Looking Back at the Best of the Football Regular Season


Photo by Jeff Yoder

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

After nine weeks of regular season football the playoffs are here.

Four teams from the Your Prep Sports qualified for the postseason which opens in all six classes on Friday.

Before turning attention to the postseason here is a look back at some of the best plays, moments and performances from area teams during the regular season.

Best individual offensive performance: AJ Coons against Mount Pleasant. The numbers alone are great, 10 receptions for 198 yards and three touchdowns, but don’t tell the whole story of what Coons meant to Solon in a 34-28 come-from-behind win. The junior receiver kept the Spartans in the game in the first half with two touchdown catches, including a spectacular grab of a 35-yarder on the final play of the half and his 46-yard score tied the game in the fourth quarter.

Best individual offensive performance Part II: Beau Cornwell against Dyersville Beckman. At a tradition rich program like West Branch any time you get into school-record territory it has been a special performance. That was the case for Cornwell in the season finale as he accounted for 374 total yards as the Bears rolled up the second most yardage (563) in program history.

Cornwell finished 22-of-31 passing for 331 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 43 yards.

Best individual defensive performance: Landon Green against Bettendorf. Going against a Bettendorf offensive line that has long been considered among the most physical in the state Green was almost unblockable making a team-high nine tackles including four for loss and a sack.

Best tandem defensive performance: Liam McComas and Max Deprenger against Dubuque Hempstead. Dan Sabers has witnessed some great performances at City High so when the long-time Little Hawk head coach describes a performance as ‘special’ your ears perk up. That is how Sabers described DePrenger and McComas against the Mustangs after the duo combined for 21 tackles (15 solo), 5 tackles for loss, three sacks and an interception.

Best team offensive performance: Liberty High against Clinton. The best offensive performance should feature a diverse offense mixing run and pass right? Wrong. The most impressive showing by an offense this season came from Liberty High which didn’t attempt a pass and rushed for 445 yards in a 42-21 season-ending win over Clinton.

The Lightning ran a whooping 73 plays, all runs, averaged 6.1 yards per carry, had three players with more than 100 yards and four players score a touchdown.

Best team defensive performance: West Branch against Cascade. There were games in which teams allowed fewer yards and points and forced more turnovers but few times where a team shut down an offensive as effectively as the Bears did in a 26-6 win over Cascade. West Branch held a Cougar offense that averaged better than 29 points per game to a season low six and gave up just 82 yards and an average of 1.9 yards per play after a 70-yard touchdown drive on the game’s opening possession.

Best game: City High against Dubuque Hempstead. The sixth lead change in this back-and-forth contest came when City High scored the game-winning touchdown with 6:05 left.

Best comeback: Solon against Mount Pleasant. The Spartans trailed 21-7 in the second quarter and 28-21 to open the fourth before scoring the final 13 points in a 34-28 Saturday morning win.

Most historic win: West Branch against Tipton. Given the fact only 13 coaches in state history have reached the 300-win mark this one is an easy decision. West Branch head coach Butch Pedersen earned career victory number 300 with a 56-13 win over Tipton.  

Breakthrough performer: West High sophomore quarterback Marcus Morgan. After taking the reins of the Trojan offense in week 3 Morgan passed for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns while helping West High average 41 points in seven consecutive wins.

Coach of the year: In his second season at Clear Creek Amana Gabe Bakker took the Clippers from three wins to a school-record 8-1 and the first playoff berth since 2015.

Best mid-season position change: City High senior Liam McComas. After three game McComas moved from tackle to tight end and ended up second on the team with 19 receptions for 256 yards.

Most consistent: Regina sophomore Alec Wick. Regina had three different players start at quarterback this season but that could slow Wick who emerged as one of the state’s best receivers. The sophomore had at least three receptions in every game, had more than 75 yards receiving six times and finished with team-highs in receptions (59) and receiving yards (746).

Newcomer of the year: Liberty High sophomore Max Tafolla. Technically everyone at Liberty High was a varsity newcomer this season but Tafolla didn’t play like a first-year starter. Tafolla led Liberty High with 76 tackles including 13.5 for loss and rushed for 415 yards and four scores.

Best performance by a third string quarterback: Bryce Barnett against East Marshall. Injuries forced turned the Regina quarterback spot in a revolving door but whoever got the call always seemed to make plays. That was the case for Barnett who completed 22-of-30 passes for 318 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for a score in a 28-0 win.

Best individual offensive play: Max DePrenger against Dubuque Hempstead. Scoring a game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter is enough to get DePrenger the nod but it was more about how he scored. DePrenger broke several tackles and drove the final five yards into the endzone with multiple defenders hanging on to put the Little Hawks up 23-22.

Best individual defensive play: Tanner Lukavsky interception against Cascade. The interception was fairly routine, the 43-yard return for a touchdown was impressive but few plays change the momentum of a game the way Lukavsky did with his second defensive score of the season.  

Unsung hero: West Branch linebacker John Hatfield. Undersized and often overlooked Hatfield has led the Bears in tackles each of the past two seasons after making a team-high 43 tackles that include nine tackles for loss and four sacks this season. The senior linebacker also has recovered two fumbles and picked off a pass.

Special teams MVP: West High senior Josh Jasek. Among the steadiest place kickers in the state this season Jasek has connected on 38-of-39 PAT attempts, hit 6-of-8 field goals including a 41-yarder and has 20 touchbacks on 58 kickoffs.  

Offensive MVP: Clear Creek Amana senior quarterback Andrew Rohret. A converted linebacker Rohret has accounted for 1,850 total yards and 26 touchdowns in his firs season behind center. Rohret leads the Clippers with 1,024 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns and has completed 61 percent of his passes while throwing for 826 yards and 11 scores.

Defensive MVP: West High senior Landon Green. Despite consistently drawing double teams Green had a team-high 42 tackles from his defensive tackle spot with nearly half (20.5) going for loss. The 5-foot-9, 210-pound senior ranks second in Class 4A with nine sacks.