1. Are there too many classes in Iowa high school football?
A legit question, now that there are more schools that have opted to go the 8-man route (70) than are in 11-man Class A (63). There are 56 schools in Class 1A, 2A and 3A, and 47 in Class 4A.
2. Do too many teams make the playoffs?
There are 32 postseason qualifiers in each class. But this is all about the money, if you haven’t figured that out by now. Not to mention the “Everyone Gets A Trophy” mentality that’s prevalent in today’s society for youths.
3. Of the three area champs last season, which has the best shot of repeating?
You’re picking between Lisbon (Class A), Iowa City Regina (2A) and LaPorte City Union (3A). Regina graduated its quarterback, top three rushers, top receiver and seven of its top eight tacklers. But the Regals tend to reload under a terrific coaching staff. Same could be said for Lisbon, which actually has a few more prominent players returning than Regina. This vote goes to Union, however. Yeah, it’ll be way tough to replace all-state running back Wes Burnside, but the return of dynamic quarterback-receiver duo Jay Scheel and Trev Hadachek, and first-team all-state offensive lineman Josh Clark is a great start for another terrific coach in Joe Hadachek.
4. Who is the best team in the Metro?
Washington and Linn-Mar should be down from last season. Jefferson’s first task is just winning a game and breaking that 22-game losing streak. Prairie should certainly be improved in Mike Morrissey’s second season as head coach. Marion has a massive offensive line returning, which should help it make the Class 3A playoffs. But look toward Xavier and Kennedy here. Xavier has a lot of returning firepower, including senior quarterback Reggie Schulte. His dad, Duane Schulte, is one of the best coaches around, so look for an improvement from last season’s 5-5 record. Kennedy has its offensive line back, including third-team all-stater Austin Holzer. Leading rusher Alex Hillyer also returns. If the Cougars can find a QB, they should be better than last season’s 5-5.
5. Who is the best team in the Mississippi Valley Conference?
Who knows? Doesn’t appear to be one or two squads that standout heading into the first day of practice. We already talked about the Metro teams. Iowa City West and Iowa City High lost significant players to graduation but have some top-end talent back (Amos Lavela of City High and Dondre Alexander of West). Cedar Falls is always good but lost all-state running back Barkley Hill and wide receiver/track star James Harrington. Quarterback Ike Boettger committed to Iowa over the summer as an athlete. Waterloo East has a lot of returning players, including outstanding quarterback Mike VanArsdale, but can the Trojans break into the upper echelon of the MVC? You wouldn’t expect the three Dubuque schools or Waterloo West to be strong.
6. Who looks strong in the area in the smaller classes?
LaPorte City Union and Decorah met in last year’s Class 3A championship game and both will be plenty good this season. West Branch lost in the 1A semifinals to champion Saint Ansgar, but will be very good under veteran head coach Butch Pedersen, who had to re-apply for his job after retiring from teaching. Lone Tree lost to champion Lisbon in the Class A quarterfinals, but has most of its team back. Traditional power North Tama lost only twice last season and was underclassmen dominated.
7. Are there any seniors who are potential Division I college players in the Metro and area?
Central Iowa seems to have a near monopoly on that this season, though there are some guys around here you should watch. Iowa City West senior wide receiver Dondre Alexander is a three-star recruit, according to www.rivals.com. He also is a standout basketball player, so it’ll be interesting which sport he ultimately picks. Cedar Rapids Prairie senior wide receiver Demetrius Harper also was mentioned by Rivals, as was Marion senior guard Zach Borens (6-foot-7, 335 pounds), who has gotten sniffs from Iowa, Iowa State and Wisconsin, among others. Junior Jay Scheel of LaPorte City Union has been offered by Iowa as an athlete.
8. If there was a Gazette-area Fantasy Football League, who would you take with your first pick?
First of all, if you have any desire to play prep Fantasy Football, you’ve got problems. But we’ll go along with the premise here. You couldn’t go wrong with West Branch running back Cade Jones, who should top last season’s 1,769 yards and 27 touchdowns. Scheel would be a real good one, too, because of the dual threat of rushing and passing.
9. How many all-staters return in the Metro and area?
A lot. In Class 4A, it’s limited to Iowa City High defensive lineman Amos Lavela (first team) and Cedar Rapids Kennedy offensive lineman Austin Holzer (third team). In 3A, you’ve got Union’s Josh Clark (offensive line) and Trev Hadachek (defensive back) back as first-teamers, along with Decorah’s Josey Jewell (linebacker). Vikings kicker Josh Lee was a second-teamer a year ago, as was Anamosa’s Josh Schulte (wide receiver/tight end). In 2A, Dyersville Beckman’s Kirby Kendrick was a second-team all-stater (linebacker) and Mid-Prairie’s Austin Errthum a third-teamer (kicker). West Branch running back Cade Jones was a first-teamer in 1A, with teammate Bo Bower a third-teamer (WR/TE). Alburnett’s Zach Hoyle returns after earning second-team defensive back honors. In Class A, first-team returnees are Lone Gree quarterback Gabe Lorack and North Tama linebacker Nolan Hefty. Second-team returnees are Highland punter Cameron Vinsand, Postville WR/TE Riley Brockway and Lone Tree defensive back Bryan Forbes. Third-team returnees are Iowa Valley running back John Gormley, BGM TE/WR Nate Beck and North Tama kicker Tanner Swanger. In the 8-player game, West Central’s Michael Lincoln returns after earning second-team running back honors, as does Springville linebacker Elias Nissen (third team).
10. Who will be a surprise team this season?
We absolutely nailed it in 2011 when Alburnett went 9-0 in the regular season and won two postseason games before finally succumbing to West Branch in the Class 1A quarterfinals. Let’s go out on a limb again and go with Iowa Valley this season. All-state running back John Gormley (1,666 yards and 26 touchdowns) is among the returnees for a team that went 6-4 last season. Quarterback Logan Loftus also is back after producing over 1,000 yards rushing and passing. It’s a tough Class A district the Tigers are a part of, but we think they’ll handle it well.