Forty years after the Iowa High School Athletic Association instituted playoffs to determine its state football championships, the Springville Orioles have arrived at the postseason feast.
“We couldn’t be happier,” Orioles senior Jake Hulett said Saturday morning, a few hours after Springville routed West Central, 42-6, at Maynard to nail down their first berth. “We’ve never had this happen here before, and the whole town is pretty excited.
“We’ve bought into this system, and we’ve been working hard toward this goal.”
The Orioles (7-1 overall, 5-1 Eight-Man District 4) clinched second place in their district, meaning they’ll be hosting a first-round game Wednesday, Oct. 24. They conclude the regular season Friday at home against Midland.
It’s a long time coming for this small community in eastern Linn County. The Orioles haven’t had a season like this since the mid-1970s, and that team didn’t qualify for the playoffs despite an 8-1 record.
“It’s about time,” said Joe Martin, the Orioles’ second-year coach. “What I like about this team is its willingness to get physical with teams. Defensively, we put a lot of guys in the box (against West Central) and forced them to throw the ball. On offense, we went right at them.”
Hulett said, “We wanted to play team defense, gang tackle and wrap them up.”
Drake Coonrod scored four touchdowns — three on the ground, one on a 75-yard fumble return.
Sorting it out in the 4A East
This year, a 3-6 record is not a guarantee to make the playoffs in the east half of the state in Class 4A.
Seventeen teams — 10 in the Mississippi Valley Conference, seven in the Mississippi Athletic Conference — have earned three wins or more. Two others (Cedar Rapids Washington and Clinton) will be playing for their third victory next week. So at least one team, and maybe more, will stay home at 3-6.
The 11 teams at 5-3 or better have wrapped up playoff spots, and Iowa City High and North Scott are virtual shoo-ins at 4-4.
Four teams are 3-5: Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Linn-Mar, Waterloo West and Burlington. Of that foursome, Kennedy is the most likely to win next week. The Cougars have won three straight and face a sliding City High team on the road.
Linn-Mar is at Cedar Rapids Xavier, Waterloo West is at Cedar Rapids Prairie and Burlington plays MAC leader Pleasant Valley.
If there’s a five-way glut at 3-6, it is likely that Kennedy and Linn-Mar would score 315 points, Waterloo West and Burlington would score 310 and Washington (a favorite against Dubuque Wahlert) would tally 305. In that scenario, Burlington and Washington would be left out.
Gardner gives it a go
No, Brendan Miller wasn’t hurt in the second half of Cedar Rapids Xavier’s 24-7 victory over Cedar Falls on Friday at the UNI-Dome.
“He was fine,” Xavier Coach Duane Schulte said. “And we felt like he gave good effort. But we felt that we needed a change of pace, and Wes (Gardner) has some athletic ability.”
Gardner got most of the touches at tailback in the second half, and made the most of them. He rushed for 101 yards on 18 carries — all after intermission — and scored the final Saints’ touchdown.
“I had to be really when they called my name,” Gardner said.
Of course, he didn’t do it on his own.
“The line was huge to help him get those yards,” Schulte said.
Xavier (8-0 overall, 5-0 division) clinched the MVC Valley Division championship with the win and beat Cedar Falls in regular-season play for the first time in 10 tries.
Winner take all
In two Class A games next week, the stakes are clear: It’s winner take all.
District championships are on the line in District 4 (North Tama is at Belle Plaine) and District 5 (Lisbon travels to Lone Tree). In both cases, the victor is the district winner.
In 3A District 6, DeWitt Central (5-3, 4-1) will try to force a two- or three-way tie next week when it hosts Marion (7-1, 5-0). Solon remains in the hunt at 6-2 and 4-1.
The same situation exists in 2A-4. Cascade (5-3, 4-1) hosts Dyersville Beckman (7-1, 5-0) with hopes of gaining a piece of the title. Center Point-Urbana (7-1, 4-1) is in the mix, as well.
One game in the area is a de facto playoff game. Maquoketa (4-4, 2-3) hosts Clear Creek Amana (4-4, 2-3) in 3A-6, with the winner earning the fourth playoff spot.