Most of Iowa’s high school football teams have completed two-thirds of their regular-season schedules and roughly half of their district contests. In Class 4-A, they’ve played two of five district games, while the other four 11-man classes have finished four of their seven district matchups. Eight-Man varies, but all of the schools are around the midway point.
That’s plenty of data to offer some opinions and other thoughts as we complete the task of sending 96 of Iowa’s 332 teams into the first round of the playoffs on Oct. 27. We’ll start today in 4-A and work our way down, first noting that the same three teams remain atop The World-Herald’s western Iowa ratings: Council Bluffs Lewis Central (4-A/3-A), Council Bluffs St. Albert (2-A/1-A/A) and Audubon (Eight-Man).
Keep in mind only the top two finishers in each district are assured playoff berths. Two wild-card berths will be handed out in 3-A, 2-A, 1-A and A, which have seven districts each, completing the 16-team fields.
In 4-A, most of our attention has been centered on District 3, where there has been unusual balance. Urbandale and Ankeny are 2-0, while Lewis Central and Thomas Jefferson out of Council Bluffs are 1-1. L.C. lost to Urbandale 13-7 when it was without injured junior quarterback Max Duggan and sophomore lineman Logan Jones, both of whom have multiple Division I offers.
Having seen all four schools, I believe Lewis Central is the best of the group when at full strength. Duggan and Jones returned in last week’s 56-14 win over Des Moines Hoover, with Duggan completing 6 of 6 for 138 yards and two scores, and carrying seven times for 113 yards and two TDs. The Titans will have to earn their way into the playoffs, with games against Ankeny and T.J. in the next two weeks. Thomas Jefferson has a big game at Urbandale this week.
In 3-A, four teams in District 7 are chasing the two automatic berths: Harlan and Winterset at 4-0, and Glenwood and Denison-Schleswig at 3-1. Winterset hasn’t played any of the other three, while Glenwood handled Denison 52-14 and lost to Harlan 17-14. This writer believes Harlan and Glenwood will earn the automatic berths, provided they are at or near full strength the rest of the way.
Sergeant Bluff-Luton (4-0) has the inside track in District 1 of 3-A, while Spirit Lake (3-1), Storm Lake (3-1), Sioux City Heelan (2-2) and Spencer (2-2) are all in contention. A two-loss team could earn an automatic berth, as Spirit Lake and Storm Lake play this week, Heelan still has to play Spirit Lake and Storm Lake still has to play Sergeant Bluff.
The two automatic berths in District 7 of Class 2-A likely will be earned among South Central Calhoun (4-0), East Sac County (4-0) and Carroll Kuemper (3-1). SCC beat Kuemper 26-16 in last week’s key game, while East Sac plays Kuemper in Week 8 and SCC in Week 9.
In District 7 of 1-A, AHSTW (4-0) has the upper hand after its 41-7 win over IKM-Manning (3-1) last week. Logan-Magnolia also is 3-1, but IKM-Manning has the head-to-head win over the Panthers.
The District 7 title in Class A likely will be determined Friday in Council Bluffs when St. Albert (4-0) plays host to Southwest Valley (4-0). The loser will be favored to earn the runner-up playoff berth.
Moving to Eight-Man, Stanton (4-0), Bedford (3-0) and Lenox (2-1) are the top contenders in District 6, and none of them have yet played one another. Sidney (4-0) is a big favorite to win District 7, as it already has beaten Fremont-Mills (3-1) and Exira-EHK (3-1).
Audubon (4-0) is the favorite in District 8, with Ar-We-Va (3-0), Boyer Valley (2-1) and Glidden-Ralston (2-1) all contending. Ar-We-Va plays the other three contenders in the final three weeks, while Audubon has beaten Boyer Valley 69-14.
So you can see things are starting to take shape. With the Iowa High School Athletic Association trimming its number of qualifiers in half before last season, the urgency is greater than ever. That means high stakes and plenty of excitement to come for those who remain in contention.
Class 4-A/3-A, Rec, Prv
1. CB Lewis Central, 5-1, 1
2. Sgt. Bluff-Luton, 6-0, 2
3. Harlan, 5-1, 3
4. Glenwood, 5-1, 4
5. Sioux City Heelan, 4-2, 5
1. CB St. Albert, 6-0, 1
2. AHSTW, 6-0, 2
3. Carroll Kuemper, 4-2, 3
4. Southwest Valley, 6-0, 5
5. IKM-Manning, 4-2, 4
6. Logan-Magnolia, 4-2, 6
7. OA-BCIG, 4-2, 7
8. Treynor, 3-3, 8
9. Missouri Valley, 3-3, 9
10. West Monona, 3-3, 10
1. Audubon, 6-0, 1
2. Sidney, 6-0, 2
3. Ar-We-Va, 6-1, 3
4. Stanton, 6-1, 4
5. Fremont-Mills, 4-2, 5