Defending champion. Star quarterback returns. Down a class.
For the Falcons of Ida Grove OABCIG, that all adds up to undisputed status as the team to beat in Class 1A football next fall.
OABCIG — that’s Odebolt-Arthur-Battle Creek-Ida Grove, for those unfamiliar with the Ida County district — is a unanimous No. 1 in The Gazette/KGYM offseason poll.
The Falcons stormed through 2019 with a 13-0 season that ended with a 2A state championship. They did it behind Cooper DeJean, who passed for 3,546 yards and 42 touchdowns. DeJean has committed to the University of Iowa, and will be a senior next fall.
OABCIG’s 60 poll points are 21 more than No. 2 South Central Calhoun. West Branch, Underwood and Dike-New Hartford round out the top five.
1. IDA GROVE OABCIG (13-0 in 2019, 2A state champion)
60 poll points (6 first-place votes)
DeJean, who also ran for a team-high 1,292 yards and 24 touchdowns, leads an offense that hummed along to the tune of 45.5 points per game last year. His top receiver returns, as well. Easton Harms caught 89 passes last year as a junior for 1,114 yards and nine touchdowns. All eyes will be looking ahead to Week 8, when the Falcons travel to Underwood for a District 9 showdown.
2. SOUTH CENTRAL CALHOUN (10-1, 1A quarterfinalist)
39 poll points
Only two teams — OABCIG and South Central Calhoun — appeared on all six of our ballots. The Titans allowed a 1A-best 6.0 points per game last season, and two key figures from that defensive unit return in Brennan Holder (61.5 tackles) and Jayden Soard (41). Jordan Khommanyvong intercepted four passes. The Titans’ pivotal District 2 game comes in Week 9, at home against Belmond-Klemme.
3. WEST BRANCH (10-1, 1A quarterfinalist)
34 poll points
The Bears bring back defensive end Jeff Bowie, a University of Iowa commit, along with quarterback Gavin Hierseman, who passed for 1,550 yards and 19 touchdowns. Coach Butch Pedersen went over the 300-win career mark last season. This team is a heavy favorite to rule District 5, and assembled a challenging non-district slate that features Sigourney-Keota and Iowa City Regina.
4. UNDERWOOD (8-2, 1A playoff qualifier)
33 poll points
Underwood must replace its quarterback, but the Eagles are well fortified everywhere else, particularly on defense. Brayden Wollan collected three interceptions and three fumble recoveries, along with 51 tackles. Scott Pearson is a two-way force, rushing for 571 yards and collecting 52 tackles as a sophomore. The Eagles welcome No. 1 OABCIG to town in Week 8 for a game that should decide the District 9 title.
5. DIKE-NEW HARTFORD (10-1, 1A quarterfinalist)
32 poll points
The Wolverines have been one of the state’s top 1A/2A programs recently, but enter 2020 as a bit of a mystery. DNH loses much of its top-end talent to graduation, but if their replacements step forward, the Wolverines will remain a force.
6. PANORAMA (8-2, 1A playoff qualifier)
26 poll points
Opinions vary greatly on the Panthers. Three ballots have them at No. 3, three at ninth or lower. Panorama will employ a veteran team, particularly on defense. Led by Drew Taylor, the top seven tacklers are back from a unit that allowed 11.3 points per game. Domonic Walker returns at quarterback after passing for 1,313 yards and 11 touchdowns.
7. VAN METER (12-1, 1A state runner-up)
20 poll points
The Bulldogs have enjoyed perfect regular seasons each of the past four years in a 47-3 overall run highlighted by a state championship in 2017. This will be a year of transition, though, with substantial losses due to graduation.
8. OSAGE (5-5, 1A playoff qualifier)
17 poll points
After starting 0-4, the Green Devils went 5-0 in district play to earn an automatic bid for the playoffs, then fell to eventual state champion West Lyon, 55-14, in the first round. They have the look of a team ready to be a legitimate top-10 team this fall behind QB Colin Muller, who passed for more than 2,100 yards as a junior.
9. SIGOURNEY-KEOTA (8-1, no postseason)
16 poll points
Few teams enter the season with as much incentive as the Cobras, the only team in any class to miss the playoffs with an 8-1 record. If they match that mark this fall, a postseason bid is almost certain because S-K has enhanced its non-district schedule with the likes of Mid-Prairie and West Branch in the first two weeks. Senior-to-be Sam Sieren becomes the offensive focus. He rushed for 1,122 yards and 13 TDs last year.
10. WESTERN CHRISTIAN (8-2, 1A playoff qualifier)
14 poll points
The Wolfpack started 8-0 last season, then lost their regular-season finale to West Lyon and were upset in the first round of the playoffs by Treynor. QB Tyson Boer (1,508 passing yards, 15 TDs) is back, as are two key defensive pieces in Tristan Mulder and Levi VandenBos.
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES:
West Sioux 13, Waterloo Columbus 7, Belmond-Klemme 6, Aplington-Parkersburg 3, South Hamilton 3, Southeast Valley 3, Hinton 2, Guthrie Center ACGC 1, Mediapolis 1.
Editor’s note: Third 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.