By SCOTT JACKSON
Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — It started out in the midst of a heat wave that gripped the entire state.
About the only hot part about tonight’s final full Friday night of prep football action will be the battle for district titles and playoff berths.
From triple-digit temperatures over two months ago to frosty 40-degree conditions tonight, a lot can change from the opening week to the final week a of high school football year. For a lot of area teams, that’s something they’ve already figured out.
Now, with one final night of games left to play out, some teams know exactly what fate awaits them in the upcoming week. Some teams have seen postseason hopes fade away.
For most, however, there is still plenty left to be decided tonight. From district titles to determining home field for Wednesday’s opening round. From determining who will play who on Wednesday to determining who will still be playing football on Wednesday, there’s a lot left to do in putting the playoff picture together around the area.
Here, however, are the pieces to the 2013 area football postseason puzzle heading into tonight.
Class 4A, Division 3
Who’s in: Dowling Catholic, Ankeny Centennial.
Who’s on the bubble: Ottumwa, Mason City, Des Moines Hoover.
Who need help: Marshalltown.
Andy Heintz has more on the precise stakes of the Bulldogs’ regular season finale with Des Moines Hoover. To sum it up, however, tonight’s game in Des Moines is basically a playoff to get into the playoffs as only the winner of tonight’s OHS-Hoover game will have a chance to play on Wednesday night in the opening round of 4A’s postseason.
Class 3A, District 7
Who’s in: Centerville, Washington, Williamsburg.
Who’s on the bubble: Fairfield.
Who needs help: Keokuk.
Although, frankly, Fairfield and Keokuk both could be in the category of ‘on the bubble’ or ‘needing help.’ The Trojans have surged from the cellar back into control of a playoff spot in this district thanks to the freshman quarterback Cameron Baumann, who has led Fairfield to three consecutive wins including last Friday’s thrilling 46-31 comeback victory.
That win was the district finale for Fairfield (4-4, 3-3). The Trojans will be wrapping up the regular season tonight at Chariton, who eliminated from playoff contention in District 8 last week with a loss to Carlisle.
Fairfield can do nothing but hope both Keokuk and Centerville each pick up wins tonight. If either the Big Reds or Chiefs fall, the Trojans’ comeback from an 0-3 district start to a playoff berth is complete. If both teams do win, however, Keokuk earns the final playoff berth in the district thanks to a 10-6 head-to-head win over Fairfield just over a month ago.
Centerville (4-4, 3-2), who is already bound for the postseason, would have to pull an upset against seventh-ranked Washington, who has already wrapped up the District 7 title. Should both Centerville and Keokuk lose tonight, with the Chiefs needing help along with beating Fort Madison to qualify for the playoffs, Fairfield jumps all the way up to third spot in the district. That result is important for the following reason.
Class 3A, District 8
Who’s in: Oskaloosa, Pella.
Who’s on the bubble: Carlisle, Norwalk.
Who needs help: Winterset.
All the drama in this district resides outside of the area as Carlisle (4-4, 3-2) and Norwalk (4-4, 2-3) meet tonight with Winterset (3-5, 2-3) needing a Norwalk win to shake things up drastically. At 2-4 in the district, Chariton (3-5 overall) has no chance of making it to the playoffs.
Oskaloosa, on the other hand, knows they will be at home on Wednesday night as the second seed in this district. The Indians lost the District 8 title last Friday to third-ranked Pella, 35-7, and like the Little Dutch are waiting to see how it all plays out in the race for District 7’s playoff spots.
No matter what, Osky will be in for an all-area postseason matchup next Wednesday at the Lacey Sports Complex. The Indians (5-3, 4-1) will either host Fairfield or Centerville after wrapping up the regular season at Knoxville tonight.
Class 2A, District 6
Who’s in: Albia, Bondurant-Farrar, PCM.
Who’s on the bubble: Davis County.
Who needs help: CMB.
It’s deja-vu for the Davis County Mustangs. It was one year ago that the Bloomfield boys made a trip to Baxter to face CMB in the regular season finale needing either a win, or a close loss, to make it to the postseason.
CMB did not allow Davis County (4-4, 3-2) in the easy way, by allowing the Mustangs to earn a postseason-clinching victory. The Raiders (4-4, 2-3) picked up the win on a last-second touchdown to go up 41-35, but a blocked extra point on the final play of the night made the difference as Davis County, by that single missed point, qualified over CMB after finishing in a three-way tie with PCM.
This year, once again Davis County needs simply to beat CMB to make the postseason. Last Friday’s 26-21 win over PCM (4-4, 3-2) gives the Mustangs a chance to avoid a return to fifth-ranked Mediapolis next Wednesday to open the playoffs by earning a senior night win.
