Prep Football

Iowa high school football Week 1: Previewing 12 area games

Opening-night rivalry games include Jefferson-Kennedy, Solon-Mount Vernon and West Branch-West Liberty

West Branch's Tanner Lukavsky (32) dives for the goal line last season. Lukavsky is back for the Class 1A fourth-ranked Bears, who open the season Friday at West Liberty. (The Gazette)
West Branch's Tanner Lukavsky (32) dives for the goal line last season. Lukavsky is back for the Class 1A fourth-ranked Bears, who open the season Friday at West Liberty. (The Gazette)
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Week 1 capsules for Cedar Rapids and Iowa City high school football games, and top area games.

Cedar Rapids Jefferson vs. Cedar Rapids Kennedy

Site and time: 7:15 p.m. Friday, at Kingston Stadium (Kennedy is the home team, and its fans will sit on the west side)

Records and rankings: Jefferson was 1-8 last season; Class 4A No. 9 Kennedy was 6-4.

 
 

Overview: After reaching the 4A playoffs last year (it was eliminated in the first round, 38-14, by Iowa City West), Kennedy is hoping for much, much more this season. The defense is anchored by linebacker Cade Parker, one of the top tacklers in 4A the past two seasons, including 110.5 stops as a junior. The offense is geared around the running of Cairron Hendred (1,233 yards, 15 TDs in 2018). Jefferson looks to be more competitive than last year’s one-win outfit that lost to the Cougars, 34-0, and scored one touchdown or less on four occasions. The top three tacklers return, led by Kenny Moore (73).

» Cedar Rapids Kennedy setting bar high for 2019 football season

» Cedar Rapids Jefferson twins Jacob and Gabe Coyle have different styles, same goal

Cedar Rapids Washington at Cedar Rapids Prairie

Site and time: 7:15 p.m. Friday, at John Wall Field

Records and rankings: Washington was 4-5 last season; Prairie was 7-3.

 
 

Overview: For the past two seasons, Prairie was geared around Keegan Simmons, who rushed for 3,847 yards in that span. The heir apparent is probably Tariq Amir Cook, who ran for 804 yards (9.6 yards per carry). This is year three in the head role at Washington for Maurice Blue, who is looking for his first winning season, as well as his first triumph over Prairie (the Hawks won last year, 41-6). The Warriors finished the 2018 season with two straight wins. Quarterback Henry Clymer completed 56 percent of his passes last year as a sophomore, and Josh Bliss was second in tackles with 70.5.

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» Cedar Rapids Washington likes its chances of returning to football playoffs

» Cedar Rapids Prairie's single-wing offense feels natural in year 5

Dubuque Senior at Linn-Mar

Site and time: 7:15 p.m. Friday, at Linn-Mar Stadium

Records and rankings: Both teams were 3-6 last season.

 
 

Overview: They’ll remember the glory days Friday at Linn-Mar, with the back-to-back-to-back state champions of 1988, 1989 and 1990 being recognized. Then the Lions will try to start the new season on the right foot. This ought to be Paul James’ best team at Linn-Mar (his first two squads were 2-7 and 3-6). The defense was drastically better last year than in 2017, holding six teams to 17 points or less. Quarterback Marcus Orr passed for 1,643 yards last year as a junior. Senior won last season’s encounter, 7-6, in Dubuque, and brings back QB Tommy Casey and leading tackler Carter Konrady.

» Linn-Mar football looks to turn close losses into wins

Iowa City High at Iowa City Liberty

Site and time: 7:15 p.m. Friday, at Liberty

Records and rankings: City High was 2-7 last season; Liberty was 3-6.

 
 

Overview: Liberty is basically a 4A team in a 3A classification this season, and the Lightning have extremely high hopes after bringing back virtually their entire roster. Liberty played City High close for the majority of last year’s varsity debut before the Little Hawks pulled away late and prevailed, 38-21. Top returners include Kaleb Williams (686 rushing yards) and Max Tafolla (76 tackles). City is seeking a return to prosperity after a campaign last year in which the Little Hawks went 0-5 in district play. Tonka Hickman returns after rushing for 832 yards and seven touchdowns.

» Iowa City High searches for turnaround under loyal coach Dan Sabers

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» Iowa City Liberty expects to keep making strides with first full senior class

Iowa City Regina at Cedar Rapids Xavier

Site and time: 7 p.m. Friday, at Saints Field

Records and rankings: Regina was 5-4 last season; Class 3A No. 2 Xavier was 13-0.

 
 

Overview: Kickoff time was moved up because there is no JV game. Xavier enters the season with a 26-game winning streak and the last two 3A state championships. The Saints also come in with basically a new varsity roster; only three starters return. Two of them are University of Iowa recruits, Josh Volk — who is recovering from a torn ACL — and Ethan Hurkett. Regina hopes to return to the playoffs after missing the postseason last year for the first time since 2003. The Regals return a good air combination of Ashton Cook and Alec Wick.

» Iowa City Regina preparing to contend again after rare playoff miss

» Cedar Rapids Xavier looks to reload following back-to-back state titles

Iowa City West at North Scott

Site and time: 7:15 p.m. Friday, at Eldridge

Records and rankings: Both teams were 9-2 last season. West is ranked No. 6 in Class 4A; North Scott is No. 5 in 3A.

