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Des Moines Register by Alyssa Hertel - article excerpt
Four weeks of Iowa high school football have come and gone, and the results from Week 4 led to some movement (again) in the Des Moines Register’s rankings.
This is the time of year when some programs rise to the top, while others drop out of the rankings altogether. Then there are some who remain in the rankings but shuffle positions based on wins and losses and strength of opponent.
In Class 5A, Dowling re-established itself as the No. 1 team after beating Waukee Northwest – and after Southeast Polk barely got past Ankeny Centennial. In Class 4A, a Brevin Doll-less ADM stormed past Norwalk and took over the top spot.
The No. 1 team remained constant through the rest of the classes.
Here are how the Register’s rankings stand after four weeks of football.
Ankeny Fanatic by Dan Holm
Friday’s game against visiting Johnston wasn’t a must-win situation for the Ankeny football team.
But a loss would have been the Hawks’ third in a row, and could have severely damaged their playoff hopes.
Ankeny responded with a huge defensive effort to post a 16-10 victory over the Dragons, leaving both squads at 2-2 after the first four weeks of the season. The Hawks had allowed an average of 43.7 points in their first three games.
“We kind of talked it up all week that this was our coming out party (on defense),” said Ankeny coach Jeff Bauer, whose team avenged a loss to Johnston in last year’s Class 5A quarterfinals. “We had done some good things, but we made a couple of adjustments. The boys just played hard. They were flying around.”
Ankeny’s defense recovered a fumble and intercepted two passes by Johnston quarterback Will Nuss. That allowed the Hawks to overcome a slow start from their offense.
“The turnovers were huge,” Bauer said. “And that was just a great win. We needed it big-time.”
After Johnston missed a field goal try in the first quarter, the two teams then traded interceptions. Ankeny later got another pick from Samuel Sandvig, who returned the ball to the Dragons’ 6-yard line.
That set up a short touchdown run by quarterback Luke Anderson shortly thereafter. The PAT attempt failed, but the Hawks still led, 6-0, with 8 minutes 11 seconds left in the half.
Ankeny put together a nice drive in the third quarter to extend its lead. Ryan Harrington converted a field goal with 3:49 remaining in the period to give the Hawks a 9-0 advantage.
On the ensuing possession, Johnston broke loose for a long run to the end zone for its lone touchdown of the night. The Dragons closed the gap to 9-7 with 2:54 to go in the quarter.
Ankeny turned to its running game in the final period to put the game away. Daniel Larmie capped a long drive with a short touchdown run to put the Hawks ahead, 16-7, with 5:55 left.
Larmie rushed for 105 yards on 19 carries. Caden Henkes added 63 yards on 14 attempts.
“We were kind of out of sync for some reason in the first half on offense,” Bauer said. “But the coaches made some adjustments at halftime, and in the second half Larmie and Henkes just started pounding the rock. That was big. And the way we did it, I was so proud of our offensive line and obviously our two backs were physical. I think some of their defenders will be a little sore (Saturday) from tackling Larmie. He delivers some punishment.”
Johnston made a field goal with 55 seconds left to cut the lead to 16-10, but the Hawks recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the victory.
Anderson completed 12-of-18 passes for 91 yards in the win. Devon Akers had four catches for 51 yards.
Bauer said his team now has a leg up on two of its opponents with the same record in the playoff picture.
“Ankeny Centennial and Johnston are both 2-2, and we beat both of them,” he said. “So in a way, we’re kind of ahead of them. This was just a huge night for us. I’m really proud of the kids and the staff.”
The Hawks will play another 2-2 team on Friday when they travel to Iowa City West.
ANKENY — It was a trip to turnover town on Friday when Ankeny football hosted Johnston.
While both teams each gave away their fair share of possessions, it was the Hawks who came out on top, defeating the Dragons, 16-10.
“We played our best game of the year,” Jeff Bauer, Ankeny’s coach, said postgame. “Our defense played outstanding the whole game. Offense, we made some mistakes…we made some adjustments, offensive line kind of took over, and (Daniel) Larmie and (Caden) Henkes were really running so hard.”
