Prep Football

Iowa high school football 2020: The best area games of all 9 weeks

18 games featuring Gazette-area teams that will shape the regular season

Cedar Rapids Prairie's Nick Pearson (43) runs through a hit by Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Cairron Hendred (21) last season.
Cedar Rapids Prairie's Nick Pearson (43) runs through a hit by Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Cairron Hendred (21) last season. Pearson is the top returning rusher in Class 4A. Prairie hosts Kennedy in Week 4. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

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The Iowa High School Athletic Association released 2020 high school football schedules Thursday morning.

The season opens Aug. 28, and Week 1 is loaded with matchups of intrigue in the area. It features the newest chapter between Class 3A giants Western Dubuque and Cedar Rapids Xavier, the annual east-west battle between Cedar Rapids Washington and Cedar Rapids Jefferson, and a Saturday-night Kingston Stadium encounter between Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Linn-Mar, plus a number dandies in the area.

Here are 18 matchups — two for each week (one Metro/Iowa City, one area) that will shape the regular season:

Week 1 (Aug. 28)

Metro/Iowa City — Western Dubuque at Cedar Rapids Xavier

Talk about a dramatic opener. Xavier fought past Western Dubuque in the 2018 state final, then the Bobcats turned the tables and ended the Saints’ 32-game winning streak, 20-14, last year at Epworth and eventually won a title of their own. Both teams have some retooling to do, and the winner of this opener will be well on its way.

Area — Sigourney-Keota at Mid-Prairie

Sigourney-Keota was the hard-luck team of the state last year, missing the playoffs despite an 8-1 record. Can’t say the Cobras aren’t enhancing their schedule this season. They open with Mid-Prairie and West Branch. Both teams bring back a 1,000-yard rusher — Sam Sieren of S-K and Kayden Reinier of Mid-Prairie.

Honorable Mention

Linn-Mar at Cedar Rapids Kennedy (Saturday), Cedar Rapids Jefferson at Cedar Rapids Washington, Waukon at Decorah, Williamsburg at Solon, Lisbon at Belle Plaine, Grundy Center at Edgewood-Colesburg.

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Week 2 (Sept. 4)

Metro/Iowa City — Iowa City Regina at Mid-Prairie

A semifinalist in 1A last year, Regina dips into Class A this season and will be a state-championship favorite behind the senior pass-catch combo of Ashton Cook and Alec Wick. The Regals probably have only one true district test (Lisbon in Week 7), so they’re fortifying their early schedule with games like this. They also travel to West Branch in Week 4.

Area — Washington (Iowa) at Solon

It’s a year of change for Solon, which steps down to 2A after reaching the 3A state final last year (it lost to Western Dubuque). The Spartans move on without Coach Kevin Miller, who resigned earlier this month. Washington has been assigned to 3A District 5, which consists of all six teams of the Southeast Conference, and the Demons are favored to win it.

Honorable Mention

Dubuque Hempstead at Iowa City West, West Branch at Sigourney-Keota, Wapsie Valley at East Buchanan.

Week 3 (Sept. 11)

Metro/Iowa City — Bettendorf at Cedar Rapids Kennedy

They’re not geographically close, but this has developed into a quite a rivalry. Kennedy beat the Bulldogs in the 2015 state semifinals, then topped them again, 28-18, in district play on the way to another trip to the UNI-Dome; they fell to West Des Moines Valley in the semifinals. QB Max White returns to aid in the Cougars’ reloading project.

Area — Williamsburg at Clear Creek Amana

A good border rival between teams with high hopes. Williamsburg transitions into what might be a prolific passing attack with Levi Weldon and/or Brody Wardenburg running the show at quarterback. CCA has a blue-chip recruit in T.J. Bollers and might have a 3A top-10 team.

Honorable Mention

Cedar Rapids Prairie at Cedar Falls, Washington (Iowa) at Western Dubuque.

Week 4 (Sept. 18)

Note: This is the week that the Iowa Hawkeyes play at Minnesota on Friday, so some of this week’s schedule is bound to get moved.

Metro/Iowa City — Cedar Rapids Kennedy at Cedar Rapids Prairie

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This game is likely to determine Metro supremacy in 4A, though Linn-Mar might have a say in the discussion. Both teams will be coming off physical battles in Week 3 (Kennedy at home against Bettendorf, Prairie at Cedar Falls), so this could be a war of attrition. Prairie welcomes back Nick Pearson, who ran for 1,654 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, and both of those figures are tops among 4A returners.

