Prep Football

Iowa high school football 2020 offseason rankings: Class 4A

Ankeny joins 7-time defending champion Dowling atop the big-school balloting

Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Max White scrambles against West Des Moines Dowling in a Class 4A football semifinal last season.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Max White scrambles against West Des Moines Dowling in a Class 4A football semifinal last season. White returns for the Cougars, who are ranked No. 6 in the Gazette/KGYM offseason rankings. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Is there any end in sight?

West Des Moines Dowling has won the last seven Class 4A football championships, and the Maroons (12-1 in 2019) figure to be a force again this fall.

Ankeny, on the other hand, has a veteran team that returns most of its pieces from last year’s 7-4 squad that reached the quarterfinals.

The result is a split decision among voters in the Gazette/KGYM panel. And a tie for the No. 1 slot in the offseason rankings.

Dowling (three first-place votes) and Ankeny (two) both scored 54 poll points. West Des Moines Valley earned the other top vote, scored 46 points and stands at No. 3.

That’s the start of a trend — the big-school power hub, again, lies in Central Iowa suburbia. Seven of the top 10 teams form a ring around Des Moines, from Waukee to Pleasant Hill.

This is the final installment of a six-part series previewing the 2020 football season. The panel consists of six voters: Jeff Johnson, K.J. Pilcher, Jeff Linder and Nathan Ford from The Gazette, Andy Krutsinger of the Southeast Iowa Union and Scott Unash of KGYM Radio.

Gazette/KGYM Iowa high school football 2020 rankings

8-Player offseason rankings

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Class A offseason rankings

Class 1A offseason rankings

Class 2A offseason rankings

Class 3A offseason rankings

Following is the Class 4A poll.

1.

Ankeny

2019: 7-4, 4A quarterfinalist

54 poll points (2 first-place votes)

The Hawks lost to Dowling twice last year by verdicts of 24-14 and 42-14, but they have the talent and experience now to hang with anybody. Senior-to-be Jase Bauer passed for 20 touchdowns and ran for six more. Colin Kadolph is a returning 1,000-yard rusher, and four receivers that had at least 10 catches are back. About half of the key defensive players return, and that all adds up to a very dangerous team. The Hawks’ quest begins against city rival Ankeny Centennial.

1.

West Des Moines Dowling

2019: 12-1, 4A state champion

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

54 poll points (3 first-place votes)

It’s only fair that the best team gets the toughest schedule, right? Dowling’s slate is a monster; its nine opponents were a combined 70-27 last season, and eight of them made the playoffs. So the Maroons will be steeled for the postseason. Louis Brooks is the top offensive returner; he led the team with 29 catches last season for 522 yards and six touchdowns. Jack Meyer was fifth on the team in tackles, with 52.5. Dowling has a lot to replace, but you know the Maroons will manage.

3.

West Des Moines Valley

2019: 12-1, 4A state runner-up

46 poll points (1 first-place vote)

Valley is another program that reloads annually, and smoothly. The Tigers split a pair of games with Dowling last year, winning the regular-season contest 29-22, then falling in the state final, 21-16. This year’s grudge match is Week 2. Jayden Williams will be Valley’s backfield star; he netted 1,004 yards and 12 touchdowns while Matthew Mahoney caught 25 passes (six for touchdowns) for 436 yards.

4.

Cedar Falls

2019: 10-1, 4A quarterfinalist

37 poll points

The top team outside the Polk/Dallas county power magnet, the Tigers will see how they measure up immediately with a Week 1 contest against Dowling at the UNI-Dome. Ryan Ostrich ranks third among returning 4A rushers with 1,185 yards (he scored 18 touchdowns), and the returning combo of Daniel Hutchins and Trey Campbell will keep opposing defenses honest. Speaking of defense, Eli Mickey collected 54.4 tackles and two fumble recoveries in 2019.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

5.

Waukee

2019: 7-4, 4A quarterfinalist

28 poll points

Our panel is not in agreement on the Warriors — three of us have them ranked in the top four, two of us don’t have them in the top 10. This is fact: Waukee has a lot coming back, particularly on defense. Five of the top seven tacklers are back, led by Chase Evanson (52). There are returning offensive weapons, too: Alexander Linquist and Aaron Smith combined for 1,369 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, and Edward Saidat Jr. (34 catches) highlights a crop of returning receivers.

6.

Cedar Rapids Kennedy

2019: 10-2, 4A semifinalist

22 poll points

The Cougars took a senior-laden team and advanced to the UNI-Dome before bowing to Dowling. There are a lot of holes to fill, but the return of quarterback Max White is comforting. White didn’t pass often last year (just 93 times in 12 games), but he completed 71 percent of his throws for 751 yards. He is a dangerous runner, racking up 1,114 ground yards and 21 touchdowns. Kennedy’s schedule will be challenging, but certainly not a killer.

6.

Southeast Polk

2019: 7-3, 4A playoff qualifier

22 poll points

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Six of the Rams’ 10 games were decided by 11 points or less last year (they went 3-3). Quarterback Jaxon Dailey is back for his junior season; he passed for 1,297 yards and 14 touchdowns as a soph. He’ll be throwing to a new cast of receivers, though; the top three from last year will have graduated. The Rams’ schedule features three teams in this top 10.

8.

Bettendorf

2019: 9-3, 4A semifinalist

13 poll points

Beware the Bulldogs’ defense, which might develop into one of the best in the state. Ryan Cole (73.5 tackles, 10 for loss) spearheads a unit that returns four of its top five tacklers from 2019. Other key guys are Kane Schmidt, Griffin Liddle and Diego Cortes. On the other side of the ball, Tynan Numkena caught 30 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns. The schedule features Cedar Falls, Kennedy, Valley and Dowling.

9.

Urbandale

2019: 7-4, 4A quarterfinalist

11 poll points

The J-Hawks won six of their last seven regular-season games last year, then pulled the shocker of the 4A first round, knocking off Ankeny Centennial, 29-28. There are pieces in place to build on that momentum, particularly on defense, where the top three tacklers from last year (Jaden Harrell, Tucker Langenberg and Adnan Ikeljic) return. Langenberg also rushed for 439 yards (11.2 per carry).

10.

Ankeny Centennial

2019: 8-2, 4A playoff qualifier

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

10 poll points

Along with Dowling, the Jaguars were handed the most challenging schedule in 4A. Their opponents, seven of which made the playoffs in 2019, were a combined 70-27. In addition, graduation hits hard on both sides of the ball. Tyler Johnson is back; he was the second-leading rusher at 694 yards (and scored four touchdowns). With this schedule, anything better than .500 should get the Jaguars into the playoffs.

Others receiving votes: Cedar Rapids Prairie 7, Iowa City West 7, Linn-Mar 7, Dubuque Senior 6, Dubuque Hempstead 4, Johnston 2

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

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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