CMB, however, has to win and either get a PCM victory over Bondurant-Farrar or win by 10 or more points to edge past the Mustangs into the postseason. PCM, meanwhile, is too far ahead of CMB on points to be any worse than fourth should CMB knock off Davis County again. Mustang fans are hopeful that, this year, their team can lock up a playoff berth well before the final play of the regular season.
Fourth-ranked Albia, meanwhile, is sailing into the postseason with an unbeaten run to a district crown and potentially nothing but home games remaining until a trip to the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls for the state semifinals. That being the case, what could be the final road game of the season should be nothing more than a playoff warm-up for both the Blue Demons (8-0, 6-0) and their opponent.
Class 1A, District 6
Who’s in: Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, Iowa City Regina, Wilton.
Who’s on the bubble: West Branch.
Who needs help: Sigourney-Keota.
West Branch was 40 seconds away last Friday from, as it turned out, locking in the four teams from Class 1A, District 6 for the playoffs. Up 14-12 in the final minute at Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, a Bears win would have secured their own trip to the 1A postseason as well as a ticket for the opposing Rockets.
Then, Cory Archer hauled in a pass from Dillon Pigsley and ran in for his third touchdown of the fourth quarter. That score lifted EBF to an 18-14 come-from-behind victory and made sure only one team was celebrating a playoff berth at Ike Ryan Field.
For EBF (6-2, 4-2) all the dramatic fun of the last three ‘must-win’ Friday nights is over for at least one night. Like Albia, who knows they will host Louisa-Muscatine to open the 2A playoffs, EBF knows who and where they are going to open the 1A postseason as the Blue Demons and Rockets meet in an anti-climactic non-district finale. Next Wednesday, EBF will hit the road for a four-hour trek northeast to face Clayton Ridge in Guttenburg.
The comeback win by the Rockets allowed Sigourney-Keota (5-3, 2-3) to stay alive for one more week in the playoff race. The Savage Cobras beat Cardinal, 42-6, to tie West Branch (5-3, 2-3) for the fourth and final playoff berth.
Due to a painful 47-46 double-overtime defeat three weeks ago at the hands of the Bears, S-K’s playoff hopes come down to a not-so-simple two-part equation. One part involves Cardinal (1-8, 0-5) helping the same S-K squad that beat them last Friday tonight when the Comets wrap their season up at West Branch.
The other part of the equation: end the 50-game winning streak of three-time reigning state champion Iowa City Regina tonight at home.
Class A, District 5
Who’s in: Lisbon, Lone Tree.
Who’s on the bubble: WACO, Highland.
Who needs help: Van Buren.
From going without a team just a few years ago to a team that’s going to the playoffs. That is the destiny Van Buren (4-4, 3-3) hopes to fulfill tonight if they can pull off a winning regular season winning at Danville (2-6, 1-5) tonight.
Van Buren enters tonight just on the outside of the postseason equation, tied for the final playoff spot with Highland. The Huskies 22-8 win over the Warriors three weeks ago gives Highland the edge there.
However, all Van Buren has to do is win over Danville to turn tonight’s game in Wayland between Highland and WACO into a ‘win or go home’ contest. WACO’s win gives Van Buren outright fourth with its victory, but a Highland win moves the Huskies to third while leaving WACO at the mercy of being knocked out thanks to a 26-8 loss to Van Buren last month.
Class A, District 6
Who’s in: Pekin, BGM, Montezuma and Lynnville-Sully.
Who’s on the bubble: None.
Who needs help: None.
Yep. Pretty simple. Four teams and two games to decide who finishes where in Class A, District 6.
To make it even simpler, all four playoff teams know in District 6 whether or not already if they will be home or away for Wednesday’s opening night of the playoffs. Second-ranked BGM (8-0, 6-0) and sixth-ranked Pekin (7-1, 6-0) will be hosting District 5 teams Wednesday, meaning tonight’s game is a pure and simple district championship game. It could be the first of two matchups between the two teams in the span of a few weeks as the two may clash two weeks from tonight with, potentially, a trip to the UNI-Dome on the line.
Eight Man, District 5
Who’s In: Twin Cedars, HLV, Wayne.
Who’s on the bubble: Melcher-Dallas, Meskwaki Settlement.
Who needs help: None.
One game in this district will decide the final berth in the playoffs when Meskwaki Settlement (4-4, 3-3) heads to Melcher-Dallas (5-3, 3-3) with a trip to Adair-Casey on the line. HLV (7-2, 6-0), meanwhile, has all but locked up the district title provided they take care of business at Wayne (6-2, 5-1) tonight.
Twin Cedars, and record-setting quarterback Brent Parker, have the inside track to hosting Wednesday’s playoff opener. The Sabers (8-1, 5-1) need to win at Tri-County (3-6, 2-4) to seal a matchup at home. A Wayne upset along with a Sabers win would force a three-way district tie with HLV. The Falcons would have to win convincingly over the Victor squad to make things incredibly complicated in separating the three squads.
To follow Scott Jackson's Twitter feed, go to @stjack423