There will be no rematch.
Another Class 2A state title football battle between Ida Grove OABCIG and Waukon looked like a distinct possibility after the Falcons prevailed, 37-12, for the 2019 crown.
But the Falcons were moved to 1A this year, and that leaves Waukon as the 2A favorite this fall, according to The Gazette/KGYM offseason pollsters.
Waukon brings back a good share of talent from a squad that went 12-1, led by quarterback Creed Welch and linebacker Lincoln Snitker.
The Indians earned three No. 1 votes and scored 56 poll points. Monroe PCM got two No. 1 votes, tallied 48 points and is ranked No. 2.
Spirit Lake, Williamsburg and Clear Lake round out the top five, and Solon — the 2019 3A runner-up — is No. 6
1. WAUKON (12-1 in 2019, 2A state runner-up)
56 poll points (3 first-place votes)
UNI-Dome visits have become a habit for the Indians. They won the 2A championship in 2017, reached the semifinals in 2018, then followed with last year’s runner-up finish. The three-year run has netted a 34-4 mark, and don’t expect any drop-off this fall. Welch passed for 2,226 yards and 26 touchdowns (and also intercepted seven passes), Ethan O’Neill is expected to become the featured back, and Snitker is a horse on defense, collecting 95 tackles. Back-to-back non-district games with Dike-New Hartford and Clear Lake will provide a test.
2. MONROE PCM (8-3, 2A quarterfinalist)
48 poll points (2 first-place votes)
Class 2A champions in 2018, the senior-laden Mustangs ought to be at or near that level this season, and it’s difficult to envision them getting seriously tested during the regular season, other than a Week 2 meeting at West Marshall. Aiden Anderson and Sage Burns combined for nearly 1,900 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns, and the defense returns nearly intact with veterans like Colby Tool (73 tackles) and Justin Maggard (4 INTs) leading the way.
3. SPIRIT LAKE (6-4, 2A playoff qualifier)
39 poll points
The Indians were good last year, and very nearly great. Their three regular-season defeats were by a combined 14 points. Quarterback Brent Scott, who passed for 2,067 yards and 19 touchdowns, is back for his senior year, as are three of his top targets. Most of the defense returns, and Spirit Lake is a significant favorite in District 2.
4. WILLIAMSBURG (8-4, 2A semifinalist)
37 poll points
Two-way performer Levi Weldon leads the Raiders, who figure to battle Mid-Prairie for the District 7 title at home in Week 7. Weldon passed for 11 touchdowns and led the team in tackles (65). There are holes to fill — the top two rushers and top two receivers will be lost to graduation. The non-district slate will be a challenge, and it starts with Solon, on the road.
5. CLEAR LAKE (10-1, 2A quarterfinalist)
27 poll points
In terms of top-to-bottom balance, District 3 might be the best in 2A, and the Lions appear to be at the top of the heap, by a whisker. The return of Jaden O’Brien-Green (1,015 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns) is a big reason. Clear Lake’s defense was tops in 2A last year, allowing 11.6 points per game, and leading tackler Ty Fisher (70) returns from that unit. There aren’t many gimmes on the schedule, which includes Osage and Waukon before district play begins.
6. SOLON (12-1, 3A state runner-up)
23 poll points (1 first-place vote)
Numerous question marks surround this proud program, which moves down a class after last year’s run to the 3A title game. First and foremost, who will succeed Kevin Miller as coach? A lot of the stars of 2019 will have graduated, but a couple of key returners (Carson Shive and Lucas TePoel) figure to be cornerstones of the defense. Despite the losses, Solon is a substantial favorite in District 6.
7. ALGONA (11-1, 2A semifinalist)
20 poll points
The Bulldogs rose from obscurity to put together back-to-back gems (9-2 and 11-1), and last year’s team gave OABCIG its closest game, 41-32 in the semifinals. A lot will graduate, but Tyler Manske is back for his junior year. He passed for 1,484 yards and 14 touchdowns last year.
8. WEST LYON (12-1, 1A state champion)
15 poll points
The Wildcats came out of an extremely strong pocket of the state to go all the way in 1A last year, and look to reload amid extremely heavy graduation losses. Still, they figure to contend in District 1 along with Sioux Center, Unity Christian and Sheldon.
9. SIOUX CENTER (5-4, no postseason)
13 poll points
Two losses to end the regular season kept the Warriors out of the playoffs last year. Sioux Center returns skill on the edges in receivers Eli Hibma and Lane Kamerman, and Matthew Bomgaars is the top prospect out of the backfield and was the team’s leading tackler last year.
10. WEST MARSHALL (6-4, 2A quarterfinalist)
10 poll points
Hard to believe, but it has been seven years since the Trojans won a postseason game. The pieces are there to end that drought, led by Preston Pope (741 rushing yards) and Brayden Evertson (36 catches, 668 yards). Ben Kielman led the team in tackles, and returns.
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES:
Unity Christian 8, Mid-Prairie 7, New Hampton 7, Iowa Falls-Alden 6, Monticello 4, Independence 3, Albia 2, Camanche 1, Des Moines Christian 1.
Editor’s note: Fourth 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.