Crowded group to chase Ames in Class 4-A, District 1

Crowded group to chase Ames in Class 4-A, District 1


Crowded group to chase Ames in Class 4-A, District 1


Register high school football reporter Andy Hamilton breaks down each of the Class 4-A districts before the start of the season. Here’s a look at District 1:


Ames turned into Iowa high school football’s greatest show on turf last year when the Little Cyclones averaged nearly 50 points per game and led the state in highlight-reel touchdowns. The 2013 Little Cyclones could score three touchdowns in the time it takes to make a concession stand visit. Ames might not wear out the stat keepers this season after its offense sustained a massive graduation hit from a squad that went 11-1. Instead, the Little Cyclones will lean on a defense that returns five postseason starters, including linebackers Hank Swalla and Chris Halbur, who combined for 184 tackles last season.


They may have played for the old school in town, but everything was new for the Ankeny Hawks last year. A new coach, a whole new staff, a new offensive scheme and a new defense led to a whole bunch of learning on the fly for Brad Zelenovich’s team.

“Now there’s familiarity, there’s carryover, there’s continuity amongst our staff and that always helps, no matter what program you’re talking about,” the second-year Ankeny coach said. “We’re much further along than we were a year ago.”

Fifteen starters return from a 4-6 team that closed the regular season with three straight wins, including four starting offensive linemen and quarterback Cole Whitaker, who led the Hawks in passing and rushing.


Several Class 4-A coaches offered their preseason thoughts on District 1, speaking on the condition of anonymity for competitive reasons:

This is a really even district and it might be the strongest when you look at all the teams in it. … Ames lost so much, but as I watch the tape of their under levels, they’re good, they’re really talented. … We had a pretty good sophomore team, but Ames handled us. I know their junior class will be pretty darn good. … We watched Ankeny at the end of the year, and they were physical. They’ve got them playing really physical with that group. … Southeast Polk’s defense is physical, athletic and flies around. You watch them on tape and Deion Mikesell at linebacker and Brady Buchheit back in the secondary are a couple experienced guys and they have a few more experienced guys up front. They’re fast and they’ve always been physical kids. They’re going through a little bit of a transition offensively, losing the quarterback, but Caleb Pavon looks to me to be a pretty good running back. They’re definitely a top-10 team. … Daniel Tillo is dangerous because he’s an athlete. He can run, he can throw, he’s got a cannon for an arm and I really liked him. I’m glad we don’t have to play him this year. When you have a guy who can run and throw, that gives you problems on the defensive side of the ball.


Jaylin James — The 6-foot-3, 175-pound senior is a two-way threat who led East in touchdown catches last year.

Jake Marnin — The leader of the Southeast Polk offensive line is a national champion wrestler who earned second-team all-state honors as a junior.

Deion Mikesell — The Southeast Polk linebacker earned second-team all-state honors last season when he piled up 81 tackles, including five sacks.

Hank Swalla — Led Ames in tackles with 98 stops as a junior.

Daniel Tillo — Sioux City North’s quarterback accounted for 670 yards last year in a win against Fort Dodge.


— This will easily be the best 4-A division race in western Iowa. There might not be a dominant team, but there will be drama down to the final week when Southeast Polk plays at Ankeny.

— Health permitting, Daniel Tillo will finish among the top three in total offense in Class 4-A.

— Ankeny and East will match or exceed their 2013 win totals by mid-October.

— Southeast Polk linebacker Deion Mikesell will have an Elite all-state season.

— Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson will be more competitive. True, that’s not exactly a bold prediction when a team gets outscored by 160 points in its last two games, but help is on the way. The Yellow Jackets’ freshman team went 7-1 last year.


— Ames’ search for playmakers. We think we’re safe in saying no team has ever faced the challenge of replacing the state’s leading passer, rusher and receiver before. The Little Cyclones don’t need to find another trio like Sam Straub, Clifford Kwaw-Mensah and Alex Brammer, but they need to find playmakers who can move the chains and take pressure off their defense.

— Southeast Polk’s quarterback development. The Rams have enough pieces to contend for a district title, but they’re a team that traditionally relies on its quarterback, and none of the Southeast Polk signal callers has thrown a varsity pass.

— Sioux City North’s ability to surround and protect Daniel Tillo. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound quarterback is one of the district’s most dangerous weapons. Last year proved, though, that the Stars need more stars.


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