Playoff fever is officially in the air for 192 football programs in six different classes across the state.
A total of 12 Messengerland teams will be among those hitting the gridiron tonight in the postseason opening round.
Action from 4A all the way through 8-Man kicks off at 7 p.m.
Nine of the 12 area schools also punched playoff tickets last fall, while Laurens-Marathon (8-Man), Manson Northwest Webster (1A) and Prairie Valley (1A) are all back in the field after missing out in 2010.
Waverly-Shell Rock (7-2)
at No. 4 Webster City (8-1)
After dropping their postseason opener to the Go-Hawks a year ago, the Lynx clearly have payback on their minds.
Behind 330 yards rushing, District 3 runner-up Webster City crushed Hampton-Dumont by a 57-8 count Friday. Keagan Parks, a 205-pound senior, highlighted the smashmouth Lynx offensive charge with 117 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, while classmate Jonny Davis added 93 yards and two scores of his own. Parks, who ranks second in program history with 3,117 career yards on the ground, is the top rusher in 3A this season with 1,673 yards and has reached paydirt 25 times on 164 attempts. Davis has also accounted for 1,026 yards and found the endzone 16 times. In addition, Davis has completed 37 of 58 passes for 823 yards, including 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. Senior Caleb Crouthamel has hauled in a a team-high 25 catches for 654 yards and 13 scores. The Lynx, whose lone blemish was a tight 28-27 Week 7 setback at No. 1 Clear Lake, are averaging a whopping 49.9 points per game and lead the entire state in total offense (4,428 yards).
Defensively, Webster City surrenders 15.7 points a night and has forced 17 turnovers - 10 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries.
Rebounding from consecutive losses, the Go-Hawks wrapped up their regular season on a positive note with a 15-0 shutout at Charles City. Jake Englin (124 totes, 668 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Walker Erskine (89-465-5) form a lethal 1-2 backfield punch for W-SR. Matt Mummelthei has also gone 53-for-101 through the air for 707 yards with four scores and four picks. Jordan Mills has been his favorite target with 20 grabs for 260 yards. Waverly-Shell Rock's losses came against seventh-ranked reigning state semifinalist West Delaware (28-7) and Decorah (27-13).
Sioux Center (5-4) at No. 10 South Central Calhoun (8-1)
Since suffering a bitter 10-8 setback to Carroll Kuemper in Week 4, the District 2 runner-up Titans have responded with five straight victories. Last Friday, defending state quarterfinalist SCC posted a 25-13 home triumph over East Sac County. Austin Blair, a 170-pound senior, is the focal point in the Titan offensive barrage with 754 yards and eight touchdowns on 120 attempts. Senior Kirby Vogel (72-540-8) and sophomore Kyler Case (60-316-4) are the other key cogs for SCC, which has accumulated 2,279 yards and found the endzone 28 times on the ground.
Titan quarterback Nathan Christensen, a junior, is 31 of 63 passing for 553 yards with nine touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Senior Brett Monahan has pulled down a team-high 12 catches for 282 yards and two scores.
On the defensive side of the ball, Bryan Case's stingy Titans have pitched three shutouts on the year and are yielding only 6.7 points per contest.
The Warriors are motivated to turn the page quickly after falling in a 55-0 rout in their previous outing. Dual-threat signal-caller Lassen Micah paces the Sioux Center rushing assault with 759 yards and seven scores on 189 carries. Micah has also gone 77-for-147 through the air for 1,225 yards, including 11 picks and 13 touchdowns. T.J. Buyert is the go-to receiver for Sioux Center, collecting 37 receptions for 529 yards and seven scores.
Clarion-Goldfield (5-4) at North Fayette (7-2)
Following a 27-20 defeat at New Hampton on Friday, the Cowboys will no doubt have their resiliency tested.
Seniors Dominic Brandt (187-1,177-13) and Wyatt Sann (160-1,047-9) have been the offensive catalysts for C-G, which has notched 2,797 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns. Signal-caller Adam Stevens has also thrown for 315 yards with four scores and three picks. Sann has turned in a team-best eight receptions as well for 155 yards and three touchdowns.
Spearheading the Cowboy defensive unit in tackles are junior Jake Haberman (111) and senior Knute Severson (99).
Winners of three straight games, the District 4 runner-up Hawks are soaring high. Last Friday, reigning state semifinalist North Fayette prevailed over Monticello on the road, 42-26. Workhorse Jake Greco ran 34 times for 255 yards and three scores. Greco is fifth in the whole state in rushing yards (1,867), compiling 24 scores on a state-best 268 attempts. The Hawks, who are making their 15th all-time playoff appearance, suffered their setbacks this season to Oelwein (26-20) in Week 2 and South Winneshiek (20-17) in Week 6. North Fayette is recording 33.8 points and 385.2 yards a night.