 
 

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Overview: These teams have a lot in common from last year, in addition to their records. Both were district champions and playoff quarterfinalists. Both are favored to repeat in their respective districts. West welcomes back an ace at quarterback in junior Marcus Morgan, who passed for 1,875 yards last year and posted a 15-to-3 TD-to-INT mark. Both teams allowed a shade under 14 points per game defensively.

» Iowa City West still has high expectations despite smaller roster

Washington (Iowa) at Marion

Site and time: 7:15 p.m. Friday, at Thomas Park Field

Records and rankings: Washington was 6-3 last season; Marion was 4-5.

 
 

Overview: Washington posted the better record last year, but Marion claimed a 40-14 victory over the Demons on the road. Isaac Cechota is the Indians’ top returning skill-position player; he rushed for 293 yards (7.7 per carry) and caught eight passes for 236 yards, so there’s some big-play potential there. Washington counters with dual-threat quarterback Luke Turner, who passed for 1,446 yards and 16 touchdowns, and ran for 508 yards and 10 TDs. Ethan Hunt is the top receiving target, with 20 catches last season for 470 yards and five TDs.

» Marion develops togetherness as it prepares for one of state's toughest schedules

Decorah at Waukon

Site and time: 7:30 p.m. Friday, at Waukon

Records and rankings: Decorah was 8-3 last season; Class 2A No. 1 Waukon was 10-2.

 
 

Overview: Decorah was a 24-20 victor last year, then Waukon embarked on a 10-game winning streak that carried the Indians all the way to the 2A state semifinals. Hopes are high for an even deeper run for the Indians this fall behind a stacked roster than includes quarterback Creed Welch, who threw for 2,457 yards and 29 touchdowns, and Dawson Baures, who eclipsed 1,000 yards in both rushing and receiving, and is a key figure on defense. Decorah suffered major hits from graduation, but returns top receiver Matthew Franzen.

» Waukon's expectations run higher after state semifinal trip

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Edgewood-Colesburg at Bellevue

Site and time: 7 p.m. Friday, at Bellevue

Records and rankings: Class A No. 5 Ed-Co was 10-2 last season; 1A No. 10 Bellevue was 10-1.

 
 

Overview: Both of these teams are coming off their best season in school history. For Ed-Co, it ended in the UNI-Dome in the Class A semifinals. Bellevue won last year’s encounter, 41-20, then Ed-Co stiffened its defense from there. The Vikings held seven opponents to one touchdown or less. Both squads face some reloading, though Ed-Co returns its top two receivers (Parker Rochford and Spencer Staner). Bellevue’s Ben Parker ran for 505 yards and seven touchdowns.

Midland at Lone Tree

Site and time: 7 p.m. Friday, at Lone Tree

Records and rankings: Midland was 9-2 last season; Lone Tree was 4-5.

 
 

Overview: Midland begins pursuit of a fifth consecutive playoff berth (the Eagles grabbed a share of a district title last year behind an offense that scored more than 56 points per game) with Britan Martens, who passed for 1,292 yards and ran for 1,208 and accounted for 43 touchdowns. RB Alex Smith and WR Jensen Dodge provide a couple of more options. Expect a jump from Lone Tree this season behind QB Harmon Miller and a defense that returns six of its top eight tacklers. Midland prevailed last year in Wyoming, 50-47.

Solon at Mount Vernon

Site and time: 7 p.m. Friday, at Mount Vernon (Ash Park)

Records and rankings: Class 3A No. 3 Solon was 9-1 last season; Mount Vernon was 5-4.

 
 

Overview: The Highway 1 rivalry has been tilted heavily Solon’s way lately; the Spartans have gotten the best of the Mustangs 16 straight years. Last year, A.J. Coons caught 11 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-14 romp. Coons finished the season with 48 catches and 12 touchdowns, and returns. So does quarterback Cam Miller (1,627 passing yards, 27 TDs). Solon went through the regular season unscathed, then fell in the first round of the 3A playoffs to Western Dubuque. Mount Vernon missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013, and looks to return behind the passing combo of Brady Ketchum and Zach Baker.

West Branch at West Liberty

 
 

Site and time: 7:15 p.m. Friday, at West Liberty

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Records and rankings: Class 1A No. 4 West Branch was 9-2 last season; 2A No. 9 West Liberty was 8-4.

Overview: West Liberty turned a 1-3 start into a memorable season last year, winning seven straight games and advancing to the state semifinals for the first time since 1987. Deep playoff runs are old hat for West Branch under Coach Butch Pedersen, who crossed the 300-win barrier last year and returns top rusher Tanner Lukavsky, who ran for 1,309 yards (10.2 per carry) and 18 touchdowns. Trey Eagle caught 28 passes for 487 yards and 7 TDs. West Liberty brings back two-way star Will Esmoil, who led the Comets in tackles with 88.5. Esmoil is one of three West Liberty receivers (Lake Newton and Talen Dengler are the others) that caught at least 25 passes last year.

» West Branch expects to field another strong defense in 2019

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

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