Opening Round Football Capsules: Taking a Closer Look at the Playoff Openers for Area Teams

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Photo by Jeff Yoder

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

Cedar Rapids Kennedy (6-3) at 4A No. 6 West High (8-1)

Where: Trojan Field, 7 p.m.

Last season: West High 34, Cedar Rapids Kennedy 20

Last week: West High defeated City High 54-13. Cedar Rapids Kennedy won at Burlington 55-20

Cedar Rapids Kennedy player to watch: Junior linebacker Cade Parker (5-11,215) leads Class 4A with 104 tackles a whopping 80 of which are solo stops, another 4A best.

West High player to watch: Senior receiver Jalen Gaudet (6-2, 225) ranks second in 4A with 873 receiving yards and leads the state averaging 29.1 yards per catch.

Key stat: The three losses for Cedar Rapids Kennedy came to teams with a combined record of 24-3 while the six wins for the Cougars came against opponents that combined to win 16 games.

About the Cougars: Cedar Rapids Kennedy snaps a two-year playoff drought with its first postseason appearance since a runner-up finish in 2015.

It has been a stark contrast for the Cougars between wins and losses. Kennedy allowed 37.8 points per game and was outscored by an average of better than 28 points in three losses to top 10 teams. Meanwhile, Kennedy allowed just 9.2 points per game in its six wins, all against teams with four or fewer wins.

The Kennedy offense is centered around running back Cairron Hendred (5-9, 190) who is one of only nine 1,000-yard rushers in Class 4A.

Hendred ranks fifth in 4A with 1,095 yards this season while averaging 7.3 yards per carry and has rushed for 100 yards in each of the last three games.

Senior Charlie Haefner (6-5, 180) and sophomore Max White (5-9, 160) have shared quarterbacking duties this season with Haefner throwing for 417 yards and White rushing for 651 yards and seven touchdowns.

About the Trojans: West High returns to the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season seeking a third consecutive trip to the 4A title game.

The Trojans bring a seven-game winning streak into the postseason and are averaging 41 points per game during that stretch.

Sophomore quarterback Marcus Morgan (6-2, 165) is unbeaten as a starter and has passed for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns since taking over behind center in week three.

Gaudet has been the top target for Morgan but senior Justin Thomas has emerged as a strong pass catching option and is tied with Gaudet for the team lead with 30 receptions for 490 yards and two touchdowns. Tate Crane has 20 grabs for 243 yards for West High.

While the West High offense has continued to improve Trojan defense has been dominant from the start of the season.

West High is holding opponents to 210 yards and 10.7 points per game this season and hasn’t allowed more than 304 yards or 17 points in a game. 

3A No. 8 Western Dubuque (7-2) at 3A No. 3 Solon (9-0)

Where: Spartan Stadium, 7 p.m.

Last season: Did not play.

Last week: Solon defeated Fairfield 57-14. Western Dubuque won at Maquoketa 58-8

Solon player to watch: Junior quarterback Cam Miller (6-1, 195) has passed for 1,393 yards and ranks second in Class 3A with 25 touchdown passes.

Western Dubuque player to watch: A tremendous baseball player, junior quarterback Calvin Harris (6-0, 190) is an impressive quarterback as well passing for 1,715 yards and 21 touchdowns while completing a state-best 70 percent of his passes.

Key stat: Solon has won 16 consecutive opening round playoff games and has never lost its postseason opener under head coach Kevin Miller.

About the Bobcats: Following a two-year stint in Class 4A that featured a playoff appearance in 2016 Western Dubuque is ready to make some noise in its return to the 3A postseason.

Both losses for the Bobcats came to top-four teams, a one-point loss to fourth-ranked and fellow former 4A opponent North Scott and a 35-0 setback at top-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier.

Western Dubuque also owns wins over a pair of playoff teams defeated 3A qualifier Decorah 19-3 and downing 2A Williamsburg 53-13.

The Bobcats are explosive on offense ranking third in 3A with 397 yards per game and sixth in scoring at 37.8 points per game.

Harris directs a balanced offensive attack that includes a 700-yard rusher in Ben Bryant (5-9,170) and a 700-yard receiver in Drake George (5-10, 170).

Bryant has rushed for 749 yards and seven touchdowns while George has a team-high 54 receptions for 795 yards and 10 touchdowns.

About the Spartans: Solon is making its 14th consecutive playoff appearance after reaching the Class 3A semifinals for the first time since 2013 last season.

One of only three unbeaten teams in the 3A field the Spartans have been dominant for much of the season. Solon ranks third in 3A in scoring at 41 points per game while holding opponents to 11 points per contest.

The Spartans have been one of the best teams in the state at forcing turnovers, coming up with 27 takeaways during the regular season.

Solon has been efficient on offense behind Miller and the senior running back combination of Adam Bock and Hunter Kula.

