Hoisting a state championship trophy is the ultimate dream of every high school football team.
For three Messenger-area programs, along with 45 others, that lofty goal still remains a realistic possibility.
No. 6 (8-Man) West Bend-Mallard, top-ranked (1A) Emmetsburg and Clarion-Goldfield will each put their respective seasons on the line in the quarterfinal playoff round.
Kickoffs are once again set for 7 p.m. all across Iowa. Tonight's games will feature 8-Man, Class A and 4A action, while 1A, 2A and 3A schools will hit the gridiron on Monday.
No. 1 Armstrong-Ringsted (11-0) at No. 6 West Bend-Mallard (10-1)
Still riding high after posting a 44-26 road triumph over eighth-ranked Newell-Fonda, the Wolverines will be hard-pressed to snap the Mustangs' incredible 34-game win streak. Tradition-rich West Bend-Mallard, which previously captured four Class A state crowns and owns a 37-15 mark in 20 all-time postseason appearances, has outscored its opponents on the year by a decisive combined margin of 573-181.
Mitch Bonnstetter, a 175-pound senior, has been the focal point in the explosive Wolverine ground charge, producing 1,321 yards and 27 touchdowns on 146 carries. Bonnstetter has also completed 37 of 70 passes for 880 yards, including eight endzone strikes and one interception.
On Monday, Bonnstetter ran 31 times for a career-high 338 yards and six scores.
Senior Matt Goeders is the go-to receiver for WB-M, hauling in 23 catches for 495 yards and six touchdowns. Classmate Logan Streit has added 546 rushing yards and found paydirt on nine occasions as well for the District 2 runner-up Wolverines, who are looking to avenge a 41-18 Week 9 setback to Armstrong-Ringsted.
Defensively, WB-M is anchored by sophomore Nathan Grimm (105 tackles and three fumble recoveries).
The two-time defending state champion Mustangs, who have compiled a 19-3 record in six straight postseason trips, blanked No. 10 Remsen-Union in their previous outing, 24-0.
Tyler Feddersen (133 totes, 1,120 yards, 13 scores), Dakota Odermann (133-914-21) and Jacob Braddock (84-686-13) form a lethal backfield trio for District 2 champion A-R, which has churned out a combined 3,162 rushing yards and 55 touchdowns this fall. Feddersen has also gone 34-for-80 through the air for 742 yards with nine scores and four picks. Evan Hagebock has been his favorite target, pulling down 13 grabs for 335 yards and five touchdowns. The Mustangs have registered at least 38 points in nine of their 11 games.
Awaiting this evening's winner in next Thursday's 8-Man semifinals is either reigning state semifinalist and second-ranked Fremont-Mills (10-0) or No. 9 East Mills (10-1).
CLASS 1A (MONDAY)
No. 9 West Lyon (9-2) at No. 1 Emmetsburg (11-0)
This is a must-see rematch of an entertaining 20-13 Week 6 victory by the perennial power E-Hawks.
District 2 champion Emmetsburg ousted Manson Northwest Webster in the second round, 42-13. Senior Brady Berkland (123-953-15), junior Andrew Wellik (121-916-12) and senior Marcus Akridge (75-634-6) have all shined at different points in the vaunted E-Hawk ground barrage, which ranks eighth in the entire state in total yardage (3,746).
Emmetsburg, which has won nine state titles in three different classes, is making its state record 36th playoff appearance in program history and ranks second all-time in postseason victories (68) behind only 3A heavyweight Harlan (87).
Headlining the E-Hawk defensive unit is Berkland (113 stops), senior Justin Studer (six picks) and Akridge (four fumble recoveries). On the year, Emmetsburg has outscored its foes, 423-73.
Winners of five consecutive games, the surging Wildcats topped South O'Brien Monday, 21-6.
Bennett Feuchtenberger, a 185-pound sophomore, has been the workhorse for 2010 state champion West Lyon, accumulating 792 yards and 17 touchdowns on 159 attempts.
Kyle Groneweg (105-497-3) and Kaleb Heyer (73-497-2) have each been consistent performers as well for the District 2 runner-up Wildcats, who suffered their only other blemish (16-14) in their season opener at rival Central Lyon. In addition, quarterback Brandon Snyder of West Lyon has thrown for 427 yards, including eight scores and four interceptions. Adam Teunissen has notched a team-best 33 receptions for 513 yards with 11 endzone visits.
The Wildcats, who also won 1A state titles in '98 and '99 and are 36-18 in 22 all-time playoff trips, have managed 31.7 points a night in their nine wins compared to just 13.5 points in their two losses.
A year ago, West Lyon eliminated nemesis Emmetsburg in the quarterfinals, 21-14. Back in 2008, the E-Hawks prevailed over the Wildcats in the 1A championship game, 3-0.
Monday's winner advances to face either defending state semifinalist and No. 2 Council Bluffs St. Albert (11-0) or eighth-ranked Logan-Magnolia (10-1) in Saturday's 1A semifinals.
CLASS 2A (MONDAY)
Clarion-Goldfield (7-4) vs. No. 7 Dyersville Beckman (10-1) at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls
Keeping their storybook season alive will no doubt be a challenge for Paul Hansch's Cowboys, who knocked off District 3 counterpart Forest City in the second round, 44-29.
Seniors Dominic Brandt (236-1,428-15) and Wyatt Sann (201-1,363-14) supply Clarion-Goldfield with an imposing 1-2 backfield punch, while junior Jake Haberman has turned in 635 yards and nine scores of his own.
The Cowboys, who are 2-2 in three all-time playoff appearances, rank 14th in the state in rushing yardage (3,558) and have reached the endzone 41 times on the ground.
Haberman (129) and senior Knute Severson (121) pace C-G in tackles. Brandt has also contributed five picks.
After dropping a nail-biting 14-12 decision to North Fayette in Week 3, the District 4 champion Trailblazers have been a nearly unstoppable force, winning by an average margin of 33.4 points per contest and pitching five shutouts along the way. Beckman crushed No. 10 South Winneshiek on Monday, 41-6.
Trailblazer signal-caller Connor Golden, a 170-pound senior, has gone 111 of 206 through the air for 1,794 yards, including 27 scores and 11 interceptions. Robbie Anstoetter (32 catches, 677 yards, 9 touchdowns), Ty Troutman (28-580-11) and Derek Hammann (21-250-3) have all seen their numbers called regularly in the Beckman passing attack. Hammann has accounted for a team-best 818 yards and 11 touchdowns as well on the ground.
The Trailblazers are making their fifth postseason venture in the past six years and are 5-9 in 10 all-time trips.
Monday's winner moves on to battle either 2010 state champion and No. 1 Iowa City Regina (11-0) or fourth-ranked Mediapolis (11-0) in next Monday's 2A semifinals.
Contact Josh Meyer at (515) 573-2141, or by e-mail at email@example.com