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Way Too Early Preview: Central Decatur football

The 2019 Central Decatur Cardinal team posing with their state tournament qualifier banner and trophy after its opening-round loss to North Tama.
The 2019 Central Decatur Cardinal team posing with their state tournament qualifier banner and trophy after its opening-round loss to North Tama.

Looking toward the 2020 season, Central Decatur football is making the jump from Class A to Class 1A ,and seems to be losing veteran talent, but has over 20 athletes moving into the upperclassmen category looking to replace the 2019 class. Four-star Iowa State linebacker commit Cole Pedersen is the biggest loss the Cardinals are taking going into 2020.

The Cardinals finished the 2019 season 5-5 after dropping the first two games of the season. Mid-season, Central Decatur went on a hot streak, winning four consecutive games – three by an average of 32 points – before a 16-6 loss to North Tama in the first round of the playoffs ended the season.

Aug. 28 – at SW Valley (3-6)

Central Decatur knocked off Southwest Valley in week two last season. The Timberwolves rushing attack led the offense with Brendan Knapp controlling the offense as a sophomore.

Knapp rushed for 748 yards and threw for 585 yards. With Central Decatur losing four of its top 10 leading tacklers – accounting for 204.5 total tackles – the Timberwolves have a chance to use the running game to control the clock and wear down the Cardinals’ defense.

Offensively, losing Pedersen, the Cardinals lose a dual-threat quarterback who provided a ton in terms of flexibility for the offense. Pedersen had team-high in passing, 850 yards, and rushing, 1,268 yards.

Southwest Valley now has the ability to focus on the Cardinals other quarterback from last season, Matthew Boothe. Boothe was efficient last season, with a 132.4 quarterback rating and threw for nine touchdowns with only two interceptions on 106 attempts in a reserve role.

This could be a close matchup if Southwest Valley can move the ball on the ground early and tire out Central Decatur. Ultimately, I think if Boothe continues to be efficient in the pocket, the Cardinals could steal an early-season road win in the post-Pedersen era.

Sept. 4 – vs. Wayne (6-3)

Central Decatur held a Wayne offense that had second-team all-state running back Chase Keifer to only eight points last season. The victory came during the Cardinals’ four-game win streak when things were rolling.

Wayne had a talented team in 2019 with a trio of all-state players – third-teamer linebacker Bret Whitehall and third-team offensive lineman Matt Davis in addition to Keifer – but lose key pieces on each side of the ball.

The Falcons were very run-heavy last season, as Whitehall also was the leading passer despite only having 108 passing yards. Strait Jacobsen was the next leading passer with five attempts.

Wayne returns its 6’2 208 pound second-leading rusher, Dayton Jacobsen, who ran for 433 yards. The problem lies with inexperience at quarterback and losing all-state lineman Davis. Central Decatur could look to pull out a win at home with Wayne lacking time to adjust to losing such integral pieces of its offense. The Cardinals should be able to move the ball as well with Wayne graduating its two leading tacklers, Whitehall and Keifer.

Sept. 11 – at Nodaway Valley (3-7)

Nodaway Valley won its first game since a 1-8 2017-18 season with a 32-24 upset win in week one over Central Decatur. This season, the Wolverines will look different after former Clarke head coach Duane Matthess made the switch to Nodaway Valley.

Central Decatur shot itself in the foot during last season’s matchup with three turnoversá– two interceptions and a fumble. The Cardinals recorded three interceptions of their own but still allowed Nodaway Valley’s sophomore quarterback Nathan Russell to pass for 320 yards and four touchdowns.

Hunter Ernst grabbed two of those touchdowns, one being 75 yards, but Ernst graduated. The Wolverines also lost solid defensive presences, Dordt University commit Austin Wilson and Clay Hohertz. This will be an intriguing matchup with the Wolverines having a new coach and new system, but Central Decatur should come in extremely focused after allowing Nodaway Valley to sneak a win past it last year.

Sept. 18 – vs. Earlham (9-2)

Earlham had a stellar season in 2019-20. After a 21-point loss to Van Meter in the first week, Earlham rolled through eight straight opponents before being shut out in its first playoff matchup.

The Earlham Cardinals were led by first-team all-state and 2,325-yard rusher Caleb Swalla. However, the second-leading rusher Jacob Ridgley and third-leading rusher Alex Caskey graduated along with Swalla. The trio combined for 3,517 yards, making for quite a run-heavy offense.

