Some familiar foes will face off with a trip to the UNI-Dome at stake.
Is it tough to beat a team twice in one season and diffuse the revenge factor? Can a win be an edge and a confidence boost?
Those questions will be answered in the state football quarterfinals next week. Five Gazette-area teams won first-round playoff games Friday night to set up rematches from the regular season, including two in Class 3A.
Iowa City West (9-1) and Bettendorf (9-1) closed the regular season tied for fifth in the final rankings. The Bulldogs topped the Trojans, 10-7, at home in Week 2. West handled Cedar Rapids Kennedy, 38-14, and will host Bettendorf this time.
West Coach Garrett Hartwig said any advantage depends on the performance and players.
“We always try to learn what we don’t do well against those guys and capitalize on things we feel we did well,” Hartwig said. “I think it depends on the game and the team. I think we have two different teams from the start of the season to the playoffs.
“You approach it the same way you approach any game and try to limit the mistakes you made in the first one.”
Eighth-ranked Western Dubuque (8-2) can avenge a loss of its own, playing at No. 3 North Scott, which won a 7-6 game in September.
Top-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier (10-0) has won 23 straight games and hosts No. 10 Decorah (8-2) again in the other area 3A rematch. The Saints won, 45-3, in Week 2.
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Xavier Coach Duane Schulte said the first result is no longer a factor. Throw out the previous game.
“Both teams are going to be trying to win a football game,” Schulte said. “I think that’s all it really boils down to. It also comes down to what is going through a kid’s brain when the ball is snapped. I don’t think anybody is thinking about this in the first game.”
Unlike the other rematches, second-ranked Iowa Valley (10-0) and No. 8 New London were 8-Player district foes. The Tigers earned a 22-12 win in a game that was postponed due to weather and played in muddy conditions the next day.
The victory was a boost, but Iowa Valley isn’t taken anything for granted.
“We were both doing stuff that wasn’t in the norm for our offense,” Iowa Valley Coach Cody Snitker said. “It was only a 22-12 ballgame, so neither offense could get going. I think it will be a way different game with a lot more scoring.
“Getting that first win gave us confidence. At the same time, it was close enough we know it’s going to be a different ballgame and we’ll be prepared.”
West has posted eight straight wins since its only 2018 setback. The Trojans have grown since committing 11 penalties, two turnovers and struggling to gain yards on first down against Bettendorf. Those areas and containing to stop Bettendorf QB Carter Bell are keys to come out on top and reach the semifinals for a third straight season.
“I can’t speak for every program, but we look at the season as a developmental process,” said Hartwig, who has led West to two straight state finals. “You hope to be playing better football as a team. You have your pieces in place by the playoffs.”
Xavier had dominated foes throughout the regular season, but needed a defensive stand late to survive with a 14-6 win against Pella. The Saints expect another tough test from the Vikings, who have won seven games in a row.
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“We knew they would be tough,” Schulte said. “When you get to this point of the season, every team is a tough team.”
West Branch will be well-traveled by the end of the postseason. The Class 1A sixth-ranked Bears hit the road for the third straight week, facing No. 3 Van Meter in the quarterfinals Friday.
How was West Branch rewarded after about a 2 hour, 45 minute, 160-mile trip and 56-14 thrashing of Osage? The Bears (9-1) will make the 2:10 and 143-mile trek to face the unbeaten defending state champions for a chance to earn their 10th semifinal berth.
West Branch returned to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2015 and looks for its first trip to the UNI-Dome for the first time since four consecutive appearances from 2008-11.
Edgewood-Colesburg matched the program’s postseason win total with a 58-21 victory over BGM in the opening round of the Class A playoffs. The Vikings were 1-4 in postseason games entering this year.
Fifth-ranked Ed-Co (9-1) heads to No. 2 Algona Garrigan (10-0), attempting to earn the program’s first trip to the state semifinals.
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