Three weeks remain in the prep football regular season, which means teams are preparing for the playoff push.
While the decision to expand the postseason means the fight for those final spots is not as intense, where - and who - programs face will always be decided on the field.
An interesting Class 3A tilt takes place in Iowa Falls, as Algona travels to meet the Cadets. Both teams are within striking distance of the district lead, but the game is of big-time importance for the Bulldogs, who already have two league defeats.
Clarion-Goldfield, which made an incredible playoff run a year ago, will look for more of that magic when they travel to fifth-ranked (2A) Spirit Lake. The Cowboys have dropped a pair of games since starting the year 4-0.
No. 5 (1A) Emmetsburg looks for another win when they face Hartley-HMS, while Mason City Newman and Bishop Garrigan square off in Algona.
Here is a closer look at those contests, and the rest of tonight's games around Messengerland:
ALGONA (3-3, 2-2) at IOWA FALLS-ALDEN (3-3, 2-1)
The Bulldogs have not qualified for the postseason since 2008, but could make case to end that drought with a road win over the Cadets.
Junior Weston Shaw has settled into the quarterback role, completing 30 of 67 for 469 yards and three touchdowns. Last week, Shaw was 10-for-15 for 150 yards in leading Algona to a 27-6 victory over Charles City.
Sawyer Frideres (398 yards rushing) and Mitchell Erpelding (248) have been the focal points to the offense. The seniors also have eight rushing scores.
Collin Julius anchors the Bulldog defense with 76 tackles, while Shaw has three interceptions and Tyler Frideres has recovered three fumbles. Algona has forced 16 turnovers on the year.
Iowa Falls-Alden is 1-2 in its last three, including a 35-28 setback vs. Boone a week ago.
Nate Bahr leads the ground attack with 553 yards, while Brandon Norman - a top track athlete - has 303 yards rushing and another 755 passing. Norman has six TD passes, while Bahr has six rushing scores.
The top-half of 3A, District 3 is a tight race, with several of the teams yet to face each other. The winner of this game will remain right in the thick of the battle.
CLARION-GOLDFIELD (4-2, 2-2) at No. 5 (2A) SPIRIT LAKE (5-1, 3-0)
After starting the year 4-0, the Cowboys have been unable to mount much offense over the past two weeks, falling to Forest City and Garner-Hayfield by a combined score of 52-7.
Getting Jake Haberman, Matt Odland and Trenton Sann on track will be the key vs. the fifth-ranked Indians. Haberman has rushed for 642 yards, but just 91 over the last two Fridays.
Colton Warnke, Stephen McAtee and Haberman pace the C-G defense, as Warnke has recorded 64 stops. McAtee and Haberman each have 57 tackles.
Other than a 25-10 loss to No. 1 (2A) Boyden-Hull, Spirit Lake has been unstoppable this year. The Indians have outscored their other five opponents, 221-50.
Cody Poock leads a balanced Spirit Lake attack, having ran for 427 yards. Bryson McCabe, Andrew Ites and Paul Brown all have over 100 yards, with Brown passing for 757 on 62 percent passing with 12 TDs to just three interceptions.
No. 5 (1A) EMMETSBURG (5-1, 3-0) at HARTLEY-HMS (4-2, 2-2)
The E-Hawks have been clicking on all cylinders as of late, scoring at least 40 points in every win this year.
Emmetsburg defeated Hull Western Christian, 40-7, a week ago, as Andrew Wellik rank for 256 yards and three touchdowns. That followed up a school-record 348-yard performance the week before.
Wellik, a senior, has racked up 1,350 yards on just 131 carries this year, scoring 19 touchdowns.
Jake Jackson has been a ball-hawking player in the secondary, picking off six passes. Jackson, also the starting QB, has 40 tackles on defense as well.
After three consecutive shutouts to start the year, Hartley-HMS has gone just 1-2 in its last three. They were defeated by South O'Brien a week ago, 37-14.
Juniors Hunter Kuehl and Logan Rozeboom and senior Jacob Clark, pace the offensive attack, rushing for over 400 yards each.
MASON CITY NEWMAN (4-2, 4-0) at BISHOP GARRIGAN (3-3, 2-2)
The Golden Bears will look to end their loss-win string of games tonight against the Knights, who are undefeated in the district.
Bishop Garrigan stopped Southeast Webster-Grand last week, 34-14, as Reece Wadle, Brayton Loss and Jonathan Berte all had at least 60 yards.
Wadle, a sophomore, has passed for 521 and rushed for another 202.
Berte and Jake Kollasch will be put to the test on defense by the Knights and Joseph Burgmeier.
Burgmeier, a junior, has ran for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns as Newman has won four consecutive. Burgmeier had 188 yards last week, his sixth 100-yard game of the year.
Other area games: Humboldt (3-3) at LeMars (5-1); Webster City (4-2, 3-1) at Waverly-Shell Rock (2-4, 0-3); East Sac County (0-6) at Cherokee (0-6); South Central Calhoun (3-3, 1-2) at Garner-Hayfield (3-3, 2-1); North Union (1-5, 0-3) at South O'Brien (5-1, 3-0); Ridge View (2-4, 2-2) at Pocahontas Area (4-2, 1-2); Eagle Grove (0-6, 0-4) at No. 6 (1A) Aplington-Parkersburg (5-1, 3-0); Southeast Webster-Grand (2-4, 0-4) at No. 4 (A) West Hancock (5-1, 4-0); Prairie Valley (4-2, 3-1) at Lake Mills (3-3, 2-2); CAL (0-6, 0-4) at West Bend-Mallard (4-3, 3-1); No. 1 (8-man) Newell-Fonda (6-0, 4-0) at Corwith-CWL (3-4, 2-2); Laurens-Marathon (5-1, 3-1) at Northeast Hamilton (1-5, 0-4).