Archive for September, 2008

Midseason area football rankings

September 30, 2008

Jeff Dahn provided his midseason area top-10 (they’re at the top of the 2-Minute Drill in today’s Preps Extra). We have the same top 10, in slightly different orders.

Here’s mine:

1. IOWA CITY HIGH (5-0) — An easy selection at the top, based on its 27-23 win over Cedar Rapids Washington. No matter what you think of the transfer that went down, this much is indisputable: A.J. Derby is a stud.

2. CEDAR RAPIDS WASHINGTON (4-1) — Survived the Cedar Falls/City High weekly double at the beginning of the season. Hard to imagine the Warriors finishing any worse than 8-1 now. City High rematch might be on the horizon in state quarterfinals or semifinals.

3. SOLON (5-0) — Where to put the Spartans? Could they compete in the MVC? Other than City and Washington, I think so. James Morris and Matt Morrison give the Spartans a tremendous start at the skill positions, and the young line is coming along. Winning streak is 18 games.

4. CEDAR RAPIDS XAVIER (3-2) — How did the Saints lose to Cedar Rapids Jefferson in Week 1? Whatever happened, the Saints are becoming what we expected, a very good team, as evidenced by their second-half pounding of Cedar Rapids Kennedy a couple weeks back.

5. CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE (4-1) — Still a wait-and-see team. The Hawks’ schedule is about to turn difficult. We’ll wait. We’ll see.

6. CEDAR RAPIDS KENNEDY (3-2) — The Cougars were 3-0 with a soft early schedule. Now, they’re 3-2 and probably going on 3-3 with City High coming up. The last three games are pivotal.

7. DECORAH (5-0) — Saw the Vikings in their romp over West Delaware in Week 4 and came away very impressed. They don’t do anything showy, they just do the basics very well.

8. WILLIAMSBURG (5-0) — That tight win in the opener over Mid-Prairie is looking more impressive with each week. And a 9-0 regular season is looking more likely.

9. MARION (4-1) — Had to come from way back to beat Oelwein and slipped in the rain against DeWitt Central. But the Indians have been impressive since.

10. IOWA CITY REGINA (5-0) — Needed to rally to get past Wilton, winning on a last-second field goal. The big test is in Week 8, when the Regals travel to Solon.


Midseason area volleyball ratings

September 30, 2008

All of our top 10 teams come from two area conferences, the MVC (5) and the Wamac (5).

Here we are at the midpoint:

1. MOUNT VERNON (20-0) — An easy choice at No. 1. The Mustangs have dropped two games (to Iowa City West and Williamsburg) and have been the cream of the area. Ranked No. 44 in the nation by The Mustangs have tremendous size, and their defense is much improved.

2. IOWA CITY WEST (20-2) — Face a challenge at Cedar Rapids Kennedy tonight. Both match losses are to Mount Vernon (at the West Extravaganza and Cougar Invitational). Rated No. 70 nationally by Jessica Gehrke is a D-I prospect in volleyball and track.

3. CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE (17-2) — Hawks were on a serious roll after finishing second at the Warrior Invitational and winning the Linn-Mar Invite. They’ve had some idle time since then; will be it a recharger, or will the Hawks be rusty?

4. CEDAR RAPIDS KENNEDY (20-4) — Cougars seem to have their act together after winning the Dubuque Invitational. Knocked off 4A No. 1 Dubuque Hempstead in the final. Can build on that momentum with a win tonight vs. Iowa City West.

5. MARION (24-3) — Seriously, the Indians have already played 27 matches. They won six of them at the Mid-Prairie Invitational last weekend, and claimed the Marion/Benton Invite the previous Saturday. Brittney Thomas has gone into the 1,000-1,000 club for digs and kills in her career.

6. IOWA CITY HIGH (16-7) — Once Brittany Nelson is fully healthy, the Little Hawks will be a tough team to beat.

7. WEST DELAWARE (23-4) — Another solid year for the Hawks, who are relying more on scrap than size. Mystery is on their postseason assignment … they’ll probably have to beat Mount Vernon, Marion or Dubuque Wahlert to return to the U.S. Cellular Center.

