Football Preview 2018

(KMAland) -- Welcome to day four of the fall preview extravaganza here at KMA Sports. We’ve looked at an 8-Man, a 2A and a 1A district so far. Let’s keep with the 11-man fun, and go to the smallest class of them all.

CLASS A DISTRICT 9

NOTE: Football previews are always very tough to write when it comes to returning players because there’s no easy way to include the always-important offensive linemen. QuikStats does not have a “starts” or “pancakes” or any other category that could tell me of these guys. I’ll mention the ones I know, but the ones I miss I sincerely apologize for. It’s nothing personal.

AHSTW, Avoca Vikings – Last Year: 8-2 overall, 6-1 district (Class 1A District 7)

Coach: Davis Pattee

Offense (37.9 PPG): Under Davis Pattee, AHSTW has reached the point where they are in a plug-and-place system that is going to have success no matter the names on the back of the jerseys. While quarterback R.J. Harris is gone, they should be able to rely on the whirling dervish that is Gabe Pauley at running back, where he had 1,063 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior. Korbin Martin (336 yards) should also be a threat in the backfield. Blake Osbahr – when he wasn’t playing receiver – got some snaps under center and could be the new guy there. He’ll have a big-time threat on the outside to throw to in Drake Partridge, who had seven touchdown grabs among his 21 receptions last year. Brayton Tuma will also be a receiving threat to deal with.

Defense (10.5 PPG): The Vikings defense was outstanding all season, posting four shutouts, and there’s nobody better in this league on this side of the ball than Pauley. He had 59 solo tackles, 72.5 total tackles, four solo tackles for loss and two sacks. Juniors Jackson Woltmann and Gavyn Fischer also had big seasons last year, combining on 100.5 tackles and 9 solo tackles for loss. Seniors Caden Larson (8 solo TFLs, 3 fumble recoveries) and Gabe Madsen (6 solo TFLs) also wrecked some backfields last year and are back. In all, eight of their top 12 tacklers are returning. This should be a heck of a unit.

Conclusion: There are some big dogs that have graduated on the lines, but this team is still really, really talented. The defense certainly pops out with all that they have returning, but the offense could be just as explosive. They’ve also dropped from Class 1A, although the difference is probably not as big as you might imagine. Still, the Vikes are going to be a tough one to deal with for anybody.

Schedule: at Underwood, Shenandoah, at Westwood, at Martensdale-St. Marys, Riverside, at Earlham, Nodaway Valley, at Southwest Valley, St. Albert

Earlham Cardinals – Last Year: 6-3 overall, 5-2 district (Class A District 7)

Coach: Chris Caskey

Offense (42.9 PPG): There was no dictatorship in the backfield for Earlham last season, so – despite losing two of their top three rushers – they will have some guys with solid experience. Junior Caleb Swalla rushed for 508 yards and seven touchdowns while senior Devin Crees (415 yards, 3 TD) and junior Jacob Ridgely (406 yards, 5 TD) also saw plenty of carries. Coach Caskey’s system has long been one to run-run-run and then when the defense sneaks up you pop it over the top for a touchdown. Ridgely had 13 receptions, with nine of them for touchdowns last year. They will have a new quarterback this season, and it could very well be junior Alex Caskey, who got No. 2 reps last year.

Defense (16.2 PPG): Swalla led the team in tackles last year, and he should again be a big part of this year’s defense. Senior Grant Petersen (28.5 tackles, 3 fumble recoveries) and junior Grant Carter (28.5 tackles) are also back along with Crees (25.5 tackles, 2 INT) and senior Alex Firch (20.5 tackles).

Conclusion: This looks to be another typical Earlham team. They are going to run and run and run some more, and when you get tired of that they are going to run it again. Then, when you least expect it, they pop a pass over your head for a touchdown. Their defense is also full of dudes. The Cardinals will be in the mix for the district championship.

Schedule: Van Meter, at West Central Valley, at Pleasantville, Madrid, at St. Albert, AHSTW, at Southwest Valley, Riverside, at Nodaway Valley

Nodaway Valley Wolverines – Last Year: 1-8 overall, 1-6 district (Class A District 7)

Coach: Taylor Ashman

Offense (7.2 PPG): There’s no getting around it, it was a tough go last season. They scored just over seven points per game, but they were only shutout one time. There will be a new quarterback under center, but their top rusher Brady Hilpipre (361 yards, 3 TD) is back. So is every player that caught a pass last year, led by senior Aryll Shantz (129 yards), junior Austin Wilson (101 yards) and Hilpipre (88 yards).

Defense (46.0 PPG): Wilson had a terrific defensive season last year, finishing with a team-high in solo tackles (64) and total tackles (73). Sophomore Evan Forcht had eight solo tackles for loss and will be a big part of this year’s D. Seniors Shantz, Hilpipre and Mitchel Schaefer, juniors Hunter Ernst and Ryan Randall and sophomore Cach Kennedy were all among the top 10 in tackles last season.

Conclusion: Taylor Ashman is the new head coach for the Wolverines, and he brings with him a winning pedigree as a player for his father (George) at Woodward-Granger. He also played at Simpson and spent last year as an assistant coach for a successful program in Dallas Center-Grimes. All of that said, this is a rebuilding job, and he will look to do it with a lot of guys that took some lumps as a youngsters last year. We’ll see how they respond.

