After two-plus months of practices and games we've arrived at the promised land: playoff football.
All six classes take to the gridiron this evening with opening round games.
Nine Messenger-area schools punched their tickets for this postseason, six of which will play host to action tonight.
One all-area contest is set for Emmetsburg, as the E-Hawks look for revenge from a regular season loss to Manson Northwest Webster.
No. 10 (Class 3A) Webster City, South Central Calhoun, sixth-ranked (A) Bishop Garrigan, 8th-ranked (8-man) West Bend-Mallard and No. 3 (8-man) Newell-Fonda all earned home games, while Humboldt, Manson Northwest Webster and Prairie Valley hit the road.
All second round games will be played Monday, while the quarterfinals are set for next Friday. After that, the classes split once they reach the UNI-Dome and the semifinals.
Sioux City North (4-5) at Valley (7-2); Sioux City East (6-3) at Johnston (5-4); Indianola (6-3) at Ames (9-0); Ankeny (4-5) at Urbandale (7-2); Sioux City West (2-7) at Dowling (9-0); Mason City (2-7) at Southeast Polk (6-3); Des Moines Hoover (4-5) at Waukee (8-1); Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln (5-4) at Ankeny Centennial (6-3).
Waterloo West (4-5) at Pleasant Valley (9-0); Cedar Falls (6-3) at Cedar Rapids Washington (6-3); Dubuque Hempstead (4-5) at Iowa City West (8-1); North Scott (5-4) at Bettendorf (7-2); Clinton (4-5) at Cedar Rapids Xavier (8-1); Muscatine (5-4) at Iowa City High (7-2); Cedar Rapids Prairie (5-4) at Cedar Rapids Kennedy (6-3); Davenport Central (4-5) at Davenport Assumption (8-1).
LeMars (3-6) at Harlan (8-1); Adel-ADM (4-5) at Carroll (7-2); Creston (6-3) at Sioux City Heelan (9-0); Spencer (7-2) at Lewis Central (4-5); Ballard (5-4) at Clear Lake (9-0); Waverly-Shell Rock (6-3) at Boone (8-1); Humboldt (6-3) at Dallas Center-Grimes (8-1); Grinnell (6-3) at Webster City (8-1).
Central DeWitt (4-5) at Decorah (9-0); Crestwood (5-4) at Maquoketa (6-3); Western Dubuque (4-5) at Solon (8-1); Marion (4-5) at West Delaware (8-1); Carlisle (4-5) at Washington (8-1); Centerville (4-5) at Oskaloosa (6-3); Fairfield (4-5) at Pella (9-0); Norwalk (5-4) at Williamsburg (7-2).
Forest City (4-5) at Sioux Center (7-2); Central Lyon/G-LR (6-3) at South Central Calhoun (5-4); MOC-Floyd Valley (4-5) at Spirit Lake (8-1); Garner-Hayfield (7-2) at Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley (8-1); Red Oak (3-6) at Gilbert (6-3); North Polk (8-1) at Greene County (5-4); Nevada (4-5) at Carroll Kuemper (9-0); Clarinda (4-5) at West Marshall (8-1).
Center Point-Urbana (5-4) at New Hampton (9-0); Union LaPorte City (5-4) at Western Dubuque (7-2); Hampton-Dumont (6-3) at Dyersville-Beckman (7-2); Monticello (6-3) at Waukon (8-1); Monroe-PCM (4-5) at Mediapolis (9-0); West Liberty (4-5) at Bondurant-Farrar (7-2); Louisa-Muscatine (5-4) at Albia (9-0); Davis County (5-4) at Mid-Prairie (7-2).
Sioux Central (5-4) at South O'Brien (8-1); Western Christian (5-4) at Ridge View (8-1); HMS (4-5) at St. Edmond (9-0); Manson Northwest Webster (7-2) at Emmetsburg (5-4); Treynor (5-4) at Van Meter (9-0); Pella Christian (4-5) at Council Bluffs St. Albert (9-0); Nodaway Valley (5-4) at Ogden (8-1).
Sumner-Fredericksburg (6-3) at Dike-New Hartford (9-0); South Hamilton (6-3) at South Winneshiek (7-2); Hudson (5-4) at North Fayette (9-0); Saint Ansgar (7-2) at Nashua-Plainfield (6-4); West Branch (6-3) at Maquoketa Valley (9-0); North Cedar (5-4) at Wilton (8-1); Tipton (4-5) at Iowa City Regina (9-0); Eddyville-Blakesburg (6-3) at Clayton Ridge (8-1).