Jefferson-JSPC (6-3) at No. 3 Spirit Lake (9-0)
Trying to contain the explosive Indians presents a daunting task for the Rams, who enter the playoffs on a mini two-game slide. In Week 9, Jefferson-JSPC was blanked at OA-BCIG, 27-0. Adam Hoskins, a 175-pound senior, has produced a team-high 710 yards and discovered paydirt seven times on 152 totes, while junior Mitchell Madson has chipped in 239 yards and three touchdowns of his own.
Defense has been the Rams' calling card this season, as they are allowing just 15.1 points a night and have come up with 19 takeaways - 12 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries.
Outside of a 21-10 Week 6 road triumph over Central Lyon, unbeaten District 1 champion Spirit Lake has hardly been challenged. The Indians are prevailing by an average margin of 35.7 points per game and are 11th in the state in total offense (3,828 yards).
Quarterback Paul Brown of Spirit Lake has hit on 70 of 114 passes for 1,144 yards with 14 scores and four picks. Zack Herrig (18 receptions, 367 yards, 4 touchdowns), Bryson McCabe (15-226-2) and Rick Maris (12-266-4) supply Brown with a trio of talented downfield options.
Luke Kabele has also impressed when called upon for the Indians, contributing 733 yards and 10 scores on the ground.
Prairie Valley (5-4) at No. 2 Emmetsburg (9-0)
Aiming to right the ship on the heels of Friday's 20-6 home loss to IKM-Manning, Mike Swieter's upset-minded Warriors - who advanced to the 1A state semifinals in both 2008 and 2009 - will be hard-pressed to play the role of spoiler against the unbeaten District 2 champion E-Hawks.
Juniors Nick Carlson (149-758-11), Mason Gordon (133-724-7) and Matt Streit (74-435-6) headline the Prairie Valley rushing corps, which has accounted for 2,212 yards and found the endzone on 27 occasions. Carlson has connected on 26 of 51 passes as well for 324 yards. Jordan Samuelson, another junior, has reeled in a team-high 13 grabs for 174 yards and five touchdowns.
Perennial power Emmetsburg, which owns a remarkable nine state titles in three different classes, is making its state record 36th playoff trip in school history. The E-Hawks recently applied the finishing touches to a fourth consecutive perfect regular season with a 49-0 whipping of Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn.
Senior Brady Berkland (102-860-12), junior Andrew Wellik (109-764-9) and senior Marcus Akridge (61-528-4) are each capable of taking it the distance on any given carry for defending state quarterfinalist Emmetsburg, who ranks seventh in all of Iowa in rushing yardage (3,120).
The swarming E-Hawk defensive unit has blanked three opponents this season and is giving up only 6.6 points a night.
Eagle Grove (5-4) at No. 5 Aplington-Parkersburg (8-1)
Qualifying for their fifth consecutive playoff appearance, the Eagles are hoping history won't repeat itself, as they were knocked out by the tradition-rich Falcons in their postseason opener last season. Fresh off a pivotal 27-20 road victory over South Hamilton, Eagle Grove appears to have plenty of momentum on its side. Quarterback Brandon Johnson, a 165-pound junior, delivered 228 yards rushing and three scores against the Hawks. For the year, Johnson has churned out 1,106 yards and reached the endzone 17 times on 131 carries. Johnson has also thrown for 663 yards, including eight touchdowns and six interceptions. Junior Chris Monley is the top receiver for the Eagles, pulling down 12 catches for 281 yards and a pair of scores. In its five wins, Eagle Grove generates 35.6 points per contest compared to just 8.8 points in its four losses. This evening's matchup is also a homecoming of sorts for Eagles' second-year head coach Kelly Williamson, who played at A-P under the direction of the late legendary Ed Thomas.
District 3 champion Aplington-Parkersburg has reeled off seven straight triumphs since a Week 2 14-7 home setback to then-No. 1 (2A) West Marshall. On Friday, the Falcons thumped Lake Mills by a 47-8 final.
Jason Grill (122-1,187-19) and Brady Frey (112-805-6) have been consistent performers in the A-P backfield. The Falcons, who won 1A state crowns in 1993 and 2001 and are making their 22nd all-time playoff trip, are producing 36.4 points a night and rank fifth in all of Iowa with 3,132 yards on the ground.
Sioux Central (6-3) at Manson Northwest Webster (6-4)
Back in the playoffs for a third time in four years, Jeff Anliker's Cougars will try to circle the wagons after dropping their last two regular-season games. In Week 9, MNW came out on the short end of a 27-8 decision at unbeaten and sixth-ranked Lawton-Bronson.
Chris Stuhrenberg, a 195-pound senior, has been the most dangerous offensive weapon for the Cougars this year, running 130 times for 968 yards and 11 touchdowns. Classmate Jesse Partlow has chipped in 549 yards and five scores on 80 carries.
Senior quarterback Tucker Herzberg of MNW has also completed 71 of 112 passes for 960 yards with eight endzone strikes and four interceptions. Brody Eischeid, a junior, has been his primary target, notching 28 grabs for 445 yards and five touchdowns. The Cougars are generating 27.9 points and 317.2 yards per contest.
