LAST MATCHUP: First meeting
OVERVIEW: Nodaway Valley had a bye week to end the season, playing in one of three games in the state during Week 0. The week off comes after a one-score loss to Earlham. Four of Nodaway Valley’s five losses were one-score games.
Nodaway Valley’s offense has been productive this year, moving the ball down the field consistently, but has had trouble with turnovers. Winning the turnover battle is going to be important for the Wolverines to steal a first-round win on the road. The defense has proved it can force takeaways, with Jon Gebbie intercepting four passes to lead the team.
North Mahaska is on a two-game winning streak after three straight losses. The offense has put up 51 combined points in the two games with 365 yards on the ground. The ground game has been the effective facet of the Warhawks’ game, rushing for 732 yards on the season, while passing for 624.
If Nodaway Valley can keep from giving the ball away, the Wolverines have a chance to move on to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in the Quikstats era. Expect Nodaway Valley to use the passing game and athletes on the outside to its advantage.
NODAWAY VALLEY PLAYERS TO WATCH: Nate Russell at quarterback has been a key part of the Wolverines’ success all year. Mistakes late in the game have hurt Nodaway Valley, but his play has helped push the team to its wins. He’ll look for Caelen DeVault on the outside, while Tony and Adam Ayase look to balance the offense in the running game.
NORTH MAHASKA PLAYERS TO WATCH: Expect North Mahaska to carry running back Dominic Deboef’s hot hand and use leading rusher Dylan Klinker out of the backfield. The duo has been the key part of the running game. Blake Readshaw is a threat in the secondary, intercepting five passes this season, tied for a lead in Class A.
TIME AND SITE: 7 p.m. in Lenox
RECORDS: East Mills (4-3), Lenox (4-1)
LAST MATCHUP (2020): Lenox 34, East Mills 29
OVERVIEW: Lenox is coming off a two-week quarantine due to COVID and is set to face Week 1 opponent East Mills. Trailing 29-28 with 59 seconds left, Lenox drove down the field to score on a pass with two seconds left on the clock to take the win.
After two weeks off, taking down the Wolverines will be a difficult task for the Tigers. Lenox has a combination of athletes to make plays on the outside, in the backfield and under center. Relying on the combo might be difficult after so much time off. Expect a simple offense with substitutions from a solid roster.
East Mills enters the first round of the playoffs rolling, coming off three straight blowout wins. The Wolverines have outscored opponents 163-38. East Mills has rushed for 492 of the season's 1,131 the last three weeks. Wins came over Bedford and East Union – who Lenox beat this season – and Pattonsburg.
Look for Lenox to focus on the ground game early, with communication potentially being out of sync early in the game. Experienced upperclassmen for Lenox should give the group a good chance despite two weeks off.
EAST MILLS PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jackson Wray has been a dual-threat attack at quarterback. He has passed for 975 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for 657 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wray has been turnover prone, throwing six interceptions this season. Mason Crouse has been the key receiver for the Wolverines, catching 31 passes for 385 yards.
LENOX PLAYERS TO WATCH: Cullen Woods, Isaac Grundman and Brad Larson have been strong options for the Tigers all year. This week, in a win or go home game, the veteran leadership will be needed as the team gets back into the swing of things.
TIME AND SITE: 7 p.m. in Murray
RECORDS: Stanton (3-3), Murray (4-3)
LAST MATCHUP (2019): Stanton 40, Murray 6
OVERVIEW: Murray ended the regular season just short against Martensdale-St Marys last week, but continues to show it's on the cusp of being a contender in the district. Now, the Mustangs have a chance to knock off Stanton for the first time.
Murray's three matchups with Stanton have all resulted in losses, but the Mustangs have a powerful offense this year and play solid in all facets of the game. Special teams have created multiple opportunities for Murray this year, blocking a punt last week for a safety. The defense has done enough to give the offense the chance it needs.
Stanton is coming off a 34-20 loss to No. 4 CAM last week. The Vikings offense has been versatile, using the rush and pass effectively. Stanton utilizes quarterback Carter Johnson well, as he has passed for 877 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 308 yards and 10 touchdowns. The offense is balanced, passing for 988 yards and rushing for 835.
If Murray can shut down Johnson in either the rushing or passing game, and force Stanton to be one-dimensional, the Mustangs have a good chance to move on to the second round. Special teams can become a factor in this one, with Brycen Wookey being a force for Murray.
STANTON PLAYERS TO WATCH: Johnson will be the biggest factor and the player Murray will look to shut down. He's had a strong season in the running and passing game. Expect Johnson and leading rusher Logan Roberts to be the main forces for the Vikings Friday.
MURRAY PLAYERS TO WATCH: Murray's rushing attack has been on fire with quarterback Zack Belden and running back Chance Lecy. The Mustangs rushed attack has amassed 1,787 yards, with Lecy leading the group with 662 and Belden close behind with 643. Wookey's 5-9, 235-pound frame is tough to stop, so another special teams play could be the difference.
TIME AND SITE: 7 p.m. in Corning
RECORDS: IKM-Manning (2-5), Southwest Valley (6-2)
LAST MATCHUP: First meeting
OVERVIEW: A strong regular season gave Southwest Valley a solid draw, facing IKM-Manning in the first round of the playoffs Friday. The Timberwolves have seen it all this season, playing hard against top opponents.
Southwest Valley's rushing attack is the key to the team's success. During wins, the Timberwolves have found a way to grind out yards on the ground while controlling the clock. Wearing opponents out has been another key, keeping the ball on the ground and using a strong offensive line. The rushing attack has racked up over 1,600 yards on the ground.
IKM-Manning has a strong rushing attack of its own, tallying over 1,200 yards. Similar to Southwest Valley, the Wolves have been part of low-scoring games. The defense has been able to make big plays, seeing six interceptions and one fumble recovery. Protecting the ball for both sides is going to be a major key.
The clock is going to be another opponent both sides will face. Passing attacks for both teams isn't the primary source of offense. With both sides running the ball, the clock will be moving consistently, so taking advantage of each possession will be key. The Timberwolves' offense has been strong all season, so they have a good shot at moving on to round two.
IKM-MANNING PLAYERS TO WATCH: Kyler Rasmussen has been the guy for the Wolves this year. He is a force in the backfield, rushing for 800 on 143 carries, and leads the team with 67 1/2 tackles and three interceptions. Expect Southwest Valley to circle Rasmussen.
SOUTHWEST VALLEY PLAYERS TO WATCH: Brendan Knapp's ability to control the ball and clock will be a key factor this week. He's been a strong force in the game, but his knowledge of the offense and experience will show as this week looks to be low scoring. Look for Tallen Myers on defense as someone the Timberwolves need to stop Rasmussen.