MARSHALLTOWN AT ANKENY
When/where: 7 p.m., Ankeny Stadium
About Marshalltown: Quarterback Blake Gimbel and the quick-strike Bobcat offense will have to score in bunches to take down the No. 3 Hawks. Can the defense come through with stops?
About Ankeny: Hawks coach Jerry Pezzetti is well aware of the challenges Gimbel presents, and will rely on an inexperienced secondary and ball-control offense to get the job done.
Last Meeting: Marshalltown 31, Ankeny 21 on Nov. 6, 2009.
When/where: 7 p.m., McGrane Stadium
About Indianola: The Indians have a size advantage, and Hoover provides a great opportunity for 6-foot-4, 300-pound Keegan Render to impact both sides of the line.
About Hoover: The Huskies were unable to stay competitive most of last season, and they now face a severe lack of depth. Can sophomore quarterback Brock Larson help steady the ship?
Last Meeting: Hoover 1, Indianola 0 (forfeit) on Aug. 19, 2011.
When/where: 7:30 p.m., Johnston Stadium
About Dowling: The Maroons will find out quickly if young players, such as quarterback Ryan Boyle, can step in and roll over a former Central Conference rival like their predecessors.
About Johnston: A disciplined Dowling defense is a major challenge for the Dragons’ misdirection-heavy spread offense. Three-year quarterback Michael Kinning will be a calming presence.
Last Meeting: Dowling 27, Johnston 14 on Oct. 14, 2011.
When/where: 7 p.m., Mohawk Field
About Ames: The Little Cyclones handed Mason City the first of six straight losses to end last season. Returning skill position players will hope to improve for an offense that scored less than 20 points per game.
About Mason City: Four returning defensive linemen will bolster a side of the ball that wore down late last fall. The Mohawks will feature a deliberate offensive attack with fresh faces.
Last Meeting: Ames 27, Mason City 6 on Sept. 16, 2011.
When/where: 7:30 p.m., Schafer Stadium
About Valley: The top-ranked defending champions have numerous rushing options, but junior running back Tyus Mason could surpass last season’s 1,000 yards and 20 touchdowns by the end of September.
About Ottumwa: The Bulldogs have undergone a makeover, with a new coach, new workhorses and a new offense. Will Ottumwa fans be patient watching the spread?
Last Meeting: Valley 42, Ottumwa 7 on Aug. 26, 2011.
— Compiled by Chris Cuellar