Caskey was also the leading passer on the team, throwing for 543 yards. Earlham also loses the driving force behind Swalla’s stellar season the ground. Five linemen over 200 pounds are part of the nine seniors leaving the team. Earlham will enter the season with a very different offensive team that Central Decatur could attack and get pressure on.

Sept. 25 – vs. Pella Christian (5-5)

Pella Christian took its lumps before having a similar season to Central Decatur. The Eagles went on a five-game win streak before a 38-12 loss to Class 1A state-runner-up Van Meter.

During the win streak, Pella Christian averaged 333.8 yards per game on the ground with two games over 400 yards – 417 against Pleasantville and 461 against Colfax-Mingo. Dan Jungling led the rushing attack with 954 yards on the season and was the leading passer with 1,282 passing yards on the year. Jungling graduated after the 2019-20 season.

The defense for the Eagles was the facet that proved tough for opponents to conquer, allowing an average of 15.2 points per game. Pella Christian returns four of its top five leading tacklers, so the Cardinals losing a dual-threat like Pedersen is going to make things tough. Pella Christian tallied seven interceptions, but Boothe was efficient for Central Decatur last season. Moving the ball could be tough for the Cardinals in this matchup after losing so much talent last season.

Oct. 2 – at Pleasantville (5-4)

Pleasantville had an up-and-down season, blowing opponents out or having its offense shut down. The Trojans offense was predicated off first-team all-state running back Cale Anthony.

Totaling 239 rushing attempts, the senior racked up 1,793 rushing yards. Anthony paired with junior running back Isaac Mann, who tallied 358 yards on the ground. The Trojans were held under 14 points three times, getting shut out once. In those losses, Anthony recorded 408 yards, 136 per game.

Pleasantville was inconsistent defensively, allowing opponents to score more than 20 points five games last season. Anthony and Mann were the two leading tacklers for the Trojans, but both graduated. The two totaled 112.5 tackles last season.

With Pleasantville losing two of the best defensive players, the Cardinals offense should be able to expose some of those weaknesses while coming into their own on offense with holes filled at this point of the season.

Oct. 9 – vs. I-35 (5-4)

After a season of close loses and blowout wins, Interstate 35 searches for more consistency on the offensive side of the ball but might have issues after losing key pieces. Central Decatur lost in week one 34-6 last season, but the Roadrunners look very different going into the 2020-21 season. The Roadrunners had a dual-headed rushing attack with Jack Smith and Logan Cassady. Smith rushed for 576 yards while Cassady ran for 546. I-35 also had Joey Bregar (a second-team all-state linebacker) rush for 374 yards and pass for 895.

Smith, Bregar and leading receiver Carter Bussanmas will graduate this spring as the Roadrunners lose a ton of playmakers, making this year’s matchup much more interesting.

Oct. 16 – at Colfax-Mingo (3-6)

Colfax-Mingo had problems on the defensive side of the ball last year, leaving questions for the 2020-21 season.

The Tigerhawks gave up more than 20 points in all but one game last year. The defense gave up an average of 40 points per game. The offense, on the other hand, put up an average of 29.3 points per game with 31, 41 and 62 point performances.

Despite a strong offensive season, the Tigerhawks lose their 1,802-yard passer, Brady Berkey. Colfax-Mingo does return its leading rusher Jayden Horrach, who tallied 1,007 yards on the ground.áThe only other Tigerhawk to take a snap behind center was Trystin Ross, who graduated alongside Berkey.

With inexperience at the most important position on the field, quarterback, Central Decatur could exploit that weakness and put up offense earlier and force Colfax-Mingo to play catch up.

Oct. 23 – vs. Mount Ayr (7-3)

Mount Ayr rattled off five wins to start the season and looked to be a strong contender before falling to South Central Calhoun in the first round of the playoffs.

Mount Ayr was balanced on both sides of the ball, allowing an average of 14.4 points per game and putting up 27.2 points per game. The Raiders return offensive leader and quarterback Payton Weehler, who passed for 1,511 yards. Mount Ayr loses its two leading receivers, Dawson Frost and Isaac Grose.

The Raiders lose their top two tacklers, Reas Knapp, 60.5 tackles, and Keelan Klommhaus, 51.5 tackles. Mount Ayr lost 11 seniors, but the 34 players, and incoming freshmen, give the Raiders a chance to remain a powerhouse.

Despite losing a bevy of talent, having Weehler could make this a tough matchup for the Cardinals late in the season.

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