Prep Football

How'd we do? A look back at The Gazette's preseason Iowa high school football rankings

4 state champions were ranked No. 1, but another wasn't ranked at all

Western Dubuque Bobcats players sing the fight song with their fans as they celebrate their 3A state football championsh
Western Dubuque Bobcats players sing the fight song with their fans as they celebrate their 3A state football championship over the Solon Spartans at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. Western Dubuque won 37-17. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

You could consider The Gazette’s preseason Iowa high school football rankings for entertainment purposes only. After all, there aren’t spring games, media days or depth charts for easy evaluations.

But they undoubtedly set a narrative for the season. Sometimes we look pretty smart, like ranking four of the eventual state champions No. 1 in August. Other times, we look somewhat foolish (hi, OABCIG).

Now that the season is a wrap, let’s take a look back at the preseason poll to see how that narrative shifted – or stayed the same.

Class 4A

We were spot on with our top two teams – though it was a fairly obvious choice. No. 1 West Des Moines Dowling recovered from a regular-season loss to No. 2 West Des Moines Valley to beat the Tigers for their seventh straight state championship.

Cedar Rapids Kennedy was slightly underrated, coming in at No. 9 but going on to the state semifinals.

Iowa City West was a miss. We had the Trojans ranked No. 6 to start the season, but they finished 4-5.

1. West Des Moines Dowling (12-1), state champion

2. West Des Moines Valley (12-1), state runner-up

3. Cedar Falls (10-1), quarterfinalist

3. Waukee (7-4), quarterfinalist

5. Ankeny Centennial (8-2), playoff qualifier

6. Iowa City West (4-5)

7. Ankeny (7-4), quarterfinalist

8. Bettendorf (9-3), semifinalist

9. Cedar Rapids Kennedy (10-2), semifinalist

10. Fort Dodge (6-4), playoff qualifier

Class 3A

Western Dubuque started the season No. 1 and never wavered, finishing as a 13-0 state champion. We pegged the other state semifinalists close as well – Solon was No. 3, Sergeant Bluff-Luton No. 4 and Lewis Central No. 7.


Two-time defending champion Cedar Rapids Xavier started the season No. 2 and, though the Saints lost in the first round, it was to North Scott, ranked No. 4 in the final poll and No. 5 in the preseason. The Lancers’ only losses were to Western Dubuque.

Two teams ranked in the preseason – No. 8 Spencer and No. 10 Clear Creek Amana – didn’t make the playoffs, but did finish with winning records.


1. Western Dubuque (13-0), state champion

2. Cedar Rapids Xavier (8-2), playoff qualifier

3. Solon (12-1), state runner-up

4. Sergeant Bluff-Luton (10-2), semifinalist

5. North Scott (9-2), quarterfinalist

6. Pella (8-3), quarterfinalist

7. Lewis Central (10-2), semifinalist

8. Spencer (5-4)

9. Harlan (7-3), first round

10. Clear Creek Amana (5-4)

Class 2A

Our biggest preseason transgression came in Class 2A, where eventual undefeated state champion Ida Grove OABCIG did not receive a single vote. The Falcons entered the playoffs ranked No. 4 and beat preseason No. 1 Waukon for the title.

Two teams ranked in the top five didn’t make the playoffs – No. 3 Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley and No. 5 Chariton. The Nighthawks, last year’s state runners-up, were 4-5 but faced the toughest schedule in the state according to BCMoore. No. 7 Crestwood ended up on the outside looking in for the postseason as well.

Williamsburg received four votes in the preseason and started 1-3 against a tough schedule, but won eight straight on its way to the state semifinals.


1. Waukon (12-1), state runner-up

2. Clear Lake (10-1), quarterfinalist

3. Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley (4-5)

4. Algona (11-1), semifinalist

5. Chariton (5-4)

6. Greene County (9-2), quarterfinalist

7. Crestwood (5-4)

8. Waterloo Columbus (8-2), playoff qualifier

9. Monroe PCM (8-3), quarterfinalist

9. Spirit Lake (6-4), playoff qualifier

9. West Liberty (7-4), quarterfinalist 

Class 1A

Defending state champion West Sioux was our preseason No. 1 team in Class 1A and the Falcons made it back to the UNI-Dome before falling to eventual titlist West Lyon. We had the Wildcats ranked No. 5 in the preseason. They lost to West Sioux in the regular season but got revenge when it mattered most.


West Lyon beat our preseason No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the postseason, knocking off Dike-New Hartford in the quarterfinals and crushing Van Meter for the championship.

Iowa City Regina made it back to the Dome after missing the playoffs last year and receiving only four votes in the preseason.

1. West Sioux (10-2), semifinalist

2. Dike-New Hartford (10-1), quarterfinalist

3. Van Meter (12-1), state runner-up

4. West Branch (10-1), quarterfinalist

5. West Lyon (12-1), state champion

6. South Central Calhoun (10-1), quarterfinalist

7. Pella Christian (5-5), playoff qualifier

8. Treynor (10-1), quarterfinalist

9. Interstate 35 (5-4)

10. Bellevue (5-4)

10. Osage (5-5), playoff qualifier 

Class A

West Hancock was our preseason No. 1 team in the smallest 11-player class and proved us right with an unscathed run to the state title.

Defending state champion Hudson, on the other hand, went 4-5 after beginning the season ranked No. 2. The Pirates were one of SIX ranked teams that didn’t make the Class A playoffs, joining Wapsie Valley, Alta-Aurelia, Algona Garrigan, Council Bluffs St. Albert and Avoca AHSTW.

Nobody saw MFL MarMac’s run coming. The Bulldogs went 9-0 in the regular season and advanced to the state quarterfinals. Considering it was their first winning season since 1993, it’s not a surprise they weren’t on our radar in August. Grundy Center ended MFL MarMac’s season and went all the way to the state title game after getting just three votes in the preseason poll. Another semifinalist, Woodbury Central had four votes.

1. West Hancock (13-0), state champion

2. Hudson (4-5)

3. Wapsie Valley (5-4)

4. Saint Ansgar (11-1), semifinalist

5. Edgewood-Colesburg (7-3), playoff qualifier

6. Alta-Aurelia (5-4)

7. North Tama (10-1), quarterfinalist

8. Algona Garrigan (6-3)

9. Council Bluffs St. Albert (5-4)

10. Avoca AHSTW (5-4)

10. Westwood (7-3), playoff qualifier


The fourth preseason No. 1 team that went on to win it all was Don Bosco in 8-Player. The Dons topped preseason No. 3 Audubon in the title game. Fellow semifinalists Turkey Valley (No. 5) and Remsen St. Mary’s (No. 7) also started the season ranked.

We were off on No. 4 Newell-Fonda, which went 6-3 but missed the playoffs. None of the teams ranked 8-10 qualified for the postseason either.

1. Don Bosco (13-0), state champion

2. Fremont-Mills (7-2), quarterfinalist

3. Audubon (12-2), state runner-up

4. Newell-Fonda (6-3)

5. Turkey Valley (11-1), semifinalist

6. New London (7-3), playoff qualifier

7. Remsen St. Mary’s (11-1), semifinalist

8. Iowa Valley (5-4)

9. Southeast Warren (7-3)

10. Glidden-Ralston (4-5)

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Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.