Area teams eager to get started

Week 1 of the Iowa prep football season kicks off tonight with several intriguing non-district matchups around the state.

Opening the year on the right foot can go a long way in helping teams build some momentum for potential playoff bids.

New realignment means facing many different opponents in 2014.

Among this evening’s top games featuring area programs are Southeast Valley at Manson Northwest Webster, South Central Calhoun at Greene County, Spencer at Humboldt and West Bend-Mallard at Newell-Fonda.

Here’s a closer glance at Friday’s action:

Southeast Valley (0-0) at Manson NW (0-0)

Mike Swieter’s Jaguars are hoping to shine in their first year as a consolidated program between Prairie Valley and Southeast Webster-Grand.

The Warriors finished 6-4 last season, while the Eagles went 2-7. Now, the two schools have joined to compete in Class 2A, District 8.

Despite returning 15 letterwinners – all starters at PV or SW-G – Southeast Valley boasts little varsity experience under center. Curt Castenson of the Eagles and Austin Wood from the Warriors each graduated. Combined, the duo threw for 920 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Tristan Ewing, a sophomore, rushed for 1,146 yards and 13 scores as a ninth-grader. Ryan True added 445 yards, reaching paydirt five times.

Cade King, Shane Promes and Conner Conrad form a capable receiving trio for the Jaguars. King managed 19 catches for 385 yards and three scores last fall.

Others expected to make a key impact for Southeast Valley are Tom Nahnsen, Dylan Anderson, Chase Mobley, Johnny Lautner, Brett Black, Logan Boerner, Anthony Mendoza, Dakota Jaeschke, Myles Davis and Sam Berglund.

Fresh off their fifth playoff appearance in the past six years, the Cougars enter 2014 with more lofty expectations.

Last year, MNW recorded an 8-3 overall mark. This time around, Jeff Anliker’s squad returns 12 letterwinners.

Senior Alex Bush hit on 79 passes for 1,039 yards and 11 TDs as a junior. Bush also delivered 491 yards and nine scores on the ground, while classmate McCoy Snell ran for a team-high 1,032 yards, finding the endzone on 11 occasions.

All-stater Cal Twait, Tim Butcher, Nolan Olson, Andy Abens, Keagan Heun, Nathan Krueger, John Calmer, Brandt Birkey, Kaleb Simacek and Skyler Michalski will all play major roles for the Cougars as well.

South Central Calhoun (0-0) at Greene County (0-0)

Both the Titans and Rams qualified for the 2A playoffs last season, finishing with identical 5-5 records.

Bryan Case’s South Central Calhoun squad returns a group of 12 letterwinners, including seven starters.

Senior Jeff King will be a focal point in the SCC ground attack after contributing a team-high 428 yards and six touchdowns a year ago. Juniors Cyle King and Derrick Henkenius combined for 29 catches for 456 yards and six scores in 2013.

All-district linebacker Rylan Richardson, a junior, spearheaded the Titans with 126 tackles last season. Dylan Addison, Zayne Barrett, Colin Carlson, Cole Jacobs, Levi Ellis, Kory McCarter and Nick Robinson will also be leaned on heavily.

For the Rams, a total of 14 letterwinners are back on the roster. Junior signal-caller Daric Whipple completed 67 passes for 801 yards as a 10th-grader. Tyler Beger (13 catches, 195 yards) and Jake Carey (10-179-3 TD) supply Greene County with a pair of capable receiving options.

Rushing-wise, Dylan Hamilton (131-559-5) and JC Weitl (69-351-3) will be the top threats for the Rams.

On the defensive side of the ball, Joe Doran, Max Neese and Keyden Pollock lead the way. That trio was 1-2-3 on the team in stops last season with 89, 55 and 48, respectively.

Jordan Challen, Alex Rasmussen, Alec Schneider, Isaac Perez, Noah Juergensen and Riah Nelsen all started for Greene County in 2013, while Jordan Hostetler, Wyatt Taggart and Karlan Langfitt each lettered.

Spencer (0-0) at Humboldt (0-0)

Following a 6-4 campaign, which included a Class 3A playoff trip, the Wildcats now bring back 17 letterwinners.

All-stater Brady Ross willl once again be a force on both sides of the ball for Humboldt. Ross, a senior, rushed for 1,248 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. From his linebacker spot, Ross also collected a team-high 89 tackles.

Jaxon Heinz threw for 852 yards and five scores as a junior for the Wildcats. Austin Zylstra was his favorite target, pulling down 22 catches for 295 yards and three TDs.

Christian Birdsell, Geoff Bruder, Mike Madsen, Kenny Kuyper, Adam Mickelson, Cordes Olthoff, Tony Nielsen and Jake Stockdale are among Humboldt’s other top returning players.

Last fall, the Tigers went 8-3 overall, advancing to the second round of the postseason. John Greer, a senior, will continue to be a workhorse for Spencer after accumulating a team-best 935 yards and nine scores in 2013.

As a junior, Malik Rasch paced the Tigers with 10 grabs for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Reagan Wilson notched a team-best 74 stops a year ago for Spencer, which is under the direction of Jim Tighe – the son of legendary St. Edmond head coach Dick Tighe.

West Bend-Mallard (0-0) at Newell-Fonda (0-0)

For the Wolverines, just three letterwinners return on the heels of a 10-victory season, which ended in the second round of the 8-man playoffs.

Gone from a year ago are all-staters Jesse Zinnel, Jason Zinnel, Nathan Grimm and Cole Banwart.

Jesse Zinnel completed 86 passes for 1,250 yards and 10 scores last fall, while also rushing for 702 yards and 17 touchdowns. Defensively, Grimm ranked second among all 8-man players and third in the state in tackles (173).

Jeff Riesenberg, a sophomore, will now likely start at quarterback for WB-M. In limited duty as a ninth-grader, Riesenberg ran for 111 yards and a TD on 10 attempts. Junior Travis Fehr chipped in 84 yards and one score on the ground last fall.

After reaching the 8-man state semifinals a year ago, Brian Wilken’s Mustangs will feature an entirely new lineup.

As a unit, Newell-Fonda ranked fourth in rushing yards (3,801), fourth in total points (658) and fifth in total yards (4,954) among all 8-man programs in 2013. All-staters Brady Bohe, Dalton Anderson and Andrew Temple have all since moved on.

Bohe accounted for a team-best 2,094 yards, reaching paydirt 33 times during his senior campaign. He also anchored the Mustangs with 151 tackles and two picks.

Junior Cole Wise is the top returning rusher for Newell-Fonda. Wise carried 24 times for 256 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore. Payton Crilly and Conner Wolterman are also back after combining for 91 stops last season.

Other area games tonight: Forest City at Algona, Webster City at Gilbert; East Sac County at IKM-Manning; Clarion-Goldfield at Eagle Grove; Storm Lake at Emmetsburg; Sioux Central at Pocahontas Area; Okoboji at North Union; Laurens-Marathon at Coon Rapids-Bayard.