Area — Clear Lake at Waukon

Waukon lost quite a bit from its 2A runner-up team from last year, but the Indians have a lot coming back, too. The list includes QB Creed Welch, RB Ethan O’Neill and top defender Lincoln Snitker. The Indians will be 2A District 4 favorites while Clear Lake looks like the team to beat in 2A-5 behind Jaden O’Brien-Green (1,015 rushing yards).

Honorable Mention

Cedar Rapids Xavier at Linn-Mar, Iowa City Regina at West Branch, Iowa City West at Urbandale, BGM at HLV.

Week 5 (Sept. 25)

Metro/Iowa City — Iowa City West at Cedar Falls

After an uncharacteristic 4-5 season last fall, West should be poised to climb back to the upper reaches in Class 4A. Marcus Morgan threw for more than 1,700 yards, and returns four of his top five targets. Cedar Falls is Cedar Falls and will be tough to beat again. The Tigers return 1,000-yard rusher Ryan Ostrich.

Area — East Buchanan at Edgewood-Colesburg

East Buchanan has escaped the gauntlet of its previous district, but there will be challenges aplenty in the Bucs’ new home, and it starts with this trip to Edgewood. The Vikings will have a lot of key pieces back from their 7-3 team of 2019, led by Parker Rochford.

Honorable Mention

Clear Creek Amana at Cedar Rapids Xavier, Waukon at New Hampton, Montezuma at New London.

Week 6 (Oct. 2)

Metro/Iowa City — Iowa City High at Iowa City West

West has won the last three Battles of the Boot (it seems like more than that), but the 2019 version was a competitive one, won by the Trojans 36-32. Both teams should be on the upswing after they combined for a 6-12 mark last year, and both should be in the hunt for 4A playoff berths in the new postseason format.

Area — Charles City at West Delaware

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If there’s a “slow week” in terms of great matchups, this is it. But this legitimately looks like a goodie. West Delaware won its last three games to secure a winning season (5-4) last year and appear poised for a giant leap. Just about all of the key skill players return, plus a good share of the defense. Charles City was just 2-7, but could be a 3A-3 dark horse.

Honorable Mention

Cedar Rapids Prairie at Dubuque Senior.

Week 7 (Oct. 9)

Metro/Iowa City — Lisbon at Iowa City Regina

After a winless 2018, Lisbon bounced back with a 5-4 mark last season, and with a roster that is largely intact, the Lions will be the only legitimate threat to Class A newcomer Regina in District 6. The Regals’ passing game will be a big challenge, though.

Area — Springville at Don Bosco

Don Bosco is the gold standard these days in 8-player football, and the last thing anybody wants to hear is that the Dons bring back most of their roster from last year’s dominant state-title team. The Dons have two potential hurdles in their district: Easton Valley and Springville. Spencer DeMean ran for over 1,000 yards for the Orioles.

Honorable Mention

Cedar Rapids Prairie at Dubuque Hempstead, Williamsburg at Mid-Prairie.

Week 8 (Oct. 16)

Metro/Iowa City — Cedar Rapids Xavier at Grinnell

Class 3A District 6 looks like a three-horse race, and there are two of them. Xavier has the tradition, but Duane Schulte faces a reloading project. Even though it just missed the 3A playoffs last year, Grinnell is a program on the move. The Tigers started a freshman quarterback (Dallas Sauser) and return a 1,500-yard rusher in Wyatt Hunter.

Area — Mount Vernon at Solon

It’s on Mount Vernon to make this a rivalry again; the Mustangs have lost to Solon 17 straight years, and most of the recent encounters haven’t been close. Still, it’s Mount Vernon-Solon, and that warrants earning this spot. This has traditionally been a Week 1 matchup, but it’s bumped back because the Spartans are down a class and they are district rivals again.

Honorable Mention

Southeast Polk at Cedar Rapids Prairie, Western Dubuque at West Delaware.

Week 9 (Oct. 23)

Metro/Iowa City — Ankeny at Cedar Rapids Prairie

Spoiler alert: I have Ankeny at No. 1 on my early Class 4A ballot, though that’s subject to change. The Hawks were 7-4 last year with two losses to West Des Moines Dowling, one by a point to Cedar Falls, another in overtime to Ankeny Centennial. This will be a big challenge for Prairie, which hopes to use it as a playoffs tuneup.

Area — Belle Plaine at Grundy Center

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Before Regina’s descent to Class A, Grundy Center probably entered 2020 as the title favorite. The Spartans were runners-up last year, and that run included two wins over Belle Plaine by verdicts of 29-12 (Week 1) and 28-14 (first round of playoffs). Luke DeMeulenaere was one of two 1,000-yard rushers for Belle Plaine, and returns.

Honorable Mention

Bettendorf at Iowa City West, Cedar Falls at Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Grinnell at Clear Creek Amana, Waukon at North Fayette Valley.

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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