So then, what have we learned?
About half (26 of 53) of the high school football teams in The World-Herald’s western Iowa coverage area open district play on Friday. In some instances, non-district competition revealed plenty. In others, mystery still reigns.
Before we take a closer look at those who begin district play this week, let’s briefly acknowledge this week’s World-Herald western Iowa ratings, which showed little movement. Sioux City Heelan (Class 4-A/3-A), Carroll Kuemper (2-A/1-A/A) and Exira-EHK (Eight-Man) remain No. 1 in their divisions.
There were only two slight changes this week. West Harrison moved up one spot to No. 2 in the Eight-Man ratings, while Glidden-Ralston was demoted one position to third after a seven-point win over Boyer Valley. West Harrison will travel to Exira-EHK on Friday for a 1-versus-2 District 7 clash. In 2-A/1-A/A, unbeaten East Mills rises one spot to ninth while dropping Clarinda one rung to 10th.
The five western Iowa teams in 4-A will wait until Week 5 to start divisional play, while 15 of the 17 Eight-Man teams in our coverage area already have played at least one district game.
On then to the districts who begin positioning for the postseason this week:
In Class 3-A, Harlan still must be considered the District 1 favorite until someone proves otherwise. The Cyclones have a strong passing game, and how far they go might hinge on how well they can run the ball against top-flight opponents.
Council Bluffs Lewis Central, which has dropped a pair of heartbreakers to city rivals Abraham Lincoln and St. Albert, and Creston/Orient-Macksburg might be the top threats to the Cyclones. Like Harlan, Lewis Central is challenged with putting together a potent enough running game to keep itself from being one-dimensional against the top opponents.
If you’re looking for a power district, look no further than District 2 of 3-A. While Heelan still would have to be the favorite, Spencer has impressive victories over Emmetsburg and Sheldon to its credit, and Carroll appears to have the tools to compete with both teams. Sergeant Bluff-Luton also appears much improved at 2-0.
In Class 2-A, Carroll Kuemper remains the prohibitive favorite in District 8. You might need a magnifying glass to find the Knights’ weaknesses. OA-BCIG, with a head-turning, three-point win over IKM-Manning in its season opener, would appear to be the only team even capable of knocking off Kuemper.
Dropping to Class 1-A, District 2 also looks to be extremely strong. According to Brent Moore’s respected, mathematical-based power rankings referenced often in this space, four of the top 16 teams in 1-A are located in District 2. IKM-Manning is a perennial contender, but non-WI teams Ridge View, Manson-Northwest Webster and Fort Dodge St. Edmond all figure to be tough opponents.
In District 8 of 1-A, St. Albert shares a role similar to Carroll Kuemper. It will be breaking news if the Falcons don’t win another district title. St. Albert enters the season seventh in state history with 47 consecutive district victories, dating back to 2006.
If you’re looking for the most balanced district among those we’re analyzing, it’s probably District 8 of Class A. Many coaches (untruthfully) wear out the statement that any team can beat any other team on a given night. Here, it’s actually true. Along with WI No. 5 Lo-Ma, No. 6 A-H-S-T, No. 8 Griswold and No. 9 East Mills, Westwood has started 2-0 and Underwood, Riverside and West Monona all have wins for a group of eight that went 11-5 in non-district play, with many of the wins against larger schools.
Not sure if there’s a Dome team in that aforementioned group, but a couple of clubs are going to come out battle tested when the playoffs begin.
Are these rough projections set in stone? Of course not. Certainly a team or two will surprise and exceed expectations. A few will fall short of their potential. But I think everyone would agree it’s time to sink our collective teeth into the meat of the 2013 schedule.