8. BENTON COMMUNITY (20-7) — Bobcats are having their best season in quite some time. Still gets a shot at Marion in the Wamac West.

9. CEDAR RAPIDS WASHINGTON (11-5) — It will be a crime if Kari Lombardi isn’t the MVC coach of the year. Turned around a losing program in no time. Of course, the assistance of three talented Cedar Valley Christian players has upgraded the talent level immeasurably.

10. WILLIAMSBURG (15-5) — Like Mount Vernon, the addition of the Raiders has fortified the Wamac’s depth. Got a game off Mount Vernon in a Wamac crossover match.

If the 4A playoffs began today …

September 27, 2008

… The 16 teams on the East side would consist of 11 teams from the Mississippi Valley Conference and five from the Mississippi Athletic Conference

Here are points standings through five weeks:

1. Iowa City High (5-0), 240

2. Bettendorf (5-0), 230

3. Burlington (5-0), 225

4. Cedar Rapids Washington (4-1), 225

5. Cedar Falls (4-1), 215

6. North Scott (4-1), 210

7. Cedar Rapids Prairie (4-1), 210

8. Cedar Rapids Xavier (3-2), 200

9. Cedar Rapids Kennedy (3-2), 195

10. Clinton (3-2), 195

11. Dubuque Hempstead (3-2), 195

12. Waterloo West (3-2), 190

13. Cedar Rapids Jefferson (2-3), 185

14. Dubuque Wahlert (2-3), 185

15. Linn-Mar (2-3), 180

16. Pleasant Valley (2-3), 180


17. Muscatine (2-3), 175

18. Davenport Assumption (2-3), 170

19. Davenport Central (1-4), 155

20. Davenport North (1-4), 155

21. Iowa City West (0-5), 150

22. Waterloo East (0-5), 145

23. Dubuque Senior (0-5), 135

24. Davenport West (0-5), 130

Guilty as charged, I guess

September 27, 2008

Butch Pedersen assembled his West Branch football team, congratulated them on their victory … then bashed the media??

“Football games aren’t won in the newspapers,” he said, casting an eye toward the TV cameramen and newspaper reporters on the outside of the huddle, certainly audible enough to be heard.

Belle Plaine entered the game 4-0, had earned a spot in the 1A top 10 in the AP poll, and had received a wealth of attention heading into the big game.

“In the media this week, you didn’t hear much about West Branch,” Pedersen said after he departed the huddle. “Belle Plaine deserved all the accolades (it) received, but all those accolades kind of put a burr under our saddle. We showed we can still play football in West Branch.”

Somehow, I doubt anyone had said differently. I picked the Plainsmen in this space yesterday, but unless Pedersen read this blog shortly before gametime (which I highly doubt), that wasn’t the reason for the burr.

At any rate, West Branch dominated the second half on its way to a 35-19 win. Take into account these four statistical disparities:

Offensive yards: 223-4.

First downs: 15-0.

Plays from scrimmage: 41-9.

Time of possession: 19:23-4:37.

Take away two West Branch turnovers, and the score could have been something like 42-6. The Bears were superior.

They still play football in West Branch. It didn’t take a “we-get-no-respect-from-the-media” declaration to prove that. Or a burr under the saddle.

Week 5: Belle Plaine at West Branch

September 26, 2008

Can it possibly be?

Every year, the football season chugs by at a faster rate. Maybe this year it’s because the season began a week earlier (a byproduct of the diluted playoff system). It seems like this should be Week 3. It’s T-shirt and shorts weather. Beautiful.

At any rate, it’s off to Oliphant Street Stadium in West Branch, or as the locals call it, the Little Rose Bowl (no idea why).

Belle Plaine is the area’s biggest surprise, a stride ahead of MFL MarMac, Cascade and Lone Tree for that honor. West Branch is still West Branch, a formidable 1A program under Butch Pedersen.

