Way-Too-Early football rankings: 8-Player

Union file photo

New London players tackle a Don Bosco runner during the 2019 Class 8-Player football playoffs. The Dons would go on to win that game and the state championship.
Union file photo New London players tackle a Don Bosco runner during the 2019 Class 8-Player football playoffs. The Dons would go on to win that game and the state championship.

Editor’s note: First in a six-part series on the The Gazette/KGYM early high school football rankings. Our panel consists of Jeff Johnson, K.J. Pilcher, Nathan Ford and Jeff Linder from The Gazette, Andy Krutsinger from the Southeast Iowa Union and Scott Unash from KGYM Radio. Today, we look at 8-player. Tomorrow we’ll reveal the Class A Top 10.

For the last eight years, Don Bosco and 8-player football have gone together like macaroni and cheese.

In the Dons’ eight autumns playing the non-traditional game, they have compiled a 95-6 record. They have advanced to the state finals six times and won four championships (2013, 2016, 2017 and 2019).

Their 2020 team should be one of their best yet.

With the majority of its roster coming back from a 13-0, state title team, Don Bosco is a solid No. 1 selection in The Gazette/KGYM offseason football poll.

The Dons received five of six first-place votes and out-tally Remsen St. Mary’s by a 59-54 margin for the top spot.

1. DON BOSCO (13-0 in 2019, 8-player state champion)

59 poll points (5 first-place votes)

Despite the graduation of 2,000-yard rusher Thomas Even, the Dons bring a wealth of weapons back from a team that averaged 60.9 points per game last season, and allowed just 9.6. Quarterback Cael Frost leads the attack after rushing for 1,236 yards, passing for 1,389 and accounting for 50 touchdowns. Cade Tenold accounted for a team-high 91.5 tackles, 30 for loss. The meat of the Dons’ schedule comes in Weeks 7 and 8, against Springville (home) and Easton Valley (away).

2. REMSEN ST. MARY’s (11-1, 8-player semifinalist)

54 poll points (1 first-place vote)

Like last year, the Hawks open with a non-district showdown with Audubon. St. Mary’s won the regular-season meeting, 26-25, then the Wheelers prevailed in the UNI-Dome, 39-28. The Hawks have been extremely successful in recent years despite being one of the very smallest schools in terms of enrollment (2019-20 BEDS is 47). QB Blaine Harpenau passed for 26 touchdowns and ran for 24 as a junior.

T-3. AUDUBON (12-2, 8-player state runner-up)

35 poll points

The Wheelers will lose much of their backfield punch to graduation, but the passing game is largely intact. Gavin Smith passed for 14 touchdowns as a sophomore, and his top targets will be seniors Ethan Klocke and Joel Klocke. Ethan had 44 receptions last year, 10 for touchdowns. As mentioned earlier, Audubon has a dandy opener at St. Mary’s, then closes with District 8 challenges against Coon Rapids-Bayard and Woodbine.

T-3. ANITA CAM (8-3, 8-player quarterfinalist)

35 poll points

CAM started 7-0 last season before losing three of its last four, by a total of 17 points. That included a 40-32 setback to Audubon in the quarterfinals. Lane Spieker rushed for 1,614 yards and he and Cade Ticknor combined for 39 touchdowns. Both will be juniors. The District 7 championship figures to be determined in Week 8, when the Cougars host Fremont-Mills at Anita.

5. FREMONT-MILLS (7-2, 8-player quarterfinalist)

32 poll points

The Knights have a full schedule this year, which is a welcome sight. Due to the fact that two opponents canceled their seasons last year, they played only seven regular-season games. Seth Malcom is a threat every time he touches the ball. The senior-to-be ran for 1,645 yards and 29 touchdowns, averaging 12.1 yards per carry.

6. HARRIS-LAKE PARK (8-2, 8-player playoff qualifier)

26 poll points

Harris-Lake Park is the prime challenger to Remsen St. Mary’s in District 1 and hosts the Hawks in Week 4. Quarterback Brody Sohn completed 65 percent of his passes last season as a junior for 2,166 yards and 34 touchdowns. Lucas Gunderson and Dylan Meyer had more than 20 receptions apiece.

7. MONTEZUMA (6-3, no postseason)

14 poll points

Montezuma led the state in scoring offense at 61.8 points per game last season but was riddled by a defense that ranked 54th in allowing 52.6, including 94 in a season-ending loss to New London that kept the Braves out of the playoffs. The rematch is Week 5. Eddie Burgess is a touchdown machine — he threw for 49 TDs and ran for 20 last year as a sophomore.

8. SPRINGVILLE (7-3, no postseason)

12 poll points

Springville, along with Easton Valley, are the challengers to Don Bosco in District 3, and the Orioles get their shot at the Dons in Week 7 at Gilbertville. Spencer DeMean returns after rushing for 1,043 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Grant Gloeckner (73 tackles) is back to key the defense.

9. GLADBROOK-REINBECK (7-3, 8-player playoff qualifier)

11 poll points

Deep postseason runs have been common for the Rebels through the past six years. They have averaged 11.5 wins per season in that span with a pair of Class A state titles (2016-17). But they have failed to advance beyond the first round in the last two seasons, and have some formidable company in District 5 in HLV and BGM.

10. JANESVILLE (6-3, no postseason)

10 poll points

Janesville was assigned to a deep District 2, which houses as many as six potential contenders. The Wildcats will learn a lot about themselves immediately. They host Northwood-Kensett in their opener. Then, they close with Tripoli, Turkey Valley and Rockford. Carson Pariseau ran for 1,228 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior.


Easton Valley 9, BGM 8, Ackley AGWSR 6, Coon Rapids-Bayard 6, Rockford 4, HLV 3, Turkey Valley 2, Newell-Fonda 1, Northwood-Kensett 1.