OTTUMWA - Jared Jensen might not have been around for the glory days of championship seasons with the Sigourney-Keota football program.
He does, however, have plenty of former Cobras on his current coaching staff that remember what it was like when S-K ruled as one of the top teams in the state.
"Coach (Klynt) Weber was on a championship team here at S-K. So was Coach (Aaron) Sellers," Jensen said. "They've both kind of commented that it feels a lot like it did back then."
S-K needs just one more win to clinch the first unbeaten regular season since 2010, the last year the Cobras made it to the state football quarterfinals before falling at home to Iowa City Regina. It can be argued that Cobra Field has not seen a game with as much at stake since that contest as the ninth-ranked, 8-0 Cobras host Mediapolis in a game that will decide the Class 1A, District 5 title.
Should S-K win, it would clinch a perfect regular season with a district title and likely a chance to host an opening round playoff game next Friday night. Should S-K lose, an 8-1 overall record might not be enough for the Cobras to earn a playoff berth due to having just the 14th-best RPI ranking heading into this week, putting the Cobras squarely on the wild card playoff bubble.
"We have that group of kids that have that mentality that we know how good we can be," Jensen said. "They're willing to work for everything they can get. No one expects anything to be given to them. Those are the type of teams that are successful in the long run. If you want to grind it out, bite down and focus on what we're trying to accomplish, that's what these kids are willing to do. That's all we can ask for as a coaching staff."
If playoff bids were determined by statewide rankings and overall records, S-K would be be in good position to make the playoffs win or lose this Friday. The 8-0 start for the Cobras has them ranked ninth in the Iowa Associated Press, 10th in the Radio Iowa poll, are one of just seven remaining unbeaten teams in 1A with just six more teams including Mediapolis standing at 7-1.
While S-K has done it's part on the field, winning every game by 20 points or more, the opponents of the Cobras have not helped their cause in the all-important RPI rankings used to determine the remaining playoff qualifiers after bids are given to the district champions. S-K's current position ranked 14th in RPI at 0.6134 has been hindered mostly due to an overall 22-51 record (.3014) of the eight opponents the Cobras have faced this year.
Currently, S-K has the lowest RPI of the remaining 8-0 teams in Class 1A. Five 7-1 teams are ranked ahead of the Cobras, as are three teams with 6-2 records. Mediapolis, currently ranked 16th in RPI, could still finish below S-K in RPI even with a win but would shallow up the automatic district championship bid in 1A, District 5 and shrink the at-large playoff bubble.
Bottom line, the Cobras may very well need to win their district in order to return to the postseason. With Mediapolis ranked 16th in RPI, the two teams that have combined to win 15 of 16 games this season may very be battling for one playoff spot Friday night.
"As long we keep our heads on straight and everyone does their job, we can run the table this season," S-K senior J.D. Stout said. "It's what we're supposed to do. We've come ready to play every week for every game this season."
AROUND THE AREA:
While S-K battles to extend its season, many area teams will simply be playing for pride and a season-closing win on Friday. For the third time in four years, Cardinal (4-4, 0-4) has a chance to clinch a winning season on the final Friday night on the gridiron as the Comets look to upset sixth-ranked, playoff-bound BGM (7-1, 3-1) at home.
The Comets came within a touchdown of a comeback road win at Highland last Friday, falling short of the Huskies 27-20. Landon Becker, Griffin Greiner and Jarrett Rea all scored touchdowns as Cardinal cut a 20-point deficit down to seven, but could not get the ball back from the Huskies in the final minutes.
Elsewhere in Class A, District 6, the Pekin Panthers (2-6, 1-3) wrap up a rare losing season at Durant (4-4, 2-2). Kennan Winn rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns last week, but 217 yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries by Trevin Straight lifted Belle Plaine to a playoff-clinching 32-20 win over the Panthers last week at Tom Stone Field.
Area teams in Class 2A, District 6 wrap up play on Friday with EBF (3-5, 2-2) heading to Williamsburg (5-3, 4-0) with the Raiders having already clinched a second straight district title last Friday. The Rockets will try to pull off an upset and avoid a third straight loss after being stunned by Central Lee, 28-21, at Ike Ryan Field last week.
The Hawks (1-7, 1-3) used 369 rushing yards, including 210 on 34 carries with three touchdowns by Dalton Westercamp, to knock off EBF. Earning a second straight win will have to come by knocking off Davis County in Bloomfield, where the Mustangs return home two weeks after an emotional 59-49 Homecoming win over Albia looking to bounce back from a 63-6 loss at Mid-Prairie last week.
Speaking of the Golden Hawks (5-3, 3-1), Albia (1-7, 1-3) will play host to Mid-Prairie with a ground game that included 10 different players earning at least one of the 343 rushing yards in last week's win over Davis County. Blue Demon quarterback Blake Chance surpassed 2,000 passing yards in last week's loss to Williamsburg, with at least 11 more passing yards, cane help teammate Blake Stewart go over 1,000 yards receiving for the season on Friday.
The last two teams to wrap up the season on Friday are teams with first-year coaches. Fairfield (0-8, 0-4), under Nate Weaton, will need to upset 3A, District 6 champion Solon (8-0, 4-0) on the road to avoid a winless season while Van Buren (1-7, 1-3) and head coach Brian Johnson wrap up 2019 hosting defending 1A, District 5 champion Wilton (2-6, 1-3).