A capsule look at Wednesday's western Iowa prep football playoff matchups.
* * *
AMES AT NO. 9 SIOUX CITY EAST
Records: Ames (5-4), S.C. East (7-2)
Postseason appearances (most recent): Ames 17 (2011), S.C. East 24 (2011)
The Word: East was the lone team from the Missouri River Conference to make a successful transition to 4-A divisional play. In fact, the Black Raiders won as many divisional games (four) as the other four MRC teams combined. East won seven straight games after a season-opening loss to S.C. Heelan. Its streak ended Friday, however, when Taylor DeLaughter was intercepted five times in a loss to West Des Moines Valley. He's still third in 4-A passing yardage while Sam Straub of Ames is fourth. Only pass-happy Marshalltown has thrown it more in 4-A than these two teams.
CB ABRAHAM LINCOLN AT NO. 5 WEST DES MOINES DOWLING
Records: A.L. (3-6), Dowling (7-2)
Postseason appearances (most recent): A.L. 7 (2011), Dowling 35 (2011)
The Word: This is the fifth straight year A.L. has advanced to the 4-A postseason, and the Lynx have opened with an opponent from the Central Iowa Metropolitan League on each occasion. A.L. is 0-4 in the previous games, losing by an average score of 45-14. This one will be tough, too. The Lynx were beaten 75-7 Friday by Southeast Polk, which lost 35-12 to No. 5 Dowling earlier this season. Dowling sophomore QB Nick Wilson threw for 210 yards and three TDs in last week's 46-9 win over Marshalltown. A.L. RB Dylan Garner ran for 679 yards and 4 TDs this season.
NO. 7 CB LEWIS CENTRAL AT LE MARS
Records: L.C. (7-2), Le Mars (7-2)
Postseason appearances (most recent): L.C. 7 (2010), Le Mars 17 (2010)
The Word: These two teams met in this round the last time they qualified for the playoffs, with the Titans coming away with the only postseason win in their school's history. No. 7 L.C. earned the rematch with a hard-fought win over Creston/Orient-Macksburg in Week 9. In that game, sophomore Austin Simmons took all the snaps at quarterback for the first time. The offense has begun to revolve a little more around him recently as L.C. continues to evolve after the loss of star Alex Reed to injury. Senior Alex Martin has performed well since taking over at running back. Le Mars, in its first season under former six-year L.C. assistant Gabe Tardive, needed a late field goal to edge Carroll on Friday for the No. 2 seed.
NO. 8 CRESTON/ORIENT-MACKSBURG (7-2) AT NO. 5 SIOUX CITY HEELAN
Records: Creston/O-M (7-2), SC Heelan (8-1)
Postseason appearances (most recent): Creston/O-M 12 (2011), Heelan 32 (2011)
The Word: On paper, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better first-round matchup among the 96 across Iowa. In this one, the injury report might be more important than the scouting report. For Creston, RB Bryce McIlravy has been lost for the season with an ankle injury and Luke Neitzel, the usual QB, strained a thumb in practice before last week's game. Neitzel split time at QB and RB in the 16-7 loss to Lewis Central and didn't throw a pass. Heelan lost to Spencer 21-14 last week and played without WR/S Connor Niles. Like everyone else, neither squad has had much time to heal, but both enter with high hopes.
CARROLL AT NO. 4 HARLAN COMMUNITY
Records: Carroll (3-6) at Harlan (8-1)
Postseason appearances (most recent): Carroll 12 (2011), Harlan 33 (2011)
The Word: Don't just look at the records and make an assumption on this one. Harlan struggled to beat the Tigers 21-14 on Sept. 14. Carroll must be considered the most hard-luck team in the state this season. The Tigers' losses were by 6, 5, 1, 7, 3 and 3 points. Four of them came to teams who won at least seven games. Harlan leans on the pass, led by QB Adam Juhl (1,669 passing yards, 18 TDs) and WR Nate Kloewer (724 receiving yards, 9 TDs). But the Cyclones have struggled to run the ball. For Carroll, RB Nate Johnston (1,040 rushing yards, 12 TDs) has been a mainstay.
GILBERT AT NO. 4 CARROLL KUEMPER
Records: Gilbert (4-4), Carroll Kuemper (9-0)
Postseason appearances (most recent): Gilbert 7 (2010), Carroll Kuemper 11 (2011)
The Word: Kuemper has looked unstoppable since a 27-21 win over Carroll to open its season. The Knights — District 8 champions — are averaging more than 48 points per game, with a margin of victory more than six touchdowns. Junior quarterback Cole Neary is the catalyst, throwing for 1,605 yards to go with 21 touchdowns and three interceptions. Gilbert, a winner in three of its last four games, boasts a rushing attack led by Christopher Culek (11 touchdowns).