The head tells me to pick West Branch. Still, something keeps poking at me about Belle Plaine (mind you, I’ve seen nothing of either team this year and have limited knowledge). It’s probably the 24-0 blasting the Plainsmen put on Pekin a couple of weeks ago.

Thus, the pick: Plainsmen, 16-14.

Mustangs still unbeaten, still rising

September 26, 2008

Mount Vernon improved to 20-0 in volleyball last night with a Wamac Conference East Division sweep of Highway 1 rival Solon.

The Mustangs continue to rise in the national polls. They are rated 44th by, leading a group of four Iowa teams.

Iowa City West (20-2) is 70th. Central Iowa Metro League rivals Johnston and Ankeny are 85th and 86th. Oddly, Dubuque Hempstead isn’t in the list. Hempstead is rated No. 1 in Iowa’s big-school class.

Mount Vernon is a town of about 4,000 folks. I’m guessing the vast majority of the 43 schools above the Mustangs are from bigger cities or private schools.

Girls’ Rivalry Saturday tentative schedule

September 24, 2008

We’ve got the teams. We don’t have all the matchups.

Here’s what we do know:

The event is set for Jan. 24, 2009, at the U.S. Cellular Center.

Two of the matchups will consist of likely preseason #1 teams — MFL MarMac (2A) and Springville (1A) will play each other; so will Ballard (3A) and Linn-Mar (4A). Springville is the defending 1A champion. 

Cedar Rapids Kennedy will play defending 2A state champ Davenport Assumption. The Cougars were looking for a 21st game. This will fit the bill nicely.

Tri-Rivers rivals Maquoketa Valley and North Linn are likely opponents.

The other two games will consist of four Wamac Conference teams — Marion, Vinton-Shellsburg, Mount Vernon and DeWitt Central. The matchups haven’t been determined, though Marion-Central and Vinton-Mount Vernon is the most likely scenario. All four of these teams are potential top-15 teams in 3A.

Mount Vernon volleyball gets a national number

September 24, 2008 knows about the Mount Vernon volleyball team.

The Mustangs are ranked No. 58 in the nation by the website. Ankeny is the other Iowa team in the ratings, at No. 37.

Mount Vernon improved to 19-0 with a three-set win over West Delaware last night.

Showdowns all around

September 23, 2008

It’s arguably the biggest volleyball weeknight until regionals begin next month. Three area matches will weigh heavily on league races:

MOUNT VERNON (18-0 overall, 2-0 Wamac East) at WEST DELAWARE (17-2, 2-0): The Hawks have made the Wamac Conference their personal playground in recent years. But the expansion from 12 teams to 16 includes the addition of Class 3A #1 Mount Vernon, which has won three consecutive Saturday tournaments, at Mount Vernon, Iowa City West and Cedar Rapids Kennedy. The pick: Mustangs in 4.

MARION (17-3 overall, 3-0 Wamac West) at WILLIAMSBURG (10-2, 2-0): Williamsburg is another Wamac newcomer that has made an instant impression. The Raiders aren’t ranked, but should be. Marion is coming off a 6-0 Saturday at the Benton/Marion Invitational. Marion’s Brittney Thomas has gone over the 1,000-dig mark for her career, and her first kill tonight gets her to four figures in that department. The pick: Indians in 5.

IOWA CITY HIGH (13-5 overall, 2-1 MVC) at IOWA CITY WEST (19-2, 3-0): West’s two losses have come at the hands of Mount Vernon, and both have been tight. This rivalry has been dominated by the east-siders in recent years. West has more firepower this year and should prevail in the Battle of the Spike. The pick: Women of Troy in 4.

Week 5: Back to Oliphant St. Stadium

September 22, 2008

Shocking stat: It’s been 10 years since I’ve covered a football game at West Branch.

As good as the Bears always are, you’d think I’d be a regular there. Such isn’t the case, for whatever reason.

But I’m headed back to Hoovertown this Friday, when Belle Plaine (a shocking 4-0) faces the Bears.

The Plainsmen stamped themselves as a very good team when they waxed Pekin, 24-0, earlier this year. Very good or very, very good? We shall see.