Highland and WACO square off for No. 3 seed in playoffs
While both Highland and WACO have clinched a berth in the Class A playoffs, third place in the district will be on the line when the two teams clash on Friday night in rural Riverside.
“It’s huge,” WACO head coach Chad Edeker said of Friday’s game. “We’ll still have to go on the road either way, but it’s much better to go on the road and play a No. 2 seed than to go on the road and play a No. 1 seed. That’s tough.”
WACO (6-2, 4-2 District 5) leads the district in rushing, and senior tailback Tyler Ayers leads the league with 1,166 yards and 12 touchdowns. Sophomore fullback Tucker Janecek has added 441 yards and 10 scores while averaging 11.3 yards per carry.
“We have to control the front line and make them do things they don’t want to do,” Highland head coach Tony Johnson said. “We have to slow down the process, if anything. It’s going to be a tall task. They run the football extremely well. That’s the challenge in front of us.”
Highland (5-3, 4-2 District 5), on the other hand, is balanced offensively, ranking second in the district in both rushing and passing yards. Seniors Derrick Stewart and Trey Brenneman both average over 11 yards per carry, while junior Kody Wood has thrown for 898 yards and eight touchdowns.
“We have to be disciplined and we have to tackle well,” Edeker said. “If you watch the tape, they break a lot of tackles. So we have to get to the ball as a team.”
Both Edeker and Johnson emphasized that the team that won the turnover battle would likely win the game.
“We have to take care of the football,” Johnson said. “Our main goal is to focus on no turnovers.”
West Liberty at Mid-Prairie
A home playoff game will be on line when Mid-Prairie and West Liberty — both 4-1 in Class 2A’s District 5 — square off on Friday night at Doc Sattler Field in Wellman.
“It’s a pretty big game,” Mid-Prairie head coach Pete Cavanagh said. “It’s for second place in the district and home field in the playoffs.”
The Golden Hawks (6-2) are preparing to take on a West Liberty offense led by senior quarterback Tyler Newsom, who has thrown for 1,126 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Newsom’s main target is junior Brett Becker, who has caught 33 passes for 438 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior Nick Boehme has also rushed for 362 yards and seven scores for the Comets (5-3).
“They’ve got some good skilled kids and some good size up front,” Cavanagh said. “We have to read our keys and fly to the football. They have a good quarterback, so it’s the same situation as Mediapolis. We just have to play a little better and try to create turnovers.”
Junior Eesaa Baylor has been Mid-Prairie’s top offensive weapon this season, averaging nearly 100 yards per game. But junior quarterback Reid Miller has come into his own as of late, and he was 11-for-13 passing for 209 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 49-0 win at West Burlington-Notre Dame.
Sigourney-Keota at No. 1 Iowa City Regina
Even though the Savage Cobras will likely have their hands full when they take on the top-ranked team in Class 1A on Friday night, they’re going into the game with some confidence.
“Any time you win back-to-back games, you feel like you’re playing better,” Sigourney-Keota head coach Jared Jensen said. “I told the kids that upsets happen. No one’s expecting us to win. But if we can come out and catch them off guard, we could have a chance.”
Jensen said that in order for his team to have a chance, the Savage Cobras (4-4, 3-2 District 6) will have to keep the ball away from Iowa City Regina’s offense.
“We’ve got to control the ball,” he said. “We’ve got to put long drives together and keep running the clock. We can’t let their offense get on the field and get going. Their offense is pretty potent with their passing game and running game.”
Is it ever. The Regals (8-0, 5-0 District 6) rank third in Class 1A in total yards (445 per game) and fourth in scoring (42.3 points per game). Regina also ranks second in 1A in passing yards, as senior quarterback Mark Ward has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,239 yards and 19 touchdowns. The Regals also have a 1,000-yard rusher in junior Riley Dixon.
Sigourney-Keota knows a little bit about running the football. The Savage Cobras rank fifth in Class 1A in rushing yards (304 per game), led by junior Kolton Greiner’s 922 yards and nine touchdowns. Junior quarterback Luke Lyle has added 538 rushing yards and five scores.
Jensen hopes that facing a tough team like Regina can help the Savage Cobras get ready for the state playoffs.
“We’re using this game to prepare to face another No. 1 seed [in the playoffs],” he said. “What better team to prepare for the playoffs against than Iowa City Regina?”
Camanche at Columbus
Columbus may be 2-6 and out of the playoff hunt, but that doesn’t mean the Wildcats don’t want to close out the season with a victory.
“I think our kids want to go out on a good note,” Columbus head coach Jeff Martin said. “They want to get another win and get next year off on the right foot.”
The Wildcats hope to get that win when they host Camanche (2-6) in Friday’s season finale.
“They play in a good district and have good skill people,” Martin said of the Indians. “Defensively, they put a lot of pressure on you.”
Martin hopes that pressure is relieved by the return of leading rusher Esteban Gutierrez. The senior tailback, who has rushed for 876 yards and seven touchdowns this season, is nearly back to 100 percent after rolling his ankle in the Wildcats’ Homecoming win over Central Lee on Oct. 5.