Mason City Newman (4-5) at West Lyon (9-0); Lawton-Bronson (6-3) at AGWSR (9-1); West Sioux Hawarden (4-5) at Bishop Garrigan (7-2); Prairie Valley (6-3) at Hinton (7-2); Riverside (5-4) at Audubon (7-2); Woodward-Granger (6-3) at East Mills (7-2); Guthrie Center (4-5) at AHST (9-0); Westwood Sloan (6-3) at Madrid (7-2).
Belle Plaine (4-5) at Wapsie Valley (9-0); Starmont (5-4) at Grundy Center (6-3); Postville (4-5) at Gladbrook-Reinbeck (7-2); BCLUW (5-4) at Turkey Valley (6-3); Montezuma (6-3) at Lisbon (7-2); Lone Tree (6-3) at Pekin (7-2); Van Buren (5-3) at BGM (9-0); Lynnville-Sully (5-4) at WACO (5-4).
Northeast Hamilton (6-3) MMC (8-1); Remsen-Union (5-4) at West Bend-Mallard (9-1); Remsen St. Mary's (4-5) at Newell-Fonda (9-0); Graettinger-Terril (6-3); River Valley (8-1); Anita CAM (4-5) at Exira (8-0); Coon Rapids-Bayard (7-3) Fremont-Mills (7-2); Boyer Valley (6-3) at Southwest Valley (7-2) Sidney (8-1) at Glidden-Ralston (8-1).
Central Elkader (6-4) at Don Bosco (9-0); Northwood-Kensett (6-3) at Lansing Kee (6-3); Tripoli (4-5) at Springville (9-0); Easton Valley (5-3) at Janesville (8-1); Grandview Park Baptist (3-6) at HLV Victor (8-2); Wayne (6-3) at Murray (8-2); Meskwaki Settlement School (5-4) at Adair-Casey (9-0); Lamoni (-2) at Twin Cedars (9-1).
Here's a closer look at the first round games set for action this evening:
Humboldt (6-3) at No. 9 (3A) Dallas Center-Grimes (8-1)
Needing a victory last week to secure a playoff berth, the Wildcats relied on their two staples: Brady Ross and defense.
Ross, a 1,200-yard rusher, ran for 118 yards and two scores, while backfield mate Nikko Wheeler added 94 and two touchdowns in a victory over Charles City.
Meanwhile, the defense forced four turnovers and limited the Comets to under 200 yards of total offense.
Now, Humboldt head coach Greg Thomas and staff must find a way to contain Andrew Kramer.
The senior quarterback has completed 56-percent of his passes for 1,031 yards and 14 TDs, while also rushing for 517 and 12 more scores.
Dakota Clausen (23-362), Doug Heritage (17-221) and Keaton Means (21-174) are his main targets, with Chaz Chambers providing 724 yards on the ground himself.
The offensive numbers are impressive, but it is the defensive ones that stick out.
Since a 24-14 loss to Norwalk, DC-Grimes has allowed just 16 total points in winning seven straight - including five shutouts and one 20-2 victory last week.
Grinnell (6-3) at No. 10 (3A) Webster City (8-1)
Connor Larson and the Lynx are riding high entering this postseason, winning their final three games, including two shutouts.
Larson, a senior, has ran for 1,366 yards on 224 carries, scoring 18 times. Alex Oswald has added another 396 and four TDs.
Defensively, Webster City's secondary will be put to the test, as Grinnell brings one of the top passers to town in Eli Dunne.
The senior has completed 146 of 243 for 2,303 yards and 23 touchdowns. Dunne has just five interceptions and is averaging almost 16 yards per completion.
Luke Honold (37-673) and Christian Mertens (29-559) are his top targets, while two others have a combined 47 receptions.
The Tigers have three losses, but they are by a combined 16 points to Pella, Dallas Center-Grimes and Boone. In a 54-28 victory last week vs. South Tama, Dunne was 21-for-24 for 320 yards and three TDs, while Bryce Lidtke added four rushing touchdowns and 84 yards.
Central Lyon/G-LR (6-3) at South Central Calhoun (5-4)
The Titans have played one of the more difficult schedules in the state, battling ranked teams Carroll Kuemper and Spirit Lake, along with playoff qualifiers Humboldt and Manson Northwest Webster.
SCC head coach Bryan Case is a veteran of long playoff runs, so he likely knew such a schedule would help prepare his team for the postseason.
Jake Petzenhauser paces the offense, having racked up over 1,000 yards through the air and 12 touchdowns. He is helped out by Jeff King, who has 344 yards rushing and five TDs.
Central Lyon/G-LR will be trying to snap a two-game losing skid, which comes on the heels of three consecutive shutout victories.
After defeating Sheldon, Estherville-LC and Unity Christian by a combined 133-0, CL/G-LR was on the losing end of games vs. Sioux Center and Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley to close out the year.
