This is a big week for both Nodaway Valley and Mount Ayr on the football field.
Nodaway Valley hosts Council Bluffs St. Albert in a game that could force a three-way tie for the district lead with a Wolverine win. Meanwhile, Mount Ayr plays in possibly its biggest game of the season to date.
Nodaway Valley enters Friday’s contest with the undefeated Falcons with a 4-1 district record. Friday’s game is the final district game of the season for the Wolverines.
The Wolverines have won their last three games and four of five after starting the season 0-2.
Council Bluffs St. Albert, meanwhile, enters with a 7-0 record. The Falcons have been looking for an answer at quarterback ever since senior Tucker Culjat went down with a knee injury in the second game of the season.
Since that time, three different players have taken snaps at quarterback for the Falcons.
Sophomore Travis Miller has thrown the most passes for the Falcons, going 26-of-50 for 298 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions. Freshman Elijah Finn is 17-of-35 for 185 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Senior Eric Johnson is 8-of-35 for 180 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Culjat was also a proven runner out of the backfield, rushing for 185 yards and three touchdowns prior to the injury. Finn is the team’s leading rusher with 526 yards and three touchdowns on 65 carries.
Sophomore Glen Bertlesen has 364 yards and six touchdowns on 59 carries. Senior Jacob Bendgen averages 10.2 yards per carry with nine touchdowns and 296 yards.
Johnson is also the leading receiver with 17 receptions for 224 yards and four touchdowns. Gage Bowman and Tyler Larchick both have more than 100 receiving yards for the season.
In short, the Wolverines must be prepared to stop any number of different Falcon players.
Nodaway Valley has leaned heavily on the shoulders of senior running back Zach Brewer lately, as he has accumulated 1,128 rushing yards in just six games. But, timely catches by receivers Baley Shantz, TJ Bower and Zach Plymesser have also played a key role in Nodaway Valley’s recent string of success.
A win over the Falcons, ranked second in the Associated Press poll, could force a three-way tie between the Wolverines, Falcons and Panorama for first place in Class 1A District 8.
Over in Class 1A District 7, Mount Ayr will be playing in quite possibly its biggest game of the season.
Two weeks ago, the Raiders traveled to Van Meter in a battle of unbeatens, but couldn’t escape unscathed.
Now, the Raiders host Ogden in a battle for second place and a home playoff game.
Both teams enter with records of 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the district. The lone loss for both teams has come at the hands of Van Meter.
The winner of Friday’s game earns the second seed in District 7, and thus, earns a home playoff game in the opening round of the playoffs. The loser of the game drops into third place.
The two teams met twice last year, with both contests being decided by just one touchdown.
Ogden features a balanced attack offensively, as senior quarterback Caleb Fry is completing 70 percent of his passes for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns, compared to just one interception.
His favorite target is Luke West, who has 41 catches for 605 yards and six touchdowns. Jake West has 23 receptions for 321 yards and three touchdowns.
Austin Lentz is the leading rusher with 808 yards and eight touchdowns on 104 carries.
The Bulldogs will provide a challenge not only for Mount Ayr’s defensive front, but also for the defensive backfield.
The Raiders have intercepted 18 passes as a team this year, breaking the previous school record for a single season. Kyle Dolecheck (six) and Erik Freed (five) have combined for 11 of those interceptions.
Friday’s home game will also mark senior night for the Raiders, and it will be the team’s “Pink Out” event to raise awareness and money to help fight breast cancer.
Martha Ricker, mother of Joe and Jake Ricker, was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this fall. Martha will serve as an honorary captain on Friday.
The team will wear pink jersey and socks in the game, with the jerseys being sold after the game and proceeds being used to help fight breast cancer within the local community.