Schedule: Mount Ayr, at Clarke, at ACGC, West Central Valley, at Southwest Valley, Riverside, at AHSTW, at St. Albert, Earlham

Riverside, Oakland Bulldogs – Last Year: 2-7 overall, 1-6 district (Class A District 7)

Coach: Darrell Frain

Offense (14.9 PPG): The Ukrainian Ultimatum is back. Senior Val Andrusyshyn was a slippery dude to tackle, as he rushed for a team-high 361 yards. However, that’s where the ultimatum comes in. If you come up to stop his scrambling, he’ll toss it over your head. He threw for 805 yards last season. Senior Hunter Hodges (281 rushing, 395 receiving, 9 total TD) is also a two-way threat while senior Reid Chambers (301 receiving, 4 TD), sophomore Brogan Allensworth (185 receiving) and senior AJ Dillon (107 receiving) also proved to be threats on the outside. Junior Mason Bivens (100 rushing) and sophomore Wyatt Hough (293 passing) both stepped in at times at running back and quarterback, respsectively.

Defense (45.8 PPG): While the offense saw some flashes last year, the defense had some big struggles in allowing between 48 and 74 points in five games.Junior Joel Henningsen led the team in solo tackles (54) and total tackles (77.5) and has two years left of eligibility. Hodges (48.5 tackles, 4 solo TFLs), Bivens (42.5 tackles) and Chambers (32 tackles) are also big parts of the defense while sophomore Eddie Vlcek (7 solo TFLs) and junior Mike Husz (3 solo TFLs) had solid seasons for last year’s D.

Conclusion: Darrell Frain is here. The Carson-Macedonia native has returned “home” to lead the football program and the athletics department. That has to be exciting for anybody involved with Riverside. What’s also exciting is that they had just two seniors last year, and nearly everybody is back. This will most definitely be an interesting and exciting year for the ‘Dogs.

Schedule: Tri-Center, at Westwood, Missouri Valley, Shenandoah, at AHSTW, at Nodaway Valley, St. Albert, at Earlham, Southwest Valley

Southwest Valley Timberwolves – Last Year: 9-1 overall, 7-0 district (Class A District 7)

Coach: Anthony Donahoo

Offense (35.5 PPG): There was nobody more in control of an offense than Chance Cobb – the graduated Southwest Valley quarterback. With Cobb gone, it’s possible the offense goes to last year’s backup Dustin Lund, who had 131 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Senior Aiden Gaule could be the straw that stirs the Timberwolves drink this year, as he rushed for 485 yards, averaged 8.1 yards per carry and will step into a bigger role this year. While the passing game isn’t a huge part of their offense, they did lose their top four receivers and return just one catch for 16 yards (sophomore Tallen Myers).

Defense (7.5 PPG): This unit was flat nasty throughout the 2017 season. And as you look down the tackle leaders, you can tell why. The top five tacklers and nine of the top 11 were seniors. Seniors Jacob Webb and Hunter Poston were the other two. Webb was a beast all season, leading the team with 12 solo tackles for loss while Poston was terrific as well (7 solo TFL, 3 solo sacks). While the nine others are gone, there are still plenty of dudes that got a lot of time while the T’Wolves were rolling teams. Teagan Lundquist, Lund and Gaule are among those.

Conclusion: While 14 seniors that led the greatest Southwest Valley team ever are gone, there are 10 juniors from last year that have plenty of pride in doing the same dang thing. And I know there is complete and utter excitement among the rest of that program, school and community. There might be some questions in who will replace certain guys and spots, but I wouldn’t bet against a similar performance this year.

Schedule: at Red Oak, Central Decatur, West Central Valley, at Clarinda, Nodaway Valley, at St. Albert, Earlham, AHSTW, at Riverside

St. Albert Falcons – Last Year: 10-2 overall, 6-1 district (Class A District 7)

Coach: Pat Ryan

Offense (43.2 PPG): A total of 13 seniors have graduated, and it wasn’t just 13 seniors. It was one of the greatest senior classes in the school’s history. Now, we learn some new names. Junior Lance Wright took the No. 2 reps at quarterback last season and threw for 134 yards while sophomore Cy Patterson (137 rushing) and juniors Aiden Antisdel (123 rushing) and Ryan Genereux (105 rushing) saw time running the ball. One of their biggest losses, of course, will come on the line with Matt Fagan heading to the University of Iowa.

Defense (8.9 PPG): The defense was nearly as dominant as the offense – if not more dominant. Among their top 11 tacklers, nine of them were seniors. The only non-seniors in that group are current senior Dillon White (33.5 tackles) and the junior Wright (22.5 tackles). Patterson (21.5 tackles) and senior Adam Gubbels (4 solo TFLs) are also among some of last year’s contributors that return to this year’s team.

Conclusion: Yes, St. Albert lost a historic senior class that had many four-year contributors. However, this is still St. Albert, right? They are still going to be well-coached, they are still going to be well-conditioned and physical and they’re still going to be expected to win every game they play. Even with the seniors gone, the athletes and expectations remain.

Schedule: Kuemper Catholic, Treynor, at Logan-Magnolia, at Underwood, Earlham, Southwest Valley, at Riverside, Nodaway Valley, at AHSTW

FINAL THOUGHTS

When it comes to the number of teams I could see winning this district, I think this is the best 11-man district I’ve previewed so far. Earlham, Southwest Valley and St. Albert were all good enough to be in the playoffs last year (and two were), and then you add a 1A district champion in AHSTW to that mix? That’s tough.

Based on returning players, AHSTW and Earlham probably have the edge. Based on how things finished last year, you have to give Southwest Valley and St. Albert a little bump. You can call me a fence-sitter, but that’s just where I’m at right now. I don’t know who the favorite is, but it’s probably one of those four.

The other two – Nodaway Valley and Riverside – also have their own interesting aspects. The Wolverines have a new coach with a winning pedigree, and Riverside has a new coach with a winning pedigree and some pretty solid returning talent. The toughest thing for those two building programs is that the district is loaded.

There are some big-time matchups coming in this district. The only bad news is that we have to wait until week five to see any of them.

Send your questions, comments and/or concerns to dmartin@kmaland.com.