RED OAK AT NO. 3 WEST MARSHALL
Records: Red Oak (3-6), West Marshall (9-0)
Postseason appearances (most recent): Red Oak 1, West Marshall 18 (2011)
The Word: The good news is that Red Oak is into the playoffs for the first time and is coming off its best outing of the season, a 34-6 drubbing of playoff-hopeful Shenandoah. The bad news is that the Tigers have to get on a bus, travel three hours on a school night and take on the powerful Trojans. West Marshall rides the legs of 190-pound junior Duncan Ferch, who has run for 1,816 yards and 29 TDs, averaging 9.9 yards per carry. Red Oak's Evan Mellott is coming off his best performance of the year, a 42-carry, 257-yard, 2-TD effort.
NEVADA AT OA-BCIG
Records: Nevada (5-4), OA-BCIG (6-3)
Postseason appearances (most recent): Nevada 3 (1986), OA-BCIG 4 (2011)
The Word: Which senior quarterback can make more plays? With both sides averaging right at seven yards per carry, Nevada's Colynn Black and OA-BCIG's Creighton Allen could be the difference. Senior running back Trever Ryen (1,153 yards, 18 touchdowns) spearheads the Falcons' attack, while the Cubs have six players with at least a pair of ground scores. OA-BCIG is back in the playoffs for a third straight year, while Nevada hasn't been this far since the Reagan administration.
PELLA CHRISTIAN AT NO. 8 ST. ALBERT
Records: Pella Christian (6-3), St. Albert (8-1)
Postseason appearances (most recent): Pella Christian 5 (2011), St. Albert 24 (2011)
The Word: A few weeks ago, this looked like a possible quarterfinal matchup. Then Pella Christian, which dropped to 1-A after two years in 2-A, lost three of its last four games to fall to a No. 4 seed. The Eagles may provide No. 8 St. Albert a tougher opener than it's used to. The Falcons, making its 16th consecutive playoff appearance, have failed to reach the UNI-Dome only once (2008) in the last decade. They recovered from an early-season loss to Lewis Central to re-establish themselves as one of the elite teams in 1-A by winning seven straight. In its eight wins, St. Albert allowed more than 14 points only once.
OGDEN AT TRI-CENTER
Records: Ogden (5-4), Tri-Center (7-2)
Postseason appearances (most recent): Ogden 13 (2008), Tri-Center 6 (2011)
The Word: The Trojans are attempting to make history as the school's first team to win a playoff game. They'll again lean on their three-pronged rushing attack of FB Ben Wellman (786 yards, 12 TDs), RB Doug Hoke (769 yards, 9 TDs) and QB Britton Barrier (717 yards, 14 TDs). Barrier also leads the state, regardless of class, with five punt returns for scores. For Ogden, QB Caleb Fry (1,060 passing yards, 13 TDs) and RB Cody Good (886 yards, 8 TDs) are the top offensive threats.
HARTLEY-MELVIN-SANBORN AT NO. 4 IKM-MANNING
Records: H-M-S (5-4), IKM-Manning (9-0)
Postseason appearances (most recent): H-M-S 7 (2010), IKM-Manning 5 (2011)
The Word: A pair of running back committees are about to be in session. Class 1-A No. 4 IKM-Manning has four backs with between 400 and 700 rushing yards — all owning at least four touchdowns — along with dual-threat QB Scott Opperman. H-M-S will counter with three carriers who have each accumulated at least 600 rushing yards and eight scores. The difference this fall has been the Wolves' defense, surrendering an average of 11.2 points per game. It has helped the District 2 champs win three games by a combined 10 points.
A-H-S-T AT MADRID
Records: A-H-S-T (6-3) at Madrid (5-4)
Postseason appearances (most recent): A-H-S-T 13 (2011), Madrid 22 (2011)
The Word: Despite being 105 miles apart, these teams have plenty of playoff history between them. This will be their fifth playoff meeting in the past eight years. A-H-S-T won a 35-29 quarterfinal in 2005, but Madrid won in the '08 and '09 quarterfinals and the '10 first round. A-H-S-T's top weapon is Jake Larson (1,183 rushing yards, 10 TDs), while Madrid counters with Colton Braunschweig (1,034 rushing yards, 9 TDs) and Jacob Clayton (805 rushing yards, 8 TDs).
WOODWARD ACADEMY AT GRISWOLD
Records: Woodward Academy (4-5), Griswold (6-3)
Postseason appearances (most recent): Woodward Academy 1, Griswold 6 (2009)
The Word: Welcome to the playoffs. Woodward Academy is making its postseason debut in its third year with a football team, while only Griswold's seniors have seen the playoffs. The Tigers, runners-up in District 8, call rushing plays more than all but two Class A schools. They ride junior backs Kenneth Clary and Tyler Muhlbauer (1,827 yards and 22 touchdowns combined). Senior Andrew Caulker has 20 runs into the end zone by himself and 1,393 yards to pace a ground-based attack for the Knights, who have won four of their last five games.
