By Ryan Murken Your Prep Sports
With Class 4A opening district play this week every game from here on out counts as teams race toward the playoffs.
With five regular season games remaining here are five things to watch in week five.
Battle of the backs
Two of the most productive running backs in the state square off on Friday as Peter Kilburg and Luke Lenoch go head to head.
Kilburg ranks sixth in the state with 788 rushing yards this season, helping Bellevue to a perfect 4-0 start.
The 5-8, 145-pound senior is averaging 9.4 yards per carry and has 12 touchdowns this season.
“He’s an excellent running back, he has great balance, he has great vision he runs extremely hard and he is just an outstanding athlete,” West Branch coach Butch Pedersen said of Kilburg. “He is an excellent, excellent 1A football running back.”
West Branch (3-1) counters with Lenoch who has been among the best in Class 1A for the last three seasons.
Lenoch enters the meeting with Kilburg and the Comets seventh in Iowa in rushing this season with 767 yards and is just 49 shy of 5,000 for his career.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Lenoch rushed for 285 yards and a school-record six touchdowns in a 54-32 win over Maquoketa Valley last week and will face a Bellevue defense that held its first three opponents to a combined 53 yards rushing.
Meanwhile, West Branch will try to shore up a defense that allowed season-highs of 441 yards and 32 points last week against a Kilburg-led Bellevue offense that’s averaging 425 yards per game.
“We’ve improve a lot, we’ve made some changes on defense this week, we think we are a better defensive team than we were last week but we are going to have to show it out on the field,” Pedersen said. “They have shown the first four games that they don’t give up many points.”
Ready for the run
Garrett Hartwig knows what to expect from Cedar Rapids Prairie and its wing T offense in Friday’s 4A, District 8 opener.
Hartwig and West High knocked off the Hawks 35-20 in the opening round of last year’s 4A playoffs.
Knowing what to expect and stopping a Prairie offense averaging 258 rushing yards and 37 points per game are two different things.
“They do what they do very well and there is no way to fully prepare for it in practice,” Hartwig said. “You can teach it, you can show it in film, you talk about it but until you see it live in full speed it’s going to take a series or two to get used to the speed what you are going to see.”
Prairie (3-1) is averaging 317 rushing yards and 44 points during its current three-game winning streak.
Meanwhile, West High has been solid against the run this season holding opponents to 150 yards per game.
Tussles at the top
While Class 4A opens district play this week a pair of area teams will try to remain atop the district standings this week.
Solon (3-1, 2-0 district) hosts Oskaloosa (3-1,2-0 ) in a meeting of two of the three remaining undefeated teams in Class 3A District 5.
West Burlington/Notre Dame (4-0) is the only other remaining unbeaten in District 5.
In Class 1A Bellevue (4-0, 2-0) and West Branch (3-1, 2-0) also meet as two of three unbeaten teams in District 3.
Clayton Ridge (3-1, 2-0) is the other remaining undefeated team in the district
Four weeks into the season City High has faced one of the best option offenses in the state in Pleasant Valley and one of the top individual players in Iowa in Oliver Martin.
This week the Little Hawks get an up-close look at the state’s most prolific passer in Clinton senior Johnny Sullivan.
Sullivan leads the state in passing yards with 1,254 (313.5 per game) and is second in the state with 15 touchdown passes.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior is completing 68 percent of his passes and thrown two interceptions in 136 attempts.
“He is a really good quarterback, he knows how to read the field and their receivers run really good routes,” City High senior Jordain Buckland said. “Their offense makes you defend the whole field. They run every single route in the passing tree.”
Setting up a showdown
At 4-0 Clear Creek Amana is off to the best start under head coaches Matt and Ronnie Hughes and one of the best in program history.
With a win on Friday against Center Point-Urbana (2-2) the Clippers would set up one of the biggest games in school history.
A win Friday on homecoming would not only snap a two-game losing skid to CPU but it would likely push the Clippers into the top 10 and set up matchup of unbeatens next Friday with West Delaware.
Undefeated or not next week’s meeting with West Delaware will go a long way in determining the 3A District 4 title.
Before the Clippers can think about a matchup with West Delaware it must get past a CPU squad that has won the last two meetings over the Clippers by a combined 10 points.
“We have done a good job of focusing on the present week and worrying about going one week at a time,” Matt Hughes said. “We haven’t been looking forward to anything else just concentrating on the team at hand and moving on to the next week.”