More scorching heat will clearly present a challenge for high school football teams in Week 1 of the season tonight.
Despite less than ideal playing conditions, several intriguing matchups are on tap in the area.
Humboldt will host Clarion-Goldfield in a battle of defending playoff qualifiers from Class 3A and 2A, respectively.
Manson Northwest Webster also welcomes South Central Calhoun. The Cougars reached the postseason in 1A for a fourth time in the past five years in 2012, while the Titans endured a rare losing season.
Fresh off a playoff bid in Class A, Prairie Valley opens on the road at East Sac County.
Another key game takes place in Emmetsburg, where the two-time reigning 1A state semifinalist E-Hawks entertain long-time rival Spencer.
at Humboldt (0-0)
The Cowboys, who finished 6-4 overall last fall, return 15 letterwinners, including six starters.
Juniors Trenton Sann and Joel Haberman will now see each of their roles expand after combining for 476 rushing yards and five touchdowns as sophomores. Gone from a year ago is the reliable tandem of Jake Haberman and Matt Odland, who together produced 1,799 yards and 18 scores on the ground.
Defensively, Clarion-Goldfield must also replace its five leading tacklers from 2012.
For the Wildcats, starters Brady Ross, Alex Nelson, Nikko Wheeler and Austin Zylstra are all back in the lineup. Ross, a junior, ran for 1,381 yards and reached paydirt 18 times last season en route to earning all-state honors. He also made a team-high 105 stops from his linebacker spot.
Quarterback Ben Jacobson, who now plays for Coe College, completed 87 of 172 passes for 1,380 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior. Humboldt’s top three receivers Tyler Zaugg, Matt Pogge and Garrett Nelson, who hauled in a combined 63 catches for 966 yards, have moved on as well.
South Central Calhoun (0-0) at Manson Northwest Webster (0-0)
With 17 letterwinners returning to the mix, the Titans are determined to regain their winning form.
Kyler Case – head coach Bryan’s son – provides South Central Calhoun with a dangerous offensive weapon. For his career, the 190-pound senior has delivered a program-best 1,462 yards to go along with 16 touchdowns. Kyler netted 268 yards and found the endzone three times on 85 attempts in 2012.
Jake Petzenhauser, a senior, will be the starting quarterback after splitting duties with all-district performer Nathan Christensen last season. As a junior, Petzenhauser threw for 448 yards and four scores.
Linebacker Cody Schoop, another senior, will be a force defensively. Schoop contributed a team-high 85 tackles as an 11th-grader.
Manson Northwest Webster, which went 5-5 overall a year ago, brings back junior signal-caller Alex Bush, who passed for 1,419 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore. Hudson Spedding, a senior, will likely be Bush’s favorite target after pulling down nine receptions for 166 yards and three scores last fall.
Standouts Brennan Thompson and Brody Eischeid have departed from a year ago. Thompson spearheaded the Cougar ground charge (204 attempts, 1,128 yards, 13 TD), while Eischeid paced the receiving corps (43-508-3).
Four of MNW’s top five tackle leaders from 2012 will be leaned on defensively, including seniors Ty Condon, Lucas Dolder, Braden Moser and Tanner Peterson.
Head coach Jeff Anliker guided the Cougars to a second straight 1A state track title this past spring.
Prairie Valley (0-0) at East Sac County (0-0)
Plenty of new faces will have a chance to make an immediate impact this season for the Warriors, who went 6-4 overall in 2012.
Leading rusher Mason Gordon, top receivers Cole Black and Drake Tucker and defensive stars Cory Wood, Trey Kehoe and Matt Streit all graduated for Prairie Valley, which returns just four letterwinners.
Ryan True, a junior, will receive the nod under center. As a sophomore, True was 23 of 69 through the air for 571 yards and four touchdowns.
Senior Austin Promes, who ran for 642 yards and six scores last fall, will be expected to fill the void left by Gordon.
Clayton Taylor, a senior, is also back after posting a team-best 114 tackles, including five for loss.
Following a frustrating 1-8 season, the Raiders bring back junior quarterback Ty Jacobsen, who completed 48 percent of his passes for 1,205 yards and nine scores in 2012. He also ran for 212 yards and reached paydirt twice.
Chris Villhauer, a junior, sparked ESC with 351 yards on the ground last fall, while senior Carter Niehaus managed 54 grabs for 632 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Raiders lost their two leading tacklers from a year ago in Cody McDonough and Cody Wellington, who combined for 163 stops.
Spencer (0-0) at Emmetsburg (0-0)
Tradition-rich Emmetsburg must replace a group of 15 seniors, including all-state selections Andrew Wellik, Jake Jackson, Austin McCartan, Taylor Wegner and Nick Schany.
Wellik, a current member of the Iowa Hawkeyes, accounted for a state-best 2,734 yards and 38 touchdowns on the ground last fall, while also making 46 tackles.
Seniors Allen Jensen and Brady Christensen, who combined for 953 rushing yards and 15 scores as juniors, will now be counted on to pick up the slack. As a team, Emmetsburg ranked first in all of Iowa in total rushing yards (5,122), finding paydirt 70 times a year ago.
The E-Hawks, who have prevailed in 46 of their past 47 regular-season contests, allowed just 10.8 points per game last season, while pitching four shutouts. Tanner Dahm (75 tackles in 2012) and Tyler Henson (67) anchor the Emmetsburg defensive unit.
On the heels of a second straight trip to the second round of the 3A playoffs, Spencer is looking to keep building momentum. The Tigers, who are coached by Jim Tighe – the son of legendary St. Edmond head coach Dick Tighe – feature dual-threat senior signal-caller Matt Finnern, who registered 1,718 yards of total offense and 25 scores last season.
Brady Illg (68 carries, 354 yards, 4 TD), Hunter Cushman (25-227-2) and Cody Mowery (23-200-2) are the other top threats for Spencer.
Other area games tonight: Greene County (0-0) at Perry (0-0); Ballard (0-0) at Webster City (0-0); Forest City (0-0) at Algona (0-0); Estherville-Lincoln Central (0-0) at North Union (0-0); Pocahontas Area (0-0) at Alta-Aurelia (0-0); Belmond-Klemme (0-0) at Eagle Grove (0-0); Southeast Webster-Grand (0-1) at Woodward Academy (0-0); Corwith-CWL (0-1) at Harris-Lake Park (0-0); Laurens-Marathon (0-0) at Kingsley-Pierson (0-1); Newell-Fonda (0-0) at Remsen St. Mary’s (0-0); Remsen-Union (0-0) at West Bend-Mallard (1-0).