Saturday’s Cy-Hawk showdown does not have a monopoly on in-state football rivalries this weekend.
Heck, Iowa and Iowa State aren’t the only trophy game in Ames.
Iowa high school football’s Week 3 is loaded with classic clashes and new non-district matchups, especially within the competitive schedules of Class 4A.
“I told the kids, it can’t be a rivalry until we beat them,” said first-year Ankeny coach Rick Nelson.
Ankeny and Ankeny Centennial will be playing for the third time since the suburban high school split in 2013. The seemingly natural rivalry between crosstown former classmates is still finding its legs, even after last season’s 27-24 comeback win for the Jaguars.
“The first year especially was strange for us,” said Centennial co-coach Ryan Pezzetti. “Last year it was a little bit more of a football game and the hype of the first inner-city matchup was over. I feel this year it’s just another game, but still a competitive game that will probably be down to the wire.”
And now the young rivalry is handling its first coaching change. Ankeny’s playbook got a makeover when Nelson left his job as Northern Iowa’s offensive line coach to take over for Southeast Polk-bound Brad Zelenovich, and the Hawks (1-1) are figuring out how to win as a pass-first team.
“I know how it can be just from Cedar Falls and (Waterloo) West being right next to each other, and I remember when Iowa City split and how that turned into a tough rivalry,” Nelson said. “I knew this would be big, because Ankeny’s been so good for so long.”
No. 6 Centennial (2-0) has the throwback running scheme and youthful starters to give this incarnation of the rivalry some longevity. Stands at Northview Middle School should be packed for the 7 p.m. kickoff.
“I’ve coached eighth-grade track for awhile and the first couple years there was turnover where we knew most the kids,” Pezzetti said. “Ankeny’s last two quarterbacks, Cole Whitaker and now Blaine Hawkins, they were managers for us when they were youngsters. You want them to do well, but it’s also fun competing against them and having that friendly rivalry.”
Even fresher than Ankeny’s battle is the aforementioned Little Cy-Little Hawk game. Iowa City High (0-2) is visiting Ames (0-2) the night before the college teams kickoff, the second meeting in what’s expected to be an annual event.
It’s up to the state’s largest schools to keep the rivalry games going, as district play has begun for most classifications. Old matchups that used to be marquee games of CIML conference play — Southeast Polk at Valley, Hoover at North, Lincoln at Roosevelt — were all requested as non-district games for this week.
That extends beyond central Iowa too. Pleasant Valley at Bettendorf, Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson at Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln, and Sioux City East at Sioux City North can all attest.
The CIML’s top billing Friday could go to No. 10 Urbandale (1-1) at No. 9 Johnston, a physical matchup for supremacy of Merle Hay Road. Both teams have already experienced close games and have recent history with highlight finishes.
It’s what Ankeny and Centennial hope to develop.
“Our kids do a nice job of taking the bull by the horns and knowing what they want to play for,” Pezzetti said.