It was one of the most prolific passing tandems in Class 1A last season.
Iowa City Regina’s Ashton Cook and Alec Wick were a nightmare to opposing secondaries. Cook passed for 2,446 yards and 25 touchdowns (against seven interceptions) as the Regals (9-3) advanced to the 1A semifinals.
Wick caught 79 passes for 1,161 yards and 14 scores.
Both return for their senior seasons, and Regina has moved down to Class A, where it is ranked No. 1 in The Gazette/KGYM’s offseason football poll.
The Regals received five of six first-place votes and earned 59 points, four more than No. 2 Grundy Center, which was the Class A runner-up last year. Saint Ansgar is No. 3.
1. IOWA CITY REGINA (9-3 in 2019, Class 1A semifinalist)
59 poll points (5 first-place votes)
Hard to believe, but it’s been five years since Regina last won a state championship. The Regals were crowned in 2A in 2010 and 2011, then won four straight 1A titles (2012-15). There’s a lot more to this team than Cook and Wick. Seniors-to-be Theo Kolie and Levi Quinlan combined for 1,413 rushing yards, and three of the top four tacklers are back, led by Aiden Udell. Regina has a couple of good road non-district tests against Mid-Prairie (Week 2) and West Branch (Week 4).
2. GRUNDY CENTER (11-2, Class A state runner-up)
55 poll points (1 first-place vote)
The Spartans were a minor surprise in their run to the Class A final last year, knocking off Belle Plaine and MFL MarMac on the road, then edging Saint Ansgar in the semifinals before dropping a 21-17 decision to West Hancock in the championship game. Most of Grundy’s top weapons are back, led by quarterback Logan Knaack, RB Zach Opheim and WR Nick Ascher.
3. SAINT ANSGAR (11-1, Class A semifinalist)
37 poll points
Significant favorites in District 3, the Saints have a challenging non-district slate that features a good Class 1A foe (Osage) and Class A top-10 opponent South Winneshiek. They lose 2,000-yard rusher Jake Sievert to graduation, but Ryan Cole returns to take over as the featured rusher. Cole ran for 1,143 yards and 20 touchdowns, averaging 9.9 yards per carry.
T-4. EDGEWOOD-COLESBURG (7-3, Class A playoff qualifier)
30 poll points
The return of Parker Rochford, and a good share of his teammates, creates the opportunity for big things for the Vikings. Rochford has an uncanny nose for the ball defensively. He intercepted seven passes and recovered three fumbles last season. He also was responsible for 16 TDs on offense — 11 passing, five rushing. Keegan Hansel (1,091 rushing yards, 15 TDs) also returns.
T-4. WAPSIE VALLEY (5-4, no postseason)
30 poll points
Wapsie’s four losses last year — three against playoff teams — were by a combined 18 points, and two came in overtime. The Warriors bring back a fair share of their top offensive players, including the senior passing combo of Kobe Risse and Blayde Bellis. Wapsie should be a load.
6. WEST HANCOCK (13-0, Class A state championship)
23 poll points
The Eagles’ hopes for another deep playoff run lie mostly on a defense that allowed 11.5 points per game and returns five of its top seven tacklers, led by juniors-to-be Mathew Francis (66.5 tackles) and Chase Kronemann (51).
7. COUNCIL BLUFFS ST. ALBERT (5-4, no postseason)
22 poll points
We’re all over the place on our assessment of the Falcons. Three of us have them in the top five, three 10th or unranked. St. Albert comes into next season with momentum, winning its last four games after starting 1-4.
8. WOODBURY CENTRAL (10-2, Class A semifinalist)
21 poll points
The Wildcats allowed just 6.3 points per game throughout the regular season, and the top tackler from that unit returns in Gaige Heissel (76). Jase Manker passed for 2,135 yards and 21 TDs, against 12 INTs.
9. SOUTH WINNESHIEK (7-3, Class A playoff qualifier)
20 poll points
Get ready for another fall of Air Herold. Last year as a junior, Jacob Herold led Class A in passing yards (2,562), completing 61 percent of his throws for 21 touchdowns. Cael Kuboushek led the Warriors in receptions (63), averaging 13 yards per catch with five touchdowns. South Winn should battle Wapsie Valley and MFL MarMac for the District 10 title.
10. BELLE PLAINE (7-3, Class A playoff qualifier)
10 poll points
If anybody is going to challenge Grundy Center in District 7, it’s the Plainsmen. Belle Plaine had two 1,000-yard rushers last fall, and returns one of them (Luke DeMeulenaere: 1,044 yards, 12 TDs). This generally isn’t a big passing team, but QB Ben DeMeulenaere returns, and so do his top two targets from 2019.
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES:
North Tama 8, Lisbon 7, Algona Garrigan 3, East Buchanan 3, Bellevue 2.
Editor’s note: Second in a six-part series on the The Gazette/KGYM early high school football rankings. Our panel consists of Jeff Johnson, K.J. Pilcher, Nathan Ford and Jeff Linder from The Gazette, Andy Krutsinger from the Southeast Iowa Union and Scott Unash from KGYM Radio. Today, we look at Class A. Wednesday, we’ll reveal the Class 1A Top 10.
By Jeff Linder, The Gazette