Neither team put points on the board until close to the eight-minute mark of the second quarter, when Luke Anderson muscled his way into the end zone on a quarterback keeper. That gave Ankeny a 6-0 lead — after the point after went wide — which held through the end of the first half.
D’Angelo Barkue ran in Johnston’s first and only touchdown of the night late in the third quarter, but Ankeny responded with another touchdown, from Daniel Larmie, in the fourth.
Ankeny’s Jacob Mohrfeld picked off Johnston’s quarterback with 5:45 remaining in regulation, and while the Hawks didn’t convert the next drive into more points, it was enough to hold off the Dragons.
Both Ankeny and Johnston sit at 2-2 on the season.
Barkue was the most impressive piece of Johnston’s offense on Friday.
But for Ankeny, two running backs made a major impact in the Hawks’ second win of the season.
Caden Henkes may not have scored a touchdown, but he was all over the field and put Ankeny in good positions on more than one occasion.
Daniel Larmie has been a player to watch since the first week of the season, and the sophomore rising star shows no signs of slowing down. On most of his runs, it took several Johnston defenders to bring Larmie down.
“When you come to tackle Larmie, you’re gonna be sore after a night of trying to tackle him,” Bauer said. “He’s a bruiser. He doesn’t quit. I saw a couple of runs where he got hit once, twice, three times and he kept going.”
There was one reason why this game — between a 2-1 team and a 1-2 team entering Friday’s matchup — remained close through the final buzzer and that would be the defense.
Both programs had big moments on Friday.
Look no further than a pair of Ankeny interceptions in the first half, one from Kinnick Vos and another by Samuel Sandvig. Or a sack by Connor Kayser and Kingston Ukpabi on Will Nuss to bump Johnston 10 yards further back with 15 seconds left in the first half.
On the other side, Jacob Helgeson set the tone of the Dragons’ defense early with a pass breakup on 3rd and 11 to force a punt. And then there were the quick hands of Collin Hodapp, who grabbed the football when it bounced off the hands of an Ankeny receiver.
It was the Hawks’ defense, though, that came out on top, with Ankeny having a hand in four Johnston turnovers. Ankeny had zero interceptions coming into Friday’s game, according to Bound.
“We hadn’t taken away the ball, so far this year,” Bauer said. “So, we kind of made up for it tonight. Now that we know we can do it, we just have to keep doing this.”
Ankeny recorded several interceptions, but possibly none were more important than when Jacob Mohrfeld grabbed a pass from Nuss on the sidelines within the six-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
Johnston did get another possession after that interception, and the Dragons added a field goal to their total on the scoreboard, but it wasn’t enough to get past the lead that Ankeny’s offense had built and that the defense had sustained.
It was a step in the right direction for a new-look Ankeny squad that’s struggled to find its footing.
But Bauer and his team aren’t satisfied with just one step. “Monday, it’s back to work.”
Ankeny Fanatic by Dan Holm
The Ankeny Hawks were once again staring face-to-face with one of the state’s top teams.
Coming off a 58-21 loss to Southeast Polk, the Hawks had to travel to Valley Stadium on Friday to play second-ranked Dowling Catholic.
Things didn’t get any easier.
Ra’Shawd Davis ran 36 times for 242 yards and three touchdowns to lead Dowling to a 35-14 victory. Dante Cataldo passed for 163 yards and another score as the Maroons improved to 3-0 on the season.
Ankeny dropped to 1-2, but showed some life after falling into a 28-0 hole. Luke Anderson threw a pair of touchdown passes to Devon Akers in the fourth quarter.
“I’m proud of them,” said Ankeny coach Jeff Bauer. “We didn’t quit again. We came out and competed in the second half. We just have to start faster.”
The Hawks trailed at halftime, 21-0, but looked like a rejuvenated team in the second half. They started picking up some yards on the ground, but were unable to complete th15eir drives.
Caden Henkes rushed for 74 yards, and Daniel Larmie added 65 more. But Ankeny was stopped at the Maroons’ 1-yard line in the third quarter.
After Dowling scored again early in the final period, the Hawks struck back. Anderson found Akers for an 80-yard touchdown pass behind the Maroons’ secondary.
Then, Ankeny got the ball right back when it recovered an onside kick.
