18 games that could be great this season

Union area high school football teams' most intriguing contests

Union photo

Wyatt Stout of Washington escapes a tackle by Jack Ankenbauer of Liberty for a touchdown during the second half of play in North Liberty on Friday, September 13, 2019.
Union photo Wyatt Stout of Washington escapes a tackle by Jack Ankenbauer of Liberty for a touchdown during the second half of play in North Liberty on Friday, September 13, 2019.

With all of the virus-generated bad news, sports fans received some needed good news last week.

The Iowa High School Athletic Association released the 2020 high school football schedules Thursday morning.

The season opens Aug. 28, and it is an interesting potpouri loaded with matchups of intrigue in the area.

Here are 18 matchups that could be the most interesting of the 13 Union area teams’ games during a particular week of the regular season.

WEEK 1 (Aug. 28)

— Sigourney-Keota at Mid-Prairie

Sigourney-Keota was the hard-luck team of the state last year, missing the playoffs despite an 8-1 record. The Cobras went about enhancing their schedule this season. They open with Mid-Prairie and West Branch. Both teams bring back a 1,000-yard rusher — Sam Sieren of S-K and Kayden Reinier of Mid-Prairie.

— Honorable Mention

Knoxville at Fairfield

It was the Trojans closest game last season and an interception at th 4-yard line with under a minute remaing ended Fairfield’s chance to tie or win.

WEEK 2 (Sept. 4)

— Washington at Solon

It’s a year of change for Solon, which steps down to 2A after reaching the 3A state final last year (it lost to Western Dubuque). The Spartans move on without Coach Kevin Miller, who resigned earlier this month. Washington has been assigned to 3A District 5, which consists of all six teams of the Southeast Conference, and the Demons are favored to win it. The Demons led this game at home at halftime last year.

— Honorable Mention

Iowa City Regina at Mid-Prairie

A semifinalist in 1A last year, Regina dips into Class A this season and will be a state-championship favorite behind the senior pass-catch combo of Ashton Cook and Alec Wick. Mid-Prairie went 6-3 last season, scoring a combined 202 points in its final three games.

WEEK 3 (Sept. 11)

— Washington at Western Dubuque

This was a first-round playoff game last year and the Bobcats went on to a state title with a 37-17 win over Solon. Wyatt Stout returns for the Demons, rushing for 732 yards on 126 carries last season, an average of almost six yards per carry.

— Honorable Mention

Columbus at North Mahaska

The Wildcats got to play an extra game last season and finished 1-9 while North Mahaska was a game short and finished 0-8.

WEEK 4 (Sept. 18)

— WACO at New London

This was a Week 3 matchup last season that went into overtime at the Warriors’ Homecoming. New London prevailed on the way to a 7-3 season that ended in the playoffs.

— Honorable Mention

Davenport Assumption at Washington

The Demons will have their hands full with a perennial power that went 5-4 last year with all four losses to playoff teams (Iowa City Liberty, North Scott, Solon and Cedar Rapids Xavier).

WEEK 5 (Sept. 25)

— Cardinal at Pekin

This game was finished on a Sunday last season because of intense thunderstorms, which continued on Sunday. It was one of only two Pekin wins while it was the first loss of the season for the Comets.

— Honorable Mention

Winfield-Mt. Union at Twin Cedars, Bussey

The Wolves were 1-8 last season while Twin Cedars was 1-9. The Wolves will have to find a new quarterback to replace Dante Oepping, who had over 2,100 yards from scrimmage last season.

WEEK 6 (Oct. 2)

— Washington at Mt. Pleasant

This has to be the most awaited game of all in the upcoming season after last year’s 64-61 Demon victory that essentially decided a playoff spot. The same may be true this year although both teams will have to find new quarterbacks after Washington’s Luke Turner and Mt. Pleasant’s Brody Bender have graduated.

— Honorable Mention

Fairfield at Burlington

The Trojans didn’t win a game last year and Burlington was 1-8 overall and 0-5 in a Class 4A district. Fairfield will travel to Bracewell Stadium with an advantage, having lost to Ft. Madison last season in overtime while BHS lost 28-6.

WEEK 7 (Oct. 9)

— Mid-Prairie at Williamsburg

The Golden Hawks had a lead on the Raiders last year before losing to the eventual semifinalists. The two schools dominated the district last year but the loss of Albia and the addition of West Burlington/Notre Dame doesn’t look to change the power structure.

— Honorable Mention

Sigourney-Keota at Pekin

The Backyard Brawl was played in Ottumwa last season due to high winds damaging the Pekin field. Last year it was a non-district game, but this year it will be a district battle.

WEEK 8 (Oct. 16)

— Highland at Lisbon

This could be a critical game in the district. The two teams met in Highland last season with the Lions ekeing out the win and they return a majority of that roster. The Huskies finished 5-4 after making the playoffs the previous season. The Lions were 0-9 in 2018. Connor Grinstead returns at quarterback for the Huskies as does running back Owen Donovan.

— Honorable Mention

Mediapolis at Sigourney-Keota

The Cobras have a chance to avenge their only loss from last season but will have to do it without graduated JD Stout, who was fourth in Class 1A in rushing yards with 1,490. Last year’s game was also in Sigourney.

WEEK 9 (Oct. 23)

— Pekin at Van Buren County

The Warriors went 1-8 last season and Pekin, which went 2-7, is moving up a class. VBC quarterback Lane Davis returns. Pekin loses Dayne Eckley, who had consecutive 1,000 yards rushing seasons.

— Honorable Mention

WACO at Winfield-Mt. Union

The Warriors lose their top three rushers and quarterback Nik Coble. The Wolves return third-leading rusher Andrew Brady.

Jeff Linder of The Gazette contributed to this article.