeldt said after the Comets upended Benton Community in the quarterfinals. “It’s a great experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
West Liberty (8-4) won a district title, defeated Chariton and Benton in the postseason, then fell to eventual champion Monroe PCM in the semis.
A 6-1, 275-pound lineman, Daufeldt compiled 70.5 tackles, second most on the team. His 16 tackles for loss matched Will Esmoil (also a member of the Gazette squad) for team honors, and he recovered three fumbles.
Twenty-two area schools were represented, and nine have multiple selections.
Class 3A state champion Cedar Rapids Xavier (13-0) is represented by quarterback Quinn Schulte, offensive linemen Wyatt Johnson and Josh Volk, placekicker Ben Conrad, defensive lineman Kyle Krezek and linebacker Ethan Hurkett.
Xavier has won 26 consecutive games and two straight 3A state titles.
The other 3A state finalist, Western Dubuque has four on the team. Iowa City West and Solon each have three; Benton, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Waukon, West Liberty and Williamsburg landed two apiece.