2022 Football: Class 2A, District 7

Our final district preview involving a KQ-area team brings us to Class 2A, District 7, hosting the Norsemen of Roland-Story. The Norsemen are coming off a playoff appearance last season with a 3-6 record, while top of the district was dominated by a West Marshall team that wound up a game away from a UNI Dome appearance last season. Iowa Falls-Alden and Chariton return many key contributors as well, setting up a compelling season in the district.

The Favorite: West Marshall Trojans

Cody Hackett’s tenure has been a slow climb for the Trojans, after replacing his coach and Hall-of-Famer Ken Winkler, West Marshall saw a record of 2-16 in Hackett’s first couple years before breaking the .500 mark in 2016. 2020 proved to be the breakout campaign the Trojans had been waiting for, finishing with an 8-2 record and falling just short to PCM in the quarterfinals, and West Marshall followed up with a 9-2 mark in 2021.

The expectation is for the Trojans to be the hunted once again, as they return quite a few key pieces from last season’s district title team. The glaring departure is that of running back Preston Pope, who departs after rushing for 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, but quarterback Peyton Hart is looking to build off a breakout junior year, where he threw for over 700 yards and 5 touchdowns, while rushing for another 1,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. Sophomore Ben Gonzalez appears primed to step into the tailback spot and help carry the offensive load, while Graham Nason will give the Trojans a legit threat on the perimeter.

Defensively, the Trojans lose 3 of their 5 top tacklers from a year ago, but return their 2nd and 3rd leading tacklers in linebacker Caden Vellinga and defensive lineman Austin Pfantz, who tallied 61.5 and 56.5 tackles a year ago, respectively. Vellinga and Pfantz also led the team in fumble recoveries, jumping on 3 a piece.

The Challenger: Iowa Falls-Alden Cadets

The Cadets saw a season of promise in 2021, where their I-formation based rushing attack hit opposing defenses in a number of ways. A 6-4 record and a runner-up finish in the district has set up a possible run a district title in year 7 under Don Anderson. The Cadets must fill the void left by quarterback Kortland Nehring, which appears to be a job that Ethan Bartlett is ready to fill in his senior campaign. Fullback is also a question mark with the departure of Gabe Hadwiger.

Of the returners, the tailback spot is poised to be a prosperous one for IF-A, with the return of senior Kacen Boyer and junior Jaden Damiano. The duo combines for a “Thunder and Lightning” combination, as Boyer averaged just over 5.5 yards per carry in ’21, while Damiano averaged nearly 13 yards per carry, with each scoring 10 touchdowns a piece. Andrew Bicknese is a name to watch when it comes to a consistent receiving threat as well.

Defensively, Iowa Falls-Alden loses 3 of their top 4 tacklers from last season, but do return 4 of their top 8 tacklers in Kaden Steffen, Jaden Damiano, Ethan Bartlett and Grant Nielsen. The defensive backfield will have big shoes to fill with the departure of Blake Janssen, who led the team with 6 interceptions, returning 2 for touchdowns. However, Andrew Bicknese returns, who had 5 interceptions of his own a season ago.

The Darkhorse: Roland-Story Norsemen

Roland-Story saw many areas of growth in the 2021 campaign, as the Norsemen saw young skill players become integral parts of the offense in 2021, as well as the defensive side of the ball. Matt Finn, who enters his 3rd season at the helm in Story City, is looking for his breakout team in his tenure at Roland-Story, and this team possesses that capability.

The Norsemen do have some spots to fill with departure of quarterback Quin Ante, who threw for nearly 2,300 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, as well as top receiver Will Bunn, who cracked the 1,000 yard mark, while catching 10 touchdown passes. Hesston Johnson has been running with starters at quarterback in camp, and Bunn’s production will be filled by veteran players such as Kale Lande and Luke Patton. Key returners also include Jonovan Wilkinson, who was an equal rushing and receiving threat, as well as receivers such as Gavin Carpenter, Isaiah Naylor and Carter Flattebo.

Defensively, the Norsemen return 4 of their top 5 tacklers from last season, as Hesston Johnson led the team with 67 tackles. Christian Eslick, Luke Patton and Kale Lande also were among those leading tacklers for Roland-Story. Another task will be rebuilding the line on both ends for the Norsemen, although buzz is positive out of camp. Nick Stewart will anchor a young, but eager line for Roland-Story.

Projected Standings

  1. West Marshall Trojans
  2. Iowa Falls-Alden Cadets
  3. Roland-Story Norsemen
  4. Chariton Chargers
  5. PCM Mustangs
  6. Albia Blue Demons

West Marshall has proven that their resurgence isn’t a fluke, and they are the team to beat in District 7 once again. Iowa Falls-Alden and Roland-Story should provide worth foes for the Trojans between the Cadets rushing attack and Roland-Story’s high-flying spread offense. Chariton is a team that could make life interesting for opponents as well, while PCM and Albia appear to be in rebuilding years, respectively.

(Featured Image/Kevin Patterson)

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