The Hawks later forced a fumble and then drove for another score. Akers caught a 16-yard pass in the end zone and held on to the ball despite a hard hit from former teammate Jacob Kruger, who had 2.5 tackles for the Maroons.
Dowling added a late touchdown to seal the victory, but the Hawks put up a good fight.
Ankeny will host Johnston (2-1) on Friday for its homecoming game.
“We have to focus on Johnston. We’re not holding our heads down,” Bauer said. “We have the makings of a good team. There are just some things we have to correct, and we will.”
Ankeny Fanatic by Dan Holm
It’s been a long time since the Ankeny football team was on the wrong side of a running clock.
But that’s how good second-ranked Southeast Polk is.
The two-time defending Class 5A state champion Rams scored on six consecutive possessions to build a 42-7 halftime lead, putting the running clock into effect, and went on to post a 58-21 victory at Ankeny on Friday.
It was the Hawks’ worst loss since a 42-0 shutout against Dowling Catholic in 2018.
“Obviously, it wasn’t pretty,” said Ankeny coach Jeff Bauer. “But this game isn’t going to define us. We’re 1-1 whether we lose by what we lost by tonight or by one point. It counts the same.”
Southeast Polk (2-0) has become the dominant force in Class 5A under former Ankeny coach Brad Zelenovich. The Rams are now 36-3 since the beginning of the 2020 season, with all three of those losses coming to the Hawks.
Even though the outcome was already decided, Ankeny played much better in the second half. Quarterback Luke Anderson completed 21-of-30 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns in the loss.
“I thought (the Rams) were more physical than us in the second quarter,” Bauer said. “We challenged the guys at halftime to come out and win the second half, and they responded.”
The Hawks actually got off to a great start. After forcing a three-and-out to open the game, they took advantage of a short field to grab an early 7-0 lead.
On fourth-and-11 from Southeast Polk’s 34-yard line, Anderson connected with Devon Akers along the right sideline for the game’s first touchdown.
“I couldn’t have asked for us to start any better,” Bauer said. “The offense was clicking.”
The Rams faced third-and-10 on their ensuing possession before Connor Moberly threw a 9-yard pass to Carson Robbins. Then, on fourth-and-1, Moberly kept the ball on a sneak for the first down.
That was the start of the Southeast Polk onslaught.
Shortly thereafter, Moberly fired a 17-yard pass to Sam Zelenovich. The Iowa State recruit followed with a 28-yard pass to Robbins, then connected with Zelenovich for a 20-yard scoring pass that tied the game at 7-7 with 5 minutes 48 seconds left in the first quarter.
“We started the game hot, unlike last week,” Bauer said. “We were up 7-0 and then we had them in third-and-10, but they converted. Obviously, they’re good. The quarterback is really good. They have receivers that run great routes. They made plays, and we just didn’t answer.”
Moberly ran for one touchdown and passed for four more in the first half. He threw a 35-yard scoring pass to Zelenovich to make it 28-7 midway through the second quarter, then found Robbins for touchdowns of 27 and 18 yards later in the half.
Southeast Polk repeatedly capitalized on great field position. The Rams started three of their scoring drives in Ankeny territory–at the 35, 49 and 27.
The Hawks got their offense untracked in the second half. They opened the third quarter with a 12-play, 82-yard drive, capped off by Akers’ beautiful one-handed catch along the right sideline for a 39-yard touchdown.
Akers finished with eight catches for 114 yards.
Evan Irlmeier scored on a 40-yard reception with 8:28 left in the game. He had five catches for 62 yards.
Daniel Larmie added 65 yards rushing on 19 carries, but the Hawks still committed too many mistakes.
“We were sloppy tonight,” Bauer said. “We had too many penalties. Way too many penalties. That’s on us.”
Ankeny’s grueling schedule continues on Friday when the Hawks travel to Valley Stadium to face No. 1 Dowling. The Maroons (2-0) are coming off a 14-0 win over Valley.
Senior receiver Devon Akers helped the Ankeny football team to a 39-38 victory over Ankeny Centennial in double overtime on Friday at Ankeny Stadium.
Akers caught a pass from Luke Anderson for the game-winning two-point conversion. He finished with three receptions for 90 yards.