Bock has rushed for a team-high 622 yards and 10 touchdowns while Kula has added 576 yards and five scores.

Junior AJ Coons in the top receiver for Solon with 45 catches for 719 yards and 12 touchdowns.

3A No. 10 Clear Creek Amana (8-1) at Decorah (7-2)

Where: Decorah, 7 p.m.

Last season: Did not play.

Last week: Clear Creek Amana defeated Central DeWitt 53-26. Decorah defeated Independence 45-8

Decorah player to watch: Senior running back Drake Shelton (5-7, 185) has rushed for a team-high 1,089 yards and 11 touchdowns and averages 8.8 yards per carry.

Clear Creek Amana player to watch: Senior quarterback Andrew Rohret (5-10, 170) leads the Clippers with 1,024 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns and has passed for 826 yards and 11 more scores.

Key stat: Decorah ranks 11th in Class 3A in rushing averaging 232 yards per game which accounts for 77 percent of the Vikings total offense while Clear Creek Amana has excelled at stopping the run holding teams to 122 yards per game on the ground.

About the Viking: Decorah returns to the 3A playoffs after falling to Solon 34-2 in the opening round last season.

The Vikings are a perfect 4-0 at home this season and are 7-1 in home games dating back to last season.

Back-to-back road losses to top-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier (45-3) and No. 8 Western Dubuque (19-3) dropped Decorah to 1-2 on the season but the Vikings responded by winning six straight games to close the regular season.

Decorah is averaging 37 points per game during its six-game winning streak and has scored 45 points or more in three of its last four games.

The Viking offense revolves around Shelton while senior quarterback Jace Johnson (5-7, 165) has completed 56 percent of his passes while throwing for 619 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception.

About the Clippers: Clear Creek Amana returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2015 in search of its first postseason victory since 2010.

The Clippers have been among the best turnarounds in the state this season going from 3-6 to 8-1 in year two under head coach Gabe Bakker.

Clear Creek Amana has relied on a strong running game and a stout defense during its breakthrough season.

Led by 1,000-yard rusher Rohret, Clear Creek Amana averages 212 rushing yards per game and has rushed for 210 yards or more in seven of nine games.

Sophomore running back Alex Figueroa (5-9, 165) has rushed for 557 yards and four touchdowns alongside Rohret in the CCA backfield.

The defense has been the mainstay for the Clippers. Clear Creek Amana has held opponents to seven or fewer points six times and is allowing 262 yards and 11.9 points per game.

1A No. 6 West Branch (8-1) at Osage (7-2)

Where: Osage, 7 p.m.

Last season: Did not play.

Last week: West Branch defeated Dyersville Beckman 48-24. Osage defeated Aplington-Parkersburg 34-7

Osage player to watch: Senior quarterback Brett Bobinet (6-3, 176) ranks fourth in the state with 2,618 passing yards and ranks fifth in Iowa with 29 touchdown passes.

West Branch player to watch: Junior running back Tanner Lukavsky (6-2, 210) has rushed for 1,029 yards and 14 touchdowns and caught 24 passes for 295 yards and two more scores.

Key stat: Only six players in Class 1A had more than 800 yards receiving and two of them play for Osage. Juniors Gage Belz (6-2, 175) and Thor Maakestad (6-1, 181) each cracked the 800-yard mark. Belz has 42 receptions for 922 yards while Maakestad had 36 catches for 830 yards and 12 touchdowns.

About the Green Devils: An explosive offense that leads Class 1A in total yards per game has Osage back in the postseason for the first time since 2012 and chasing its first playoff win since 2009.

Led by Class 1A’s leading passer in Bobinet the Green Devils have put up huge offensive numbers all season.

Osage leads Class 1A with 461 yards per game, rank fourth with 38.4 points per contest and rank fourth averaging 7.5 yards per play.

The Green Devils have won six straight following a 1-2 start, a stretch that includes a 22-14 win at 1A qualifier Sumner-Fredericksburg.

After allowing 44.6 points per game during its 1-2 start to the season Osage has held opponents to 16.2 points per game during its current winning streak and has held three opponents to 14 or fewer points during that stretch.

About the Bears: West Branch is gearing up for a deep postseason push in its 11th consecutive playoff appearance following opening round losses the past two seasons.

The Bears bring a four-game winning streak into the postseason after a 28-20 loss to second-ranked Bellevue in its district opener.

West Branch has shown the ability to move the ball as well as any team in Class 1A this season averaging 37.6 points and 354 yards per game.

Senior quarterback Beau Cornwell (6-2, 185) ranks sixth in 1A with 1,710 passing yards while completing a 1A-best 68 percent of his passes.

While the offense has been impressive it has been the Bear defense that has stood out this season.
West Branch is holding opponents to 12.4 points and 215 total yards per game and has held six opponents under 240 total yards.