Prep Football

Iowa high school football playoffs: Kennedy, Prairie set for rematch

Class A third-round pod features 4 ranked teams

Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Max White (5) gets off a pass under pressure during the first quarter of their game at Prairie Hi
Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Max White (5) gets off a pass under pressure during the first quarter of their game at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The first meeting between Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Cedar Rapids Prairie was a thriller decided by one point in overtime.

Get ready for the sequel. This time a state quarterfinal berth is at stake.

The ninth-ranked Hawks will have a chance to avenge that season-opening loss against the Cougars in a Class 4A round of 16 football playoff matchup Friday night at Kingston Stadium. The Iowa High School Athletic Association released third-round pairings and pods for all classes Saturday.

“You have two pretty good football teams on the field at the same time in the playoffs,” Kennedy Coach Brian White said. “It’s going to be a challenge. It’s always a challenge to beat a team twice. Certainly, you line up and you’re excited to play a local team that’s a rivalry.”

The two teams have a history. They have split the last six games, dating back to Kennedy’s first-round playoff win in 2013. Prairie spoiled the Cougars’ regular-season finales in 2016 and 2017 with consecutive victories in the series. Friday’s game will be seven years to the date of their last postseason meeting.

Bliss expects another highly-contested game that saw Prairie build a 20-7 halftime lead before Kennedy battled back to take a 28-20 lead. Prairie scored in the final minute to force the extra frame that was decided by a missed extra point.

“It’s just another team for us to compete against,” Prairie Coach Mark Bliss said. “They’re familiar with us. We’re familiar with them. It will be an interesting matchup.

“We look forward to the challenge and the opportunity. Hopefully, we will play a little better than the last time we played them.”

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White said Prairie is “as hot as anybody” in the state. Prairie has been impressive since a slow start. The Hawks (5-2) annihilated Davenport North, 35-0, in the second round Friday for a fifth straight victory, starting the stretch by dropping No. 10 Cedar Falls, 34-21.

“They are very good in terms of team chemistry and camaraderie,” Bliss said about the Hawks. “All those intangibles you look forward to in your program, a successful program. They have embraced that role and title. They’ve done a nice job.”

Kennedy went on the road and beat Dubuque Senior, 28-17, to improve to 3-3. The Cougars have been impacted by derecho damage that prevented regular routines. White said they were able to get into the school for the first time last week and it paid dividends.

“It makes a world of difference when you can meet with your kids before practice face-to-face, watch video with them, do a scouting report, be in your school and have a locker room,” White said. “I think that helps when you go from being nomadic to a little more close to normal. Kids are feeling comfortable again.

“We did some things on the field we hadn’t done on the field this year. We just kind of flushed everything away. We challenged the kids that this your opportunity to get back what’s been stolen from you.”

Both coaches were surprised with the pairing in a four-team pod that also includes top-ranked Southeast Polk (7-0) and Ankeny Centennial (2-5). Pod A consists of three ranked teams. Fifth-ranked Iowa City West (5-0) hosts No. 7 Dubuque Hempstead (7-1) and Bettendorf (5-2) plays at No. 6 Pleasant Valley (8-0).

“I had no clue where they were going to put us or what they would do,” Bliss said. “They put us in Pod B, which basically means we only get two teams on this side of the state and whoever has to go west afterward.”

Class A pod features 4 ranked teams

The most brutal mini-bracket might be Class A Pod D. It is one of three pods made up of four ranked teams. Third-ranked Saint Ansgar (8-0) hosts No. 7 South Winneshiek (7-1). Fifth-ranked MFL MarMac (8-1) plays at No. 4 Edgewood-Colesburg (7-0).

All four teams won or shared district titles. MFL MarMac and South Winneshiek finished in a three-way tie with No. 8 Wapsie Valley (8-1) for the District 4 championship. Wapsie Valley edged MFL MarMac by one before getting beat by 12 by South Winneshiek, which lost by 14 to MFL MarMac.

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Apparently, the IHSAA used a disc flip Friday to determine placement order. Wapsie Valley won the flip with MFL MarMac ranked second based on its head-to-head result with South Winneshiek. So, Wapsie Valley gets to host Lisbon (7-2) in Pod C, while the others hit the road.

“Everyone is tough when you get this point of the season,” MFL MarMac Coach Dan Anderson said. “We’re excited to play one of the top teams in our class. Our goal has been to get to the (UNI) Dome and I expect Ed-Co will be our toughest challenge yet. I think the fans are going to get their money’s worth.”

More bracket takeaways

Wapsie Valley and Lisbon are grouped with second-ranked Iowa City Regina (7-1) and Alburnett (6-2).

Four ranked teams in 3A Pod D have combined for just two losses. Fourth-ranked Washington improved to 8-0 and will host No. 9 West Delaware (9-1). Davenport Assumption (8-0) is ranked fifth and heads to No. 8 North Scott (5-1).

Cedar Rapids Xavier (8-0) will host Dubuque Wahlert (6-2) in Pod C, which also includes No. 10 Pella (6-2) and Grinnell (7-2).

“We want to keep winning and doing our job,” Xavier quarterback Jaxon Rexroth said after Friday’s 45-8 second-round win over Marion. “Just work hard.”

In Class 2A, No. 2 Williamsburg (8-0), No. 4 Waukon (6-1) and No. 6 Solon (6-2) all host. Fifth-ranked Montezuma (8-0) hosts BGM (8-1) in 8-Player. No. 3 Sigourney-Keota (8-0) hosts Dyersville Beckman (6-2) in 1A.

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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