By SCOTT JACKSON
Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — No, there is no Iowa high school football version of "College Gameday." No traveling pregame show that sets up shop at high schools around the state each Friday night previewing the biggest game each and every Friday night.
But if there was, there’s no doubt that Wilton High School would the easy choice for that traveling roadshow this evening.
Perhaps the toughest district in the state will provide the seventh full week of the prep football season with the best game in Iowa tonight when unbeaten teams collide with history and a potential district title on the line. Top-ranked Iowa City Regina (6-0, 3-0) takes on fourth-ranked Wilton (6-0, 4-0) with the Regals just eight wins from making state history by matching Waterloo West’s record for 56 consecutive wins.
In a district (1A, District 6) that has already provided so many tough challenges for some many talented teams, tonight’s game may be the toughest and most challenging of them all.
“It’s one of those games where you have to weather Regina’s storm early,” Wilton head coach Lance Pedersen said. “We just want to give ourselves a chance in the fourth quarter. If we do that, I think we have an excellent chance to win.”
It’s hard to know who to favor in this battle of teams that could easily shine on the grand stage of the UNI-Dome next month. To get there, both teams will likely have to go through each other to get there.
“The Regina game was definitely on our minds (during the Cardinal game),” Wilton senior running back Koy Snider said. “When we’re on, the sky is limit for us. I look forward to the challenge.”
And if anyone can tell just how close these two teams are at the top of the district, it’s Cardinal head coach Adam Hadenfeldt. In the past two weeks, the Comets have fallen 51-0 at Regina and 52-0 at home to Wilton.
After last Friday’s loss to the Beavers, even Hadenfeldt’s not quite sure who will come out on top in the battle to be the top team in 1A, District 6.
“You know how good Regina is going in, but Wilton’s right there with them,” Hadenfeldt said. “In some ways Wilton might even be better suited to beat Regina. They have a dual threat with the running game and the passing of (quarterback Tyler) Hetzler. You just have to pick your poison in a lot of ways.”
After two of the toughest weeks any team in the state has had to go through, the Comets will look to bounce back and hopefully show that the Regals and Beavers made Cardinal a better team in the wake of facing those two juggernauts. Cardinal (1-5, 0-3) heads to Wapello (2-4, 0-3) trying to snap a four-game losing streak and finish the season in strong fashion.
“We have a bunch of competitors and we have three weeks left in our season. It’s up to our guys to decide how they want to end things this year,” Hadenfeldt said. “This is the opportunity for our guys to show that pride and finish the season out strongly. We’ve been right there for the most part all year and our guys are still working hard looking for the answers going into the last three weeks.”
Of course, in 1A, District 6 the drama isn’t limited to the top of the standings. As last Friday night proved, drama can be found all around this district on any given night.
A matchup of two area teams will be dripping with drama as postseason hopes are on the line tonight in Sigourney. The S-K Savage Cobras face almost "must-win" circumstances when they play host to Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont as both teams are coming off games that were not decided until the final plays of the night.
S-K nearly went to 2-0 with sophomore Blaine Gretter starting at quarterback last Friday at West Branch. Gretter, who prior to last Friday against Pella Christian had been best known for running in a bobbled snap on a field goal try for the game-winning touchdown at Pekin last month, had another efficient night guided head coach Jared Jensen’s offense to a second-straight 40-point night.
While Gretter completed six of nine passes for 72 yards and touchdown while rushing the ball eight times for 41 yards and another score, it was Nate Sieren that put the most points on the board. Three rushing scores highlighted Sieren’s busy night that included 25 rushes for 89 yards as the Savage Corbas rallied late to tie West Branch at 34-34 before having a chance to walk off with a win in overtime.
Unfortunately, two critical extra points did not go through for S-K in overtime, allowing West Branch to escape after missing an extra point in the first overtime. The second extra point try in overtime allowed the Bears to put S-K in very tough spot following a 47-46 double-OT victory.
EBF looked for all the world like they would be joining on the overtime fun last Friday. Coming off the back-to-back stretch of Regina and Wilton, the Rockets returned to Ike Ryan Field and, like the Savage Cobras and Bears, were tied in the final seconds at 34-34 with Wapello.
Facing fourth down at midfield, EBF head coach Eric Kellar was preparing for overtime with seconds to go in regulation. Lewie Winkleman’s late punt flew deep into Wapello territory and hit the Indians’ return man and ricocheted into end zone for Jeren Glosser to recover for the winning score as the Rockets used its district-leading 17th created turnover to earn an important fourth win of the season.
“It was pretty exciting. The crowd went wild. The guys dumped the Gatorade bucket on me,” Kellar said after EBF (4-2, 2-2) moved into a third-place tie with West Branch, half-a-game ahead of S-K (4-2, 1-2) heading into tonight’s pivotal game with the Savage Cobras. “I told the guys after the game that we still hold our playoff future in our hands. We can still win out and make it, but so can Sigourney-Keota. It’s going to be a big game.”
Top-ten battles are not only limited to the Regina-Wilton clash in 1A, District 6. One area team will be involved in another as the eighth-ranked Pekin Panthers hit the road to kick off a three-team, three-week battle for the Class A, District 6 crown.
No. 8 Pekin (5-1, 4-0) will face off with No. 6 Montezuma (6-0, 4-0) tonight, bringing Panther head coach Joe Donovan back to the field where he once stood on the other sideline in similarly big games against Pekin as Braves head coach. The Panthers face its biggest game in Montezuma since the Panthers last postseason win, 37-28, over Donovan’s Monte squad in 2002.
Pekin and Montezuma enter the seventh week of the prep football season tied atop the district with second-ranked BGM. Next Friday, the Braves will take on the Bears while Pekin plays winless Southeast Warren before the Panthers host BGM on the final regular-season Friday night of the year in two weeks.
Class 3A’s two area districts will feature Oskaloosa (4-2, 3-0), winner of four straight games, returning to District 8 play at Winterset (3-3, 2-2) as the Indians enter the night tied for first place with third-ranked Pella. Chariton (2-4, 1-3) will try to get back into the district playoff race tonight at winless Knoxville (0-6, 0-3) while, in District 7, Fairfield (2-4, 1-3) and freshman quarterback Cameron Baumann will try to repeat last year’s late rally to the postseason at Fort Madison (2-4, 1-2) in another "must-win" for Mike Schenck’s squad.
In other area games of note, fourth-ranked Albia (6-0, 4-0) will take on CMB (3-3, 1-2) tonight one week after an impressive 49-6 win at PCM left the Blue Demons alone atop Class 2A, District 6. Davis County (3-3, 2-1) will look to move right behind Albia with the final road trip of the season for the Mustangs at Bondurant-Farrar (4-2, 3-1) with the winner holding control of second place in the district and an opening-round home playoff game.
Meanwhile in Keosauqua, Van Buren will look to regain some magic after a 22-8 setback on the road at Highland last Friday. The Warriors (3-3, 2-2) head to Lone Tree (4-2, 3-1) with a win moving Mike Hurley’s squad back into contention to host a playoff game while a loss could take the Warriors out of control of a playoff berth all together. Also in Class A, North Mahaska (2-5, 1-3) will host Lynnville-Sully (2-5, 2-2) in a game for control of a District 6 postseason berth.
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