Last season, Class 1A, District 2 was a mixed bag of results. The top of the district belonged to South Central Calhoun, which was close to what many prognosticated coming in to 2021, but teams like Woodward-Granger, South Hamilton and Eagle Grove saw their season take some roller coaster rides along the way. 2022 looks to be even ore of a mixed bag in District 2, with the top dogs perhaps taking a step back, while new faces emerge on promising young teams.
The Favorite: Woodward-Granger Hawks
Year one under head coach Cory Crnkovich was a success compared to the stagnant success of the prior seasons for the Woodward-Granger Hawks. A 5-3 record was good enough to claim runner-up in the district and picked up a playoff win over Interstate 35 before bowing out to eventual Class 1A State Champions Van Meter.
The Hawks possessed a balanced spread attack a season ago, led by the trio of quarterback Carter Moran, running back Dustin Harney and wide receiver Dane Polich. Harney is the lone member of that trio not returning in 2022, but the passing attack of Moran, Polich and fellow senior Brody Nardini could be a prolific one for Woodward-Granger. Moran threw for over 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns, while rushing for nearly 300 yards and 9 touchdowns as a junior. A point of emphasis will likely be to raise the completion percentage of 52.9% and cut down on the 7 interceptions he threw last season as well.
Receivers Dane Polich and Brody Nardini played a large part of the Hawks offensive success in 2021, with each receiver totaling over 600 yards with Polich scoring 8 touchdowns and Nardini catching 3 touchdowns. It will likely be up to senior Dylan McCaulley to fill the role at running back vacated by Dustin Harney, while the offensive line does replace a number of faces. Defensively, the Hawks return quite a bit of production despite losing their top 3 tacklers.
The Challenger: South Central Calhoun Titans
As someone who’s been around high school football for a large part of my life, it feels odd to list the perennial powers from Lake City as the challenger in their district. However, the Titans have a lot to replace from last year’s district championship team that bowed out to 1A quarterfinalist AC/GC in the 2nd round of the playoffs.
The departures of Blake McAlister and Kevin King in the backfield leave a glaring hole in the traditional ground-and-pound offense the Titans have built under head coach Bryan Case. Sophomore Zach Trott will be asked to fill in some big shoes left by McAlister and Kevin King, and a likely young-player will have to emerge for the other running back spot. South Central Calhoun also loses their top wide out in Joshua Dietrich, who caught 14 balls for 305 yards and a touchdown as a senior.
The positive is that the Titans have a quarterback who proved himself as a sophomore in Gavin Batta. Batta threw for 930 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore, with just 1 interception and a 60.2% completion percentage. Batta will likely be asked to carry a larger share of the load in 2022, and may become more of a running threat as a result.
Defensively, the Titans lose 3 of their top 4 tacklers from 2021, with their leading tackle returning in linebacker Chance Roeder. While the most productive defensive players depart for South Central Calhoun, plenty of younger players that received varsity experience return, which could help make the transition smoother to a full-time varsity role.
The Darkhorses: South Hamilton Hawks and Eagle Grove Eagles
Two teams that I see as realistic darkhorses in Class 1A, District 2 are our KQ-area teams in South Hamilton and Eagle Grove. First for South Hamilton, it’s the dawn of a new era with Paul Skartvedt replacing Corey Klemp after Klemp’s 7 seasons at the helm in Jewell. Skartvedt takes over following perhaps the best run of success in program history and doesn’t plan to change the formula that helped create that run.
The Hawks endured an up and down season in 2021 that was plagued with injuries, but there were names that emerged that will be key pieces for the 2022 squad. South Hamilton returns leading rusher Landon Skartvedt, who ran for nearly 1,100 yards and 9 touchdowns last season. Hawks quarterback Tjerdan Johnson will also be another year older, and poised to become a bigger threat in South Hamilton’s wishbone attack.
Fullback will be a position that the Hawks will need to find an answer for in that wishbone offense, as Austin Busch filled the role well a season ago, scoring 13 touchdowns, even with missing the first 3 games. Blake Harris and Noah Gunderson are two names to watch for taking over the fullback spot. Offensive line will include many younger players, but many of those players got extended varsity time due to injuries last season, such as Owen Duns, Carter Stolee, and Tucker Clabaugh. Carter Balvanz will anchor the offensive line after missing most of last season with a knee injury.
As for Eagle Grove, the Eagles are coming off a watershed 2021 season, in which they snapped their 25-game losing streak against MVAOCOU in week 2, before clinching the program’s first playoff berth in 10 years with a win over Belmond-Klemme. While their playoff time was short-lived as the fell to the undefeated Dike-New Hartford in the first round, expectations are as high as they’ve been in over decade for the Eagles.
Head Coach Logan Willard returns 3 of his top 5 rushers in the Eagles option-based offense, with fullback Jake Jeske poised for a breakout junior year. Jeske rushed for nearly 500 yards in 2021, while also amassing 29.5 tackles defensively. Caden Schultz and Orlando Hernandez are two other backs who will look to aid quarterback Tate Richardson and Jeske into making Eagle Grove’s offense a dynamic rushing attack.
The offensive line will have pieces to replace with Chris Williams, Peyton Larsen and Isaac Olson departing, but players such as Korey Anderson, Dustin Dawson and Jack Mendoza, while undersized, have the ability to make this Eagles offensive and defensive line a scrappy, tough-as-nails bunch. Drake Canavan will also give the Eagles a large receiving threat on the perimeter.
- Woodward-Granger Hawks
- South Central Calhoun Titans
- South Hamilton Hawks
- Eagle Grove Eagles
- Manson-Northwest Webster Cougars
- Belmond-Klemme Broncos
I expect the same 4 teams that qualified for the playoffs in 2021 to be District 2’s qualifiers in 2022, with the only change in Woodward-Granger winning the district. It wouldn’t be all that surprising to see South Hamilton sneak into that 2-seed spot if they are finally able to knock off South Central Calhoun, and Eagle Grove is a team that is ready to take the next step and contend with the top of the district.
(Featured Image courtesy of Angela Hewitt)