If Tom Wilson felt his team had a target on their back last season, he ain’t seen nothing yet.
When you’re the defending 4A football champion, everyone wants a piece of you. Including the team that you beat twice last season, which is also your biggest rival.
Last season the West Des Moines Dowling Catholic Maroons took out the West Des Moines Valley Tigers not once, but two times. The first meeting was in Week 0 while the second battle was in a playoff game in which Dowling trailed at halftime and won in dramatic fashion in overtime. It brought out the Wahoo Marcoulier.
Friday will mark the 62nd time these two powerhouses in Iowa High School Football have clashed on the gridiron. The Iowa Sports Connection ranks Dowling Catholic #1 in 4A with Valley at #5. So, another great match-up on paper. The Maroons have won 14 straight games, tied for second best in the state, and 21 straight regular season games. Also, since 2000, 7 of the 11 4A state championships have been won by Dowling (3) or Valley (4).
New season, new team. Gone are strong players QB Connor Bravard, RB Dalton Parrott, Flanker Eric Lee and some great lineman. Not to mention good defenders in Jason MacMurray, Ben Boesen, etc.
Here now, a guy named Amarah Darboh who’s on nearly every coach’s radar who plays in front of 60,000 fans or more each Saturday. His acrobatic catches are highlight worthy. Darboh is one of three returning offensive starters. T.J. Palme is back on the offensive line and so is Evan Barkley.
The defense has even fewer returning players. Jacob Stacy moves from corner to safety and linebacker Matthew Formanek.
The Maroons will send out new quarterback Dan Hartlieb to lead the team. The son of former Iowa Hawkeye signal caller, Chuck Hartlieb, will get his first varsity start and his first round of playing time since tearing his knee last season. Coach Wilson says his arm is not a question. But his size and speed may be unknowns at this point.
Many guys are players you’ve not heard of like center Mark Kenkel who dropped 40 pounds this off-season to go along with his 6-1, 270 pound frame, or RT Jimmy Barsetti and SE Brandon Ogden. Those three will see significant time this season and look to carry the “next man in” mantra. Ben Goaley will be the featured back and is described a tough, angry runner.
The offensive line is bigger than in years past. T.J. Palme will play both sides of the ball. Others, like NG Alex Kramer will have a baptism by fire Friday night at Drake Stadium.
The linebacking corps of Matt Merfeld, Nick Navin, Michael Palme and Jon Wisnieski looks to be solid. Nick, is the younger brother of Spencer Navin, now playing baseball at Vanderbilt University. Navin will also start at FB, but will Reed Flood will see action later in the season at that position as well.
A player to keep an eye on is junior Bandit Linebacker Jon Wisnieski. The 6-4/210 pounder is tough, according to Coach Wilson. He’s the same height as standout Ben Boesen from last year’s state championship squad, but already carries more muscle on his body. Look for “Wiz” to be all over the field. He’ll also line up at TE, just like Boesen, and could be the key to offense as teams key on Darboh.
Another option for Hartlieb will be flanker Matthew Haack. The 6-1, 180 pound junior is listed behind Amarah on the depth chart, but will see plenty of time on offense. Haack will also play RCB.
The West Des Moines Valley Tigers are used to playing in the post-season and playing well into November. Coach Gary Swenson enters his 37th season as a head coach (280-89 career record). The Tigers bowed out at 7-4 losing only to playoff teams of Dowling, Fort Dodge and Ames.
Coach Swenson told KXNO radio Thursday afternoon he likes to have seniors on his squad on the field. This year, he’ll have 10 returning starters beginning at QB with Jeff Pullen. Also OT Trevor Hanson, OG Austin Stephens, WR Brody Baumann, FB/LB Brandon Ellingson, TB Trey Lewis. The defense brings back DL Sam Raridon, LB Spencer Hellman, DB Nolan Lodden and DB Jake Nitz.
Pullen split time behind center last season to finish with 570 yards passing, but was effective when he would tuck it and run. Coach Wilson predicts Pullen to be more of a run first QB this season.
Trey Lewis will be the featured back of the offense. Ellingson should be a nice, big target for Pullen to throw to.
Like Dowling, Valley is replacing a top runner in Martin Looney who rushed for more than 1,500 yards last season.
We go on the air at 6p this year on the radio on AM 1150 KWKY. You can listen online at KWKY.com and for the first of five times this season, watch the game on-line. The production will feature our radio audio and multiple cameras. You can watch at http://www.dowlingwebcasting.com or by clicking here.
We will again be operating the KWKYSports twitter feed. Romelle will be busy tweeting out scoring and game updates. We also want to hear from you, so send us your question for our ask the announcer segment of the pregame show.
The varsity game will begin around 7:30 PM which follows the sophomore contest at Drake Stadium.
Join us Friday night.