Here is some inside info on Akers:
Congratulations on the win. Did you do anything special to celebrate afterwards?
Thank you! I didn’t do anything too special, just grabbed some food and hung out with some teammates for a while.
You told me after the game that your team messed up the final play. So did you just kind of improvise your route on that play?
Yeah, I improvised a bit. I had to get to the spot a bit quicker than I otherwise would have so it timed up right.
What was going through your mind when your team fell behind, 17-0, in the first quarter?
With the dudes we have on our team and how much of the game was left, I knew we were still well in it.
What was the key to your team’s comeback?
We just knew the task at hand, and we did everything we could to complete it. I think it was mostly that we just started playing like ourselves.
How important was that touchdown drive right before halftime that cut Centennial’s lead to 24-14?
That touchdown drive was massive. Our coaches have prepared us for moments like that all year with 2-minute drills and no-huddle work. I was hoping for at least a field goal to cut it to a two-possession game but a touchdown was huge, especially for momentum going into halftime.
Anderson went on to pass for 221 yards and two touchdowns in his first varsity start. What did you think of his performance, and were you confident going into the game that he could get the job done?
Luke is my boy. He’s been putting in the work all summer, and I know what he’s capable of and he came out and showed that. To do what he did in his first varsity start being in such a high-pressure game is very impressive.
That was an unforgettable win for your coach, Jeff Bauer, in his debut with the program. Do you think the win shows that he was the right man for the job?
I definitely think so. He was one of the reasons we all wanted it so bad. We couldn’t give him an “L” in his first game as head coach.
Coach Bauer told me before the season started that he thought you had a chip on your shoulder after missing most of last season due to an injury. Did you feel like you had something to prove this year?
For sure. My motivation has always been my teammates and coaches and people other than me, but missing all the time I did last year definitely motivates me to show people what I’m capable of.
Your team will host No. 1 Southeast Polk, the two-time defending Class 5A state champion, on Friday. What will it take to knock off the Rams?
They have a phenomenal team over there so we’re going to have to be at our best, which I know we can be. If we can cut down some mistakes and iron some things out, I think we can put ourselves in a good position to win.
You also compete in basketball and track. Which sport, if any, are you planning to play in college?
I plan on playing football in college if the right opportunity comes.
Have you looked at any schools yet, and what are you planning to study?
I have been looking at some schools for sure. It’s just been a bit slower for me with my lack of film from my injury last year. I don’t know exactly what I plan on studying yet, but it will most likely be something on the business side.
It's going to be be hard to top Week 1 of the Iowa high school football season.
Between Southeast Polk winning the 5A state final rematch vs. Valley, Iowa City West's narrow win over Iowa City Liberty, or Game of the Year candidate Ankeny vs. Ankeny Centennial, there was a ton of great action across the state.
With that came some incredible individual performances. Here are the Register's top performers for Week 1:
Excerpt from the article
Ankeny's Daniel Larmie scores twice in wild win over Centennial
Larmie was a consistent threat in the backfield as the Hawks mounted a comeback from down 17-0. The sophomore's pair of touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving) late in the fourth quarter and in overtime sealed the win. Ankeny head coach Jeff Bauer had high praise for the running back after the game, saying Larmie will be one of the best to ever come through the program. Listed at just 5-foot-8, he showed some incredible physicality at that size. Keep an eye on this guy.
The Ankeny vs. Ankeny Centennial football rivalry has seen a lot of close games in its short history, but never quite like this.
The Hawks and Jaguars kicked off the 2023 season with a bang in a two-overtime thriller Friday night. Ankeny came out on top in a 39-38 victory.
After Centennial jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, the Hawks battled back and tied the score late in the fourth quarter to send it to overtime. After scoring a touchdown in the second-overtime period, the Hawks converted a two-point conversion to secure their third win in the last four years against Centennial.
Here are five things we learned from the rivalry matchup:
After taking a 3-0 lead, Centennial sent out its starting defensive back Connor Welsch to kick off. He perfectly executed an onside kick, as it bounced slowly and high toward the sideline to allow the Jaguars to recover.
Centennial converted it into points, and boy did it spark the crowd early.
