Prep grid year hits midway point

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Tanner Macke of South Central Calhoun gains a few yards before Southeast Valley's Clayton McFarland makes the tackle earlier in the season. For more photos, please visit

By the end of Friday night, we’ll be over halfway through the prep football season.

The 16-team Messenger area here in north-central Iowa currently boasts four ranked squads, and three sport perfect 4-0 records.

A handful of players are among the state’s best, led by leading rushing Zane Williams. The Webster City back has 934 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns for the sixth-ranked (Class 3A) and unbeaten Lynx.

Ryan Smith, who will welcome No. 2 (1A) Van Meter to Eagle Grove, leads 1A with five interceptions and is tied for second in the state in that category.

Bryce Coppock, a member of fourth-rated (8-man) Newell-Fonda is second with four picks.

The Mustangs are involved in another Top-10 district tilt, hosting No. 2 Remsen St. Mary’s.

Manson Northwest Webster’s Keegan Pritchard currently ranks second in 1A in touchdowns (five), third in receiving yards (288) and fourth in receptions (19). Jamison Heinz of Humboldt is the leader in 3A with six touchdowns and ranks seventh in yards (339).

Joey Busse, the quarterback for the Wildcats, is sixth in 3A with eight TDs, and 10th with 665 passing yards despite missing Week 1 of the season.

Here’s a look at the key battles around the area Friday night:

No. 2 (8-man) Remsen St. Mary’s (4-0, 2-0) at No. 4 (8-man) Newell-Fonda (4-0, 2-0)

For the third consecutive week, the Mustangs will play a Top-10 team, as No. 2 Remsen St. Mary’s comes to town.

Newell-Fonda already holds wins over Graettinger-Terril/R-A and Kingsley-Pierson, including a 40-point triumph last week over K-P. Jesse Haack ran for 186 yards on just 11 carries, with Austin Gerdes scoring two rushing touchdowns.

Bryce Coppock threw a 60-yard TD pass to Nate Pedersen and also had two of the three picks by the Mustang defense.

Haack has 553 yards and eight scores, with Gerdes adding 272 and four more on the year.

Much like Newell-Fonda, St. Mary’s has been on a roll, winning games 54-15, 81-18, 58-32 and 44-6.

Canaan Cox has 809 yards rushing on 54 carries and has already scored 17 times. Quarterback Derrick Schorg is 33 of 56 passing for 634 yards with eight touchdowns, and Carter Kuchel has 18 catches and 350 yards.

Last year, the Mustangs coasted to a 40-12 victory in Remsen. St. Mary’s, though, has won seven in a row dating back to last season, and has scored almost 53 points a game during that span.

Algona (3-1, 1-1) at Spirit Lake (3-1, 1-1)

Sergeant Bluff-Luton sits atop 3A, District 1 at 4-0, but Spencer, Spirit Lake, Algona, Storm Lake and Sioux City Heelan are all 3-1. Throw in Humboldt, which is 2-2, and you can see why this game in Spirit Lake is a pivotal one.

After suffering a 35-34 setback to Storm Lake two weeks ago, the Bulldogs rebounded with a 16-13 victory over Humboldt last Friday on the foot of a 33-yard field goal by Spencer Holmes.

Jacob Durant ran for 120 yards in the win, giving him 268 on the season. Nick Stein has thrown for 561 yards and five scores, with Holmes becoming his favorite target with 235 yards and three of those touchdowns.

The Indians are looking to bounce back after a 26-13 loss to Spencer. Senior quarterback Nicholas Christensen is completing 56 percent of his throws for 915 yards and 11 touchdowns with just one interception in 105 attempts.

Four different Spirit Lake receivers have surpassed 100 yards this year, with Frankie Ramos leading the way with 291. Christensen also has 234 yards rushing, with Kyler Rieck adding 235.

The Indians were 55-14 winners last year in this game, with Christensen throwing for 275 yards, 128 of which went to Ramos.

No. 2 (1A) Van Meter (4-0, 2-0) at Eagle Grove (3-1, 1-1)

Following wins over Southeast Valley, Clarion-Goldfield/Dows/CAL and West Central Valley, the Eagles were dealt a 21-6 setback to Manson Northwest Webster last Friday.

To get back in the win column, they’ll have to be the first to defeat No. 2 Van Meter in the regular season since Madrid in Week 1 of 2015.

Senior Brayden Lyman has thrown for 309 yards and rushed for 364, with Evan Anderson adding 289 and Niko Padilla 219 on the ground. Padilla also has 119 yards receiving, with Ryan Smith adding 107 and a state-leading five interceptions.

Carson Rhodes anchors the Bulldog attack, rushing for 602 yards and six touchdowns. Blake Fryar has completed 42 of 73 for 561 yards and seven TDs, adding another 173 on the ground.

Overall, Van Meter is 33-7 in the past three-plus seasons.

Other area games: Humboldt (2-2, 1-1) at Storm Lake (3-1, 1-1); Ballard (1-3, 1-1) at No. 6 (3A) Webster City (4-0, 2-0); Greene County (0-4, 0-2) at Iowa Falls-Alden (1-4, 0-2); Pocahontas Area (0-4, 0-2) at No. 2 (2A) Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley (3-1, 2-0); New Hampton (3-1, 2-0) at Clarion-Goldfield/Dows/CAL (0-4, 0-2); East Sac County (2-2, 2-0) at Southeast Valley (1-3, 1-1); No. 9 (2A) South Central Calhoun (3-1, 2-0) at Clarinda (1-3, 1-1); Emmetsburg (1-3, 1-1) at Okoboji (2-2, 0-2); West Central Valley (1-3, 0-2) at Manson NW (2-2, 1-1); MMCRU (0-4, 0-2) at No. 4 (A) Bishop Garrigan (4-0, 2-0); North Union (1-3, 0-2) at Hartley-HMS (2-2, 1-1); Clay Central-Everly (0-3, 0-1) at West Bend-Mallard (2-2, 0-2).