Senior Trevor Schreier (110) and junior Brennan Thompson (83) lead the MNW defense in stops, while Eischeid is tied for seventh in the state with five picks.
Managing a 4-1 mark over their final five games, the Rebels appear to be finding their groove when it matters most. Sioux Central narrowly escaped with a 12-7 triumph at South O'Brien on Friday.
Collin Swanson (203-830-9), Brad Ripke (81-574-6) and Tanner Perrigo (91-322-1) provide the Rebels with a quality backfield trio. Ripke has thrown for 540 yards as well, including six touchdowns and six picks. Nick Wittmaack has hauled in a team-best 23 catches for 328 yards and three scores.
Akron-Westfield (7-2) at Bishop Garrigan (6-3)
Marty Wadle's Golden Bears have become a postseason regular, qualifying for an eighth straight year. District 2 runner-up Garrigan doubled up North Iowa on Friday, 42-21.
Shawn Vaske, a 165-pound junior, has ignited the Golden Bear ground charge this fall, gaining 643 yards and five touchdowns on 110 totes.
Senior Grant Reding (71-424-7) and freshman Reece Wadle (79-317-6) have both been instrumental in all of Garrigan's success as well. Wadle - the son of head coach Marty - has also gone 44-for-90 through the air for 878 yards, including eight scores and five interceptions. Seniors Zach Keith (23-396-1) and Luke Eischen (14-407-6) are the top receivers for Garrigan, which is averaging 22.2 points and 304.9 yards a night.
Staying focused and avoiding a potential letdown will be the task at hand for the Westerners, who stunned previously unbeaten and No. 1 Le Mars Gehlen on the road in their regular season finale, 9-7.
Taylor James has been the driving force in the Akron-Westfield ground attack, netting 1,368 yards and finding paydirt 19 times on 194 attempts.
Signal-caller Chance Klemme of the Westerners is 55 of 98 through the air for 779 yards with six scores and five picks. Chet Utesch has pulled down a team-high 21 grabs for 316 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Akron-Westfield's lone setbacks came at No. 6 (1A) Lawton-Bronson (42-19) in Week 2 and at Woodbury Central (14-0) in Week 6.
Laurens-Marathon (6-4) at No. 5 West Bend-Mallard (8-1)
Still stinging from Friday's 41-18 loss at top-ranked and two-time defending state champion Armstrong-Ringsted, the District 2 runner-up Wolverines will attempt to regroup in a hurry. Dual-threat signal-caller Mitch Bonnstetter, a 175-pound senior, has fueled the electrifying WB-M offense with 967 yards and 20 touchdowns on 112 carries. In addition, Bonnstetter has completed 36 of 63 passes for 861 yards and eight scores. Classmate Matt Goeders has been his main target, collecting 21 receptions for 471 yards and five touchdowns.
Logan Streit, another senior, has flashed potential at different points as well for the Wolverines, delivering 421 rushing yards and seven scores.
West Bend-Mallard, which previously captured four Class A state crowns and is making its 20th all-time postseason appearance, has outscored its opponents this season by a decisive combined margin of 461-121.
Relying on a balanced offensive effort, the Chargers hammered rebuilding Whiting in Week 9, 61-12. Justin DaSilva, a 160-pound junior, has been the groundhog for L-M, amassing 929 yards and 14 scores on 129 totes. Senior Alex Runneberg has chipped in 556 yards and 10 touchdowns. Runneberg is also 86-for-165 through the air for 1,287 yards, including 20 scores and seven interceptions. Junior Matt Cleveland has pulled down a team-best 33 catches for 666 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Pacing the Charger defense with 100 tackles, three fumble recoveries and an interception is junior Collin Lind.
Graettinger-Terril (3-5) at No. 6 Newell-Fonda (8-1)
With Friday's 20-16 loss at Kingsley-Pierson all but forgotten, the District 1 champion Mustangs will now look to take out their frustrations on the Knights.
Juniors Rigo Johnson (71-854-18), Jonathan Johnson (108-811-17) and sophomore Brady Bohe (57-667-8) have shined all year long in the steady N-F ground game. Junior Zak Sievers has hit on 39 of 70 passes as well for 845 yards with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. Junior Matt Juilfs (12-301-5) and Jonathan Johnson (12-209-2) have been the most productive receivers for the Mustangs, who are racking up a staggering 55.4 points a night and rank 12th in the state in total yardage (3,797).
On the defensive side of the ball, Newell-Fonda is anchored by Rigo Johnson (136 stops), Juilfs (six picks) and Jonathan Johnson (four fumble recoveries).
Despite sputtering out of the gates to an 0-2 start, defending state quarterfinalist Graettinger-Terril is back in the postseason for a third straight year.
Trent Lundgren (135-649-9) and Blaze Alesch (101-452-5) have played significant roles out of the backfield for the Knights, who have been outscored this fall, 310-249. Alesch has also gone 70-for-141 through the air for 941 yards, including 13 paydirt strikes and 11 picks.
Contact Josh Meyer at (515) 573-2141, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org