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Algona, SC Calhoun begin playoff march

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Landon Schleisman of South Central Calhoun runs the ball during the playoffs last season.

Algona and South Central Calhoun haven’t been postseason strangers and are looking to continue their success in the first round of the football playoffs.

Tonight the two squads will begin another playoff run in their own backyards. Both squads went undefeated in nine games and claimed district championships,

This is Algona’s (9-0 overall) second straight postseason appearance and eighth overall. Last season the Bulldogs cruised in their first round game with a 45-20 win over Crestwood, but lost to Waukon 24-21 in the quarterfinals.

The third-seed Bulldogs will meet Central Lyon/George Little Rock (5-4) in a Class 2A opener. Action will begin at 7 p.m. in Algona.

South Central Calhoun will host Mount Ayr in its Class 1A opener. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. in Lake City.

The winner between the Bulldogs and Lions will advance to the quarterfinals and face either No. 8 Greene County (8-1) or No. 9 Des Moines Christian (8-1).

The Bulldogs are 17-1 the past two regular seasons and the tightest contests they’ve had are to playoff qualifier Spirit Lake (34-32) and Class 3A Webster City (34-33). In district play the Bulldogs only gave up 54 points, 32 coming to No. 15 (RPI) Spirit Lake.

Algona has put together a strong offensive attack, led by senior Wyatt Wegener and sophomore quarterback Tyler Manske. Wegener has rushed for 1,083 yards on 70 attempts and has 18 touchdowns, averaging 15.5 yards per tote. He is also the leading receiver with 24 grabs, 595 yards (24.8 avg.) and six scores.

Manske has thrown for 1,183 yards on 60-for-94 passing and 12 scores.

Senior Elliot Berkland has 12 catches for three touchdowns.

Also on the ground the senior duo of Garrett Schmidt (503 yards) and Sammonte Bawden (496) have seven and six touchdowns respectively. As a team, the Bulldogs have scored 40 rushing touchdowns.

The Lions, who are making their 21st state appearance, first since 2016, enter the playoffs as the bottom seed (No. 16) and are outside of the 16-team field in RPI at 20. After a tough 0-4 in non-district schedule, The Lions’ resume is deceiving with all four defeats coming at the hands of playoff qualifiers and three Top-10 squads. They lost to No. 3 seed West Sioux (1A), No. 5 seed West Lyon (1A) and No. 8 seed Western Christian (1A). They also fell to 15th seed Spirit Lake (2A).

Central Lyon reeled off five straight victories to win the Class 2A, District 1 title and advance to face the District 2 champion Bulldogs.

The Lions rolled through league play, winning by an average margin of 24.6 points after a four-game stretch of losing by an average of 31.7 points.

Senior quarterback Jalyn Gramstad has accounted for 19 touchdowns. He has thrown for 12 and 1,174 yards. On the ground he has racked up 425 yards and seven scores.

Senior Gavin Lorenzen has caught 21 balls for 409 yards and eight scores and is averaging 19 yards per carry. Classmate Logan Meyer has 16 grabs for 419, two scores and a 26.2 average.

Meyer is the lead groundhog with 842 yards and 16 touchdowns. He is averaging eight yards per carry. The Lions have rushed for 36 scores.

Mount Ayr (7-2) at South Central Calhoun (9-0)

The sixth-seeded Titans, who won the Class 1A, District 2 title, are no stranger to the playoff system, qualifying eight times with a 9-8 record. Before consolidating with Rockwell City-Lytton, Southern Cal had eight trips with a 25-4 record and four state championships.

South Central Calhoun has put up huge offensive numbers, throwing for 954 yards and rushing for 2,470 yards, while scoring 367 points.

Even more impressive is the Titan defense that has given up only 34 points and didn’t allow a point in four games and is riding a two-game shutout streak.

Junior quarterback Cole Corey has thrown for 791 yards and seven touchdowns. Senior Zane Neubaum has 11 grabs for 233 yards and a score. Sophomore Blake McAlister has three receiving touchdowns, while seniors Josh Henkenius and Daniel Stevens have two each.

Senior Landon Schleisman has 87 carries for 575 yards and 12 scores. McAlister (504 yards) and senior Keagen Meyer (448) are the other rushing leaders with six and five rushing touchdowns respectively. Junior Brennan Holder has five scores and Corey has four. As a team the Titans have ran for 40 scores.

12th-seed Mount Ayr is playing in its second straight playoffs and 14th overall. They had a stretch of four straight from 2012 to 2015.

Mount Ayr, who finished third in Class A, District 9, lost twice to district foes and playoff qualifiers, top-seed Van Meter and eighth-seed Panorama.

The Raiders have put forth a balanced offensive attack, running for 1,610 yards and throwing for 1,217.

Mount Ayr has six running backs with over 30 carries each and four that have rushed for over 200 yards. Junior Payton Weehler is the groundhog with 84 carries and 286 yards and five scores.

Senior Isaac Grose (293), junior Dawson Swank (251) and senior Kolben Klommhaus (238) are the leading carriers. Klommhaus has four scores and Swank has three. The Raiders have ran for 20 touchdowns.

Weehler is also the man behind center, throwing for 1,194 yards and 13 scores. His lead target has been senior Dawson Frost with 37 grabs for 587 yards and six scores. Senior Cayden Lambert and Klommhaus have three touchdowns each.

The winner of this contest will face the winner of No. 1 Van Meter and No. 16 Pella next Friday.