No. 4 Denver vs. No. 8 Gladbrook-Reinbeck
Time: 10:06 a.m.
About Denver (11-1): The Cyclones have gotten the rematch they wanted. After losing to Gladbrook-Reinbeck in last year’s semifinals, Denver won the regular-season meeting and District 4, but a trip back to the UNI-Dome wasn’t secured until it topped No. 2 Algona Garrigan. Three rushing touchdowns and holding Garrigan under 150 yards of offense was enough, so the 1995 champions have another shot at the semifinals.
Playoff path: 59-0 vs. Mason City Newman; 57-14 vs. Montezuma; 22-0 at No. 2 Algona Garrigan.
About Gladbrook-Reinbeck (10-2): Last year’s runner-up has shown its toughness over the last two weeks, shutting out a hardy Pleasantville and upsetting top-ranked BGM. Both playoff wins were decisive and on the road. Running back Eric Stoakes continues to carry the offense – 29 carries for 116 yards against BGM – but quarterback Jake Schuman already got semifinal experience last season as a backup.
Playoff path: 35-0 vs. East Buchanan; 28-0 vs. No. 10 Pleasantville; 24-10 vs. No. 1 BGM.
Akron-Westfield vs. No. 9 Mount Ayr
Time: 1:06 p.m.
About Akron-Westfield (10-2): Cal Eskra has been nearly unstoppable on a run that has taken the Westerners past defending champion Logan-Magnolia and unbeaten West Sioux on the road. The quarterback threw seven touchdowns and rushed for four more in those wins last week, and Akron-Westfield needed every point in close finishes. Coach Eric Walkingstick’s team is playing at the UNI-Dome for the first time since winning the 2002 title in 1A.
Playoff path: 57-36 vs. C.B. St. Albert; 26-21 at No. 3 Logan-Magnolia; 45-34 at No. 6 West Sioux.
About Mount Ayr (10-2): Remember that 0-2 start? Neither do the Raiders. Losses to 2A teams toughened up Mount Ayr for a second straight run to Cedar Falls, which comes after high-scoring wins at home with an experienced and balanced offense. Cal Daughton leads a run game that has four players averaging at least 40 yards per game, while the defense has allowed just 46 points in the first half all season. Mount Ayr is still waiting for its title game debut.
Playoff path: 37-12 vs. Bedford; 42-20 vs. Colfax-Mingo; 34-15 vs. Lynnville-Sully.
No. 2 Bettendorf vs. No. 3 Cedar Rapids Kennedy
Time: 4:06 p.m.
About Bettendorf (12-0): The Bulldogs are back, undefeated again and making their 21st semifinal appearance. Coach Aaron Wiley’s defense has been dominant this season and stepped it up in the quarterfinals, holding Iowa City High to negative yardage and without a first down in the second half. Dax Emerson comes in confident with three rushing touchdowns in that win, and Bettendorf’s upperclassmen are experienced at the UNI-Dome taking a third straight trip.
Playoff path: 42-13 vs. Davenport North; 43-18 vs. Iowa City West; 31-7 vs. Iowa City High.
About Kennedy (12-0): Tyler Dralle is the top rusher in 4A, but the Cougar defense has taken center stage in the postseason, allowing just 14 points in three games, including a rematch with rival Washington. Kennedy put last year’s 3-8 finish quickly in the rear-view mirror, rattling off 12 wins to reach the semifinals for the first time since 1993.
Playoff path: 59-0 vs. Clinton; 49-7 vs. North Scott; 21-7 vs. No. 5 C.R. Washington.
No. 1 Dowling Catholic vs. No. 4 Valley
Time: 7:06 p.m.
About Dowling (11-0): There’s not much left to want out of the two-time defending champions. They’ve gone unbeaten again. They’re scoring 44 points per game and forced 25 turnovers this season with outstanding depth and speed. And the Maroons already beat their rival. The 38-21 win over Valley in Week 4 vaulted Dowling to No. 1, and coach Tom Wilson’s club is back to try and become the first ever 4A team to win three consecutive titles.
Playoff path: 64-0 vs. D.M. Lincoln; 50-21 vs. Southeast Polk; 43-0 vs. Lewis Central.
About Valley (10-2): After escaping Johnston in the quarterfinals, the Tigers can call themselves battle-tested. The team’s 14th semifinal appearance was an on edge Friday until Valley blocked a field goal and junior Cole Hahn made his, after the young stars were contained by the Dragons. But they’ve seen about everything from tough competition, including Dowling, and now they get to try and spring a rivalry upset at the UNI-Dome.
Playoff path: 50-7 vs. Ames; 42-7 at No. 7 Waukee; 20-17 at No. 10 Johnston.