AUDUBON AT NO. 6 LOGAN-MAGNOLIA
Records: Audubon (5-4), Logan-Magnolia (8-1)
Postseason appearances (most recent): Audubon 5 (1999), Logan-Magnolia 13 (2011)
The Word: Games fly by for Logan-Magnolia. The Class A No. 5 Panthers have thrown just 29 passes all season — completing nine — and relied on a bruising running game and stingy defense en route to an unbeaten District 8 title. Their 49 ground touchdowns are tops in the class, with senior running backs Paul Hutson (1,183 yards, 19 TDs) and Caden McDonald (849, 19) leading the way. Audubon returns to the playoffs in large part because of sophomore dual-threat quarterback Trevor Smith, who has thrown for 11 touchdowns and rushed for 10.
UNDERWOOD AT NO. 1 WOODWARD-GRANGER
Records: Underwood (4-5), Woodward-Granger (9-0)
Postseason appearances (most recent): Underwood 10 (2010), Woodward-Granger 7 (2011)
The Word: Underwood faces arguably Class A's best team in No. 1 Woodward-Granger. The Hawks' offense has scored 439 points this season, second only to Wapsie Valley in the entire class. It's due primarily to the play of quarterback Taylor Ashman and running back Andrew McCune. Ashman has thrown for 1,050 yards and 15 touchdowns, and McCune has run for 1,838 yards and 30 scores. Underwood comes off a poor ending to the regular season. The Eagles lost their last three games while averaging just 8.6 points a contest.
COON RAPIDS-BAYARD AT NO. 8 FREMONT-MILLS
Records: CR-B (6-4), F-M (8-1)
Postseason appearances (most recent): CR-B 5 (2010), F-M 4 (2011)
The Word: F-M had its 18-game winning streak snapped at Sidney during the regular season and certainly isn't the dominant team that won the Eight-Man championship in 2011. That being said, the Knights are still talented enough to make a title run. An enticing matchup with unbeaten No. 4 Exira-EHK potentially awaits F-M in the second round, but the Knights first have to take care of CR-B, which finished third in a good district. F-M coach Jeremy Christiansen said, at the time, that the Sidney defeat may have been the best thing to happen to his group. After a nearly 30-year playoff absence, Fremont-Mills has gone 8-1 in the postseason since 2010.
LENOX AT NO. 4 EXIRA-EHK
Records: Lenox (6-3), Exira-EHK (9-0)
Postseason appearances (most recent): Lenox 11 (2011), Exira-EHK 3 (2011)
The Word: The running game is among the most important factors in this matchup. Eight-Man No. 4 Exira-EHK has three viable threats on the ground in Trey Sander (1,090 yards, 22 touchdowns), Drew Peppers (821, 14) and Nick Peppers (701, 17). Lenox also uses a good trio out of the backfield with Mason Peterson (554 yards, 8 touchdowns), Dusty Rauch (483, 7) and Dustin Gordon (402, 2). Lenox must find a way to slow down a Spartan offense that has scored fewer than 40 points in a game only once this season.
WOODBINE AT NO. 5 SIDNEY
Records: Woodbine (5-4), Sidney (9-0)
Postseason appearances (most recent): Woodbine 7 (2011), Sidney 7 (2009)
The Word: These teams are meeting for the second time this season, and if the rematch is to have a different result, Woodbine must make tweaks to its gameplan. Sidney earned a 54-14 victory when the teams last met Sept. 21. Quarterback Noah McKeever completed seven passes for 168 yards and rushed for 43 more while accounting for four touchdowns. Woodbine must limit McKeever, but it also has to get running back Kyle Kuhlman going early. Hampered with an injury when the teams last played, he was limited to just four carries. Now fully healthy, he scored eight touchdowns in the final two weeks of the season to help get Woodbine into the postseason.
CAM AT GLIDDEN-RALSTON
Records: CAM (7-3), Glidden-Ralston (7-2)
Postseason appearances (most recent): CAM 6 (2011), Glidden-Ralston 10 (2011)
The Word: If Glidden-Ralston can maintain the type of play it displayed in the final three weeks of the regular season, it will surely be a team to watch this postseason. The Wildcats averaged 60.6 points a game and won by an average of 45 points in victories over Charter Oak-Ute , Coon Rapids-Bayard and Ar-We-Va. A big reason for the dominance has been the play of running back Mitchell Lensch, who has run for 1,697 yards and 33 touchdowns. CAM ended its season with a 38-36 loss at No. 5 Sidney, but the Cougars played well in the game. A trio of of capable players shoulder the rushing load for CAM — Dylan Amdor (950 yards, 13 touchdowns), Brady Runyan (712, 11) and Trevor McKee (555, 14).
— Kevin White, Tony Boone, Evan Bland and Patrick Donohue