Your Prep Sports
It is the halfway point of the high school football season.
Or almost the midpoint depending on which class your team competes in.
Whether it’s an eight-game or nine-game regular season the midpoint is close and district games are here.
Before the second half of the season gets rolling lets take a minute to take a look at what has stood out from the early part of the prep season with a few first half observations.
There is A LOT of football left but here are a few things that have stood out through four weeks.
I wrote two weeks ago I thought all seven Your Prep Sports area teams were playoff teams.
Two weeks later I sill believe that.
West Branch is the lone remaining unbeaten at 4-0 while West High and Liberty High are 3-1.
All three of those teams have proved to be teams capable of reaching the postseason but have plenty of important games remaining to achieve that (more on this later).
There is plenty of work to do to reach the postseason for 2-2 teams City High, Solon, Regina and Clear Creek but I sincerely think all have shown the capability of qualifying for the postseason.
The surprise is not that the Bears are 4-0 or a top-five team in Class 1A, both of those were predictable before the season began.
What has been slightly surprising is the early dominance from West Branch.
West Branch has outscored opponents 240-33 during its four wins while showing a dominant defense and improved efficiency offensively.
A Bear offense that averaged 278 total yards, 24.9 points and 5.7 yards per play a year ago has bumped those numbers to 303 yards, 60 points and 7.5 yards per play this season.
Without question the toughest part of the schedule remains with district games against Mediapolis (4-0), Durant (4-0), Regina (2-2) and Wilton (3-1) remaining.
However, this West Branch team appears fully capable of making a UNI-Dome run in a challenging 1A class.
Biggest Win So Far
Liberty High against City High.
The win in the clash for Kinnick was big for the Lightning in the moment but would only truly be a program-changer if the Lightning could use it as a springboard.
That is exactly what Liberty High has done while getting off to a 3-1 start adding wins over 5A Linn-Mar and rival Clear Creek Amana.
At this point in the season the win over City High still ranks among the best victories for any 4A team this season.
Biggest Game(s) Upcoming
There have already been a handful of great games in the first half of the season.
Mount Vernon at Solon, City High and Liberty High, West High and Cedar Rapids Kennedy highlight that list.
Perhaps the best games of the entire area slate are still coming.
It starts with a couple of huge ones this week (more coverage of course coming on these this week at Your Prep Sports) as City High and West High meet in the Battle of the Boot and Liberty High hosts North Scott.
The Boot game is the Boot game. Nothing more needs to be said.
North Scott (3-1) travels to Liberty High (3-1) Friday for the defacto 4A, District 5 title game.
Regina (2-2) travels to the Little Rose Bowl to face West Branch (4-0) in two weeks.
Circle all of those on the calendar.
Mid-Season Offensive MVP
There is a case to be made that Beckman has had the best start to the season of any quarterback in the state.
The Liberty High junior has completed 63 percent of his passes for 970 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception and rushed for 150 yards and three scores.
Beckman ranks 11th in the state in passing yards, 13th in completion percentage and is one of only five quarterbacks state-wide with at least nine touchdowns without an interception.
Perhaps most impressive for Beckman this season is the stat line has come against a pair of 5A programs and road games at strong 4A teams Western Dubuque and Clear Creek Amana.
Mid-Season Defensive MVP
Take your pick on this one there are plenty of worthy recipients including a quartet of playmaking area linebackers in Iowa recruit Ben Kueter of City High, West High junior Ashton Honore, Clear Creek Amana senior Brock Sherman and Solon junior Brett White.
My nod goes to Honore who has been stellar while helping West High flip its record through four games from 1-3 a year ago to 3-1 this season.
The 6-foot, 210-pound Honore has a team-high 28.5 tackles and four sacks and ranks third in the state with 16 tackles for loss.
Honore has helped a West High defense that allowed 414 total yards and 33 points per game and 7.5 yards per play last season cut those numbers 298 yards, 17.8 points and 5.4 yards per play this season.
Mid-Season Breakthrough Performer
Everyone at West High knew what a healthy Janis could do on the football field and it has only taken four games this season for the senior receiver to show the rest of the state.
Janis ranks eighth in the state with 482 receiving yards, is ninth with seven touchdown receptions and his 25.4 yards per catch is fifth in the state.
It’s not just the offensive numbers.
Janis has also returned an interception and a punt for a touchdown and recovered a fumble.
His presence on the field changes the game for the Trojans.
Mid-Season Unsung Hero
Clear Creek Amana senior linebacker Brock Sherman.
With some of the talent in the area especially at linebacker it’ is easy to overlook what Sherman has done through four games this season.
That is a mistake.
The senior linebacker has been excellent leading the Clippers with 35 tackles including 7.5 for loss while solidifying an improved Clipper defense.