Iowa’s biggest games don’t always involve the state’s best teams.
Drake Stadium hosted a pair of winless programs on Friday night, but the result will carry beyond the capital city. Eight-player squads don’t compete and can’t compare with crowds at bigger schools, but six unbeaten teams squared off in Week 7 and played fantastic football.
And Chariton isn’t likely to compete for the Class 3A title this season, but every fan in attendance on Friday will remember a certain star receiver setting an Iowa all-time mark against Knoxville.
There’s too much to talk about from Week 7, so let’s Take Five.
Everybody wants to win
Des Moines North is a winner. Finally.
“These kids have never enjoyed this,” said North’s second-year coach, Sean Quinlan. “It’s been tough.”
A 30-game losing streak — dating back to a 22-21 win over Hoover on Sept. 7, 2012 — was snapped on Friday with a 21-17 win over an emotionally crushed Des Moines Roosevelt.
The Polar Bears (1-6, 1-2) entered the winless matchup having tremendous strides made from last season, and they were rewarded with a midfield celebration that lasted long after Drake Stadium was empty. Roosevelt (0-7, 0-3) led 17-7 at halftime, but gave up a pair of rushing touchdowns in the third quarter of a penalty- and fumble-riddled game.
“Last year, they beat us 51-0. Is that improvement?” Quinlan said.
“These young men have not quit. They started in January. Most importantly, they’re going to be better men five, 10, 15 years from now. I’m trying to teach the lessons of life on the football field.”
Senior Noah Lane ran in a 65-yard touchdown for North on the first play of the game. Brad Warren, the team’s top tackler for the past three seasons, rushed in the second to make the game 17-14. Lane had the go-ahead score, which sent an already struggling Roughrider sideline into a tailspin.
“We got down, but we had to keep it going,” Lane said. “They beat us 51-0 last year and didn’t really even care about it, so we had a lot of motivation.”
Roosevelt is left searching for its first win with just two weeks remaining. North won’t become a playoff team, but that was never the point.
The Polar Bears got a win.
Dowling’s prepped for playoffs
The two-time defending champions weren’t ranked No. 1 in Class 4A until they beat rival Valley in Week 4. Consider any remaining question marks answered.
The Maroons (6-0, 3-0) hammered No. 7 Johnston on Friday night 35-15, their third straight district win against a ranked, one-loss team. Long road trips to Council Bluffs Lewis Central and Sioux City East were handled swiftly with 24- and 38-point wins. The Dragons (5-2, 2-1) were the most physical of the three challengers and couldn’t break through.
Next up are the aforementioned Roosevelt and North, then a first-round playoff game against a local fourth-place qualifier. It’s fair to say Dowling is already in November form.
Hockenson grabs hold of receiving record
Chariton senior T.J. Hockenson became Iowa’s all-time leader in career receiving touchdowns in the second half on Friday against Knoxville. The 6-foot-5-inch star tied the record with a first-quarter grab to match the mark of 46 Pleasantville’s Grant McGraw set from 1992-95.
His 47th put the Chargers ahead for good and put the Hawkeye tight end recruit on top of the list alone. He added another for good measure in the fourth quarter of the Chargers’ 41-26 victory.
“We had a crowd staying for fireworks anyway, so we got T.J. out front and presented him with the ball from his go-ahead touchdown,” Chariton coach Curt Smyser said.
Hockenson remains third on the state’s list for career receptions and receiving yards. Chariton plays at Carlisle next week.
The University of Iowa will soon have one of Iowa’s all-time best.
“We knew this was a game we needed to win for our playoff chances, and T.J. is T.J.,” Smyser said. “He’s just a super athlete. And even better than him catching the ball tonight was his blocking against a really good defensive end from Knoxville.”
Elite in eight-player
Iowa’s smallest class got the biggest games of Week 7. Three district games featured unbeaten teams, with only No. 1 Don Bosco ending the drama early.
The Dons (5-0, 4-0) jumped out to a 44-6 lead by halftime against No. 8 Colo-Nesco (6-1, 3-1), one week after blowing out previously unbeaten HLV of Victor. The game finished 64-6.
The other two games were wild until late. Defending champion and fourth-ranked Newell-Fonda beat No. 9 Exira-EHK 42-35, as senior Cole Wise returned a fumbled snap 65 yards to score with 29 seconds left.
And No. 6 Lenox threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to 6-foot-8-inch senior Spencer Brown with just 25 seconds left to knock off No. 4 Fremont-Mills.
Waiting on Week 8
Most of the hard work should be done, but Week 8 features some huge matchups for the playoff picture, rankings and district supremacy.
District leaders meet in 4A when No. 4 Fort Dodge plays at Waukee and No. 9 Cedar Falls challenges No. 4 Cedar Rapids Kennedy. The top-ranked tilt is in 3A between No. 2 West Delaware and surprising No. 5 Independence, with both teams still unbeaten. South central Iowa districts could be decided in 2A (No. 8 PCM at No. 1 Albia) and Class A (Mount Ayr at No. 3 Pleasantville).
And don’t forget No. 4 Cedar Rapids Xavier (3A) playing at No. 1 Iowa City Regina (1A) in a nasty non-district meeting. There’s a lot left to play for.