Pete Menage has 900-plus yards passing and 478 rushing, while Jesse Henrichs has 680 on the ground and CJ Roths another 514. They have ran for 25 touchdowns on the year as a group.
Manson Northwest Webster (7-2) at Emmetsburg (5-4)
Back in late September, the Cougars took a trip north to Emmetsburg and walked away with the first victory over the legendary program in school history.
Now, they get the chance to make it two straight.
Outside of a 28-0 loss to fourth-ranked St. Edmond, Manson NW has been unstoppable since the Emmetsburg win, rolling to three wins by a combined score of 147-44.
Junior Coy Snell has taken over in the backfield, rushing for 798 yards and eight touchdowns. Braden Moser and Alex Bush have contributed almost 700 more, with Bush also completing 53-percent of his passes for 885 yards.
The E-Hawks, meanwhile, have went 3-1 since that loss, including a 7-6 defeat to South O'Brien two weeks ago.
As usual, the run game has been strong for Emmetsburg, led by Allen Jensen.
The senior has 1,189 yards on 195 carries, with Greg Wesley adding another 526. Jensen has found the end zone 17 times and Wesley six.
West Sioux (4-5) at No. 6 (A) Bishop Garrigan (7-2)
Both Golden Bear defeats this season have come to ranked foes - and by a combined 11 points.
Bishop Garrigan secured the district title last week with a little help from Prairie Valley, and now Marty Wadle and his team will try to make it count.
Five straight victories have come on the heels of a strong defense, as the Golden Bears have surrendered just 34 points. In fact, on the year, BGHS has allowed only 72 points.
Brayton Loss paces the offense, as the senior has 649 yards on the ground and nine TDs. Connor Langerman, Ben Vaske and Reece Wadle have combined for aover 1,000 yards and 21 scores.
West Sioux isn't as hot, but they have been playing better as of late.
After starting the year 0-4, West Sioux has won three in a row and four of its last five - all of which have come by 13 points or more.
Jesus Rivera leads the offense, as the senior has 558 yards passing and 622 rushing. Sophomore Justin Negaard has 936 yards on the ground, with both rushing for 13 TDs.
Prairie Valley (6-3) at No. 5 (A) Hinton (7-2)
Another week, another ranked foe on the road for the Warriors.
After stunning AGWSR last Friday, Prairie Valley will try to do it again vs. Hinton.
Behind the running of Austin Promes, Austin Wood and Ryan True, the Warriors have won six in a row after starting out the year 0-3.
Promes has 883 yards, while Wood leads the way with eight rushing TDs. Wood also has thrived since moving into the starting QB role, completing 59-percent of his passes for 411 yards and six touchdowns.
Hinton has won six in a row, all of which by 16 points or more.
Cole Johnston has just under 1,000 yards passing and 12 TDs, with Jake Hasselquist, Terrill Henrich, Austin Sitzmann and Logan Jurgensmeier all hauling in at least 200.
Remsen-Union (5-4) at No. 8 (8-man) West Bend-Mallard (9-1)
The Wolverines will have no time to sulk on their season-ending loss to Newell-Fonda.
Jesse Zinnel has helped West Bend-Mallard post some incredible numbers this year, throwing for 995 yards and nine touchdowns, while rushing for 540 and 14 TDs.
Davey Jergens has 810 yards on just 77 carries - an outrageous 10,5 average - and 18 TDs.
Five times the Wolverines have scored 60-or-more points, including 82- and 74-point outbursts in back-to-back weeks.
Remsen-Union has won four in a row and is led by the duo of Cole Owens and Nick Schroeder, who have a combined 1,200-plus yards on the ground.
Like Zinnel, Schroeder is a dual-threat, having completed 56-percent of his throws for 976 yards.
Remsen St. Mary's (4-5) at No. 3 (8-man) Newell-Fonda (9-0)
The Mustangs are right back where they were last year, entering the playoffs as district champs.
Newell-Fonda will try to get a step or two closer to the UNI-Dome behind Brady Bohe, as the senior has 1,493 yards and 26 touchdowns this year.
Gabe Podraza has another 612 rushing and 13 scores, while passing for 13 touchdowns against just two interceptions and 534 yards. He is averaging almost 20 yards per completion.
The Mustangs, in the 8-man world of high-scoring games, have not allowed more than 26 points this year and have surrendered seven or fewer three times.
Remsen St. Mary's started the year 0-4 before winning three of four to close the year. That early-season stretch, though, includes a 53-26 loss to Newell-Fonda.
Bohe ran for 247 yards and five scores in that game.
St. Mary's will need plenty from Brady Harpenau, as the 10th-grader is completing 71-percent of his throws for 1,110 yards and 17 touchdowns.