Class 4A Football is always a gauntlet, no matter what district your team is in.
District 4 will be no exception, as Newton makes the jump up to 4A this season.
Class 4A and 8-Player will differ from the other four classes in rules for districts and playoffs. Those two will have eight districts, with the top two teams in the district standings making the playoffs. The other four classes will have seven districts, with the top two teams in each district guaranteed a playoff spot, and two wild cards will be selected to fill out the 16-team bracket.
The teams in District 4 are mainly unproven with the exception of perennial powerhouse West Des Moines Valley.
Valley has to be the heavy favorite to win the district, as they return their three leading skill position players on offense from their 10-3 state semifinal team in 2015.
Newton is the only other school in this district to return their starting quarterback from last year, as junior Garrett Sturtz will again be under center for the Cardinals.
Newton struggled last season after having a great 2014. The Cardinals went 1-8 in a mediocre Class 3A district, but got progressively better as the season wore on, winning their final game of the season, a 42-19 home triumph over Nevada.
The second playoff spot in this district will be wide open, as the other four teams in District 4 didn’t make it past the second round of the playoffs in 2015 and lost their starting quarterback.
Fort Dodge started the 2015 season 7-0, but faltered down the stretch, losing their last three games including their first round playoff contest against Southeast Polk, 42-0.
Southeast Polk was then eliminated by eventual state champion Dowling Catholic on the road, 51-20. SEP will look to improve from their 6-5 season in 2015, and should be among the leading contenders to compete at the top of District 4 with Valley.
Indianola sneaked into the playoffs last year, but was eliminated in the first round on the road against Ankeny, 49-7. That loss put the Indians at 5-5 for the year.
Marshalltown rounds out the teams in the district. The Bobcats went 3-6 last season and missed the playoffs.
With the new rules cutting the playoff field in half, Newton will have to pull several upsets to position themselves at the top to get into the postseason.
But with the new personnel taking over at key spots of the other high-profile teams in the district, the team competing with Valley at the top is a mystery until the question marks are answered at the beginning of the season.
As with the different format of the districts, Class 4A gets four weeks of non-district action to prepare. One of those games is their Week 1 clash with Ottumwa in a battle of the listening area’s two biggest schools. That game will be our featured game on the Mahaska Zone Network Game of the Week on 104.9 FM KBOE, the KBOE mobile app, and kboeradio.com on August 26th.
If Newton is able to grow enough in those four non-district weeks to adjust to the Class 4A competition, things should be very interesting for the Cardinals down the stretch.
We will have full district previews of all 12 districts involving area teams as the season approaches. Monday, we will take a look at how Ottumwa will fare in Class 4A District 8. You can see more local sports content on our website, radiokmzn.com.