Dowling Catholic the class of Class 4-A, District 2 field

Dowling Catholic the class of Class 4-A, District 2 field

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Dowling Catholic the class of Class 4-A, District 2 field

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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 2:

THE FAVORITE

Can a team that went 14-0 get better? We’re about to find out. Dowling was supposed to be a year away from hitting its top gear last fall when the Maroons went undefeated and drilled Cedar Rapids Xavier 44-13 in the Class 4-A title game. Dowling has a core group of stars returning, led by Iowa recruit Ryan Boyle at quarterback, defensive ends Max Morris and Jo Jo Jok and free safety Nick Wilson. Throw in 31 more returning letterwinners, and it looks like a squad set to make another title run.

REBOUND TEAM

Johnston lost three straight games last September, reeled off four consecutive wins after that and then got thumped twice to finish 5-5. With 15 starters back, though, it’s hard to imagine the Dragons will endure such swings of inconsistency this season. It’s not just quantity, either. Andrew Heuss has been one of the area’s top pass catchers the past two seasons, Jared Seay gives the Dragons another big-play threat on the outside, Hezekiah Applegate registered 19 tackles for loss last year and Reid Sinnett completed 54.5 percent of his passes in an early-season timeshare at quarterback.

COACHES’ OBSERVATIONS

Several Class 4-A coaches offered their preseason thoughts on District 2, speaking on the condition of anonymity for competitive reasons:

In the entire state, I think the best two teams are Dowling and Waukee, and I don’t think it’s close. I think Waukee is a step down from Dowling, but who isn’t? … Obviously, everybody knows about Ryan Boyle, but the thing that sticks out to me about Dowling is the physicality of their offensive line and then their defensive line with the two ends. … Max Morris is phenomenal. He’s going to Northern Illinois and sometimes I watch him and think he could be playing at Alabama. … Johnston is very unique. They have a line sometimes that looks like a Valley line, but yet they have skilled athletes all over. Jared Seay is a freaky athlete. I think Reid Sinnett is a really good player. They’ve got a good defense coming back. Hezekiah Applegate has a great motor. He’s a really good high school football player. I think he’s a kid who can play at the next level. … Sioux City East graduated some awfully impressive kids. I think Bob Goodvin does a good job. He’s pretty smart offensively and has done a good job of getting the ball out in space and moving people around and getting the ball to his athletes. But I don’t think he’s got that stable of athletes like he’s had like Dom Thompson Williams and Ronald Nash. … North is intriguing to me with the things that coach Sean Quinlan is trying to do to stir excitement up and get kids on the right track. I’m looking forward to seeing where they’re at. … I’m pretty impressed with Lewis Central. They were 4-6 last year, but they return quite a bit.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Hezekiah Applegate — Johnston’s defensive lineman earned second-team all-state honors last year as a junior.

Ryan Boyle — The Dowling quarterback dazzled in a six-touchdown performance in last year’s state title game.

Martavian Hall — The Roosevelt standout led the Roughriders in receiving and finished second on the team in rushing last year.

Max Morris — The Northern Illinois-bound defensive end registered 17 tackles for loss last year for a dominant Dowling front.

Austin Simmons — The South Dakota commit accounted for 2,628 yards and 27 touchdowns last year for Lewis Central.

FEARLESS PREDICTIONS

— Dowling defensive ends Max Morris and Jo Jo Jok will combine for 50 tackles for loss.

— Johnston’s Andrew Heuss and Jared Seay will finish as the top two on the district receiving chart.

— North will be markedly improved. There’s a different vibe under rookie coach Sean Quinlan. It might not show up in the standings this season, but the Polar Bears will be better.

— Dowling newcomer Gray Gochenour will be the district’s best linebacker.

— Lewis Central’s Oct. 10 trip to Sioux City East will be the district’s best game of the year.

THIS SEASON HINGES ON …

— Dowling’s ability to avoid complacency and injuries. This is by far the most talented team in the district and quite possibly the state, too. It might be even better than the Maroon crew that went 14-0 last year.

— Johnston’s success on defense. The Dragons will score points. They have to get some stops, though, to compete with the elite programs.

— Lewis Central getting over the top. The Titans proved they could hang with 4-A playoff teams last year in losses to Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln and Indianola. Can they get over the hump in their move to a 4-A district?

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