Had the strategy backfired, it could have given the Hawks some momentum and good field position early. Instead it turned into seven points on an Elijah Porter touchdown (more on him later). If Centennial doesn’t convert this, Ankeny takes this one in regulation.
Then, a massive call by Ankeny head coach Jeff Bauer in the second-overtime period to go for a two-point conversion sealed the game. New starting quarterback Luke Anderson rolled to his left and found his 6-foot-6 target Devon Akers in the middle of a scrum of defenders.
Big plays win big games, and it was Ankeny that had the biggest play of the night.
Larmie, Caden Henkes and even tight end Connor Kayser chipped in at running back for Ankeny.
Larmie stood out late with the game-tying touchdown to send it to overtime. Then he scored a touchdown in overtime.
“It’s no secret to us around here,” Bauer said. “We know that Daniel Larmie, before he leaves here, will be considered one of the best to ever come through Ankeny.”
Ankeny had a handful of guys contribute and it'll likely be that way most of the season. But Larmie was the standout when the game was on the line, and he had big moments throughout. He’s one to watch.
Down 17-0 in the first quarter, there was a feeling in Ankeny Stadium that Centennial may run away with this one.
“I was shocked by the first quarter,” Bauer said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t expect this.’”
Anderson settled down after throwing an interception early and led two touchdown drives to make it a 10-point game. He led a quick touchdown drive in less than a minute to close the first half, completing a handful of nice passes and stopping the clock along the way.
Anderson is going to be one to watch this season. In his first start as a junior, he showed incredible poise to lead a team back from down 17.
“He grew up tons tonight,” Bauer said. “You saw it every quarter. He’s going to be a good one for us.”
The defense continued that effort into the second half, getting a couple of fourth-down stops to get within seven in the fourth quarter. The defense, despite Porter and company making some noise, largely stood up and looked solid after a rough start.
There’s a lot of new blood here for the Hawks, but that team in the second half looked as if it had a full season together. The Hawks are going to be feisty against Southeast Polk next week.
“It’ll be hard to live up to this,” Bauer said. “We’re going to enjoy this, but it doesn’t get any easier next week, obviously.”
Each time the Northern Iowa commit touched the ball, he made some magic happen for Centennial.
Porter had several carries of 10-plus yards, including the first touchdown of the game to take a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Porter also had a nearly 50-yard run in the second half.
Behind a solid offensive line, the Jaguars could go as far as Porter takes them.
Porter wasn’t the only guy making plays for the Jaguars.
Early and often, Smith looked toward Snyder. Up 3-0, Smith looked downfield to Snyder and connected near the goal line to allow Porter to punch it in.
Smith and Snyder went on to connect for two touchdowns in the first half. The first one Snyder broke away from coverage and caught a deep ball to go up 17-0. Then in the red zone up 17-7, Smith threw a 50-50 ball toward the pylon that Snyder brought in for his second of the night.
The two didn’t have as much success together in the second half, but having Porter and this dynamic duo in the passing game makes the Jaguars a tough matchup.
Ankeny Fanatic by Dan Holm
With the game on the line, the Ankeny football team didn’t run the play that was called in the huddle.
It worked out for the Hawks anyway.
Devon Akers caught a two-point pass from Luke Anderson to give the Hawks a thrilling 39-38 victory over rival Ankeny Centennial in double overtime on Friday at Ankeny Stadium.
“We actually messed up the play,” said Akers. “I was supposed to go in motion, but Luke forgot or he didn’t hear–I don’t know what happened. But it ended up working out.”
Ankeny pulled to within 38-37 when Anderson connected with Evan Irlmeier for a 3-yard scoring pass on fourth-and-goal. The Hawks then elected to go for the win after eighth-ranked Centennial was called for encroachment on the PAT attempt, which moved the ball closer to the goal line.
On the ensuing snap, Akers was flanked out wide to the left. The 6-foot-6 senior then cut across the middle before leaping above a crowd of defenders to catch the ball, setting off a wild celebration by the Hawks.
“I looked and saw three dudes in front of me, so I knew I had to go up and get this one,” Akers said.
In the season opener for both teams, Ankeny overcame a pair of 17-point deficits to beat the Jaguars for the fourth time in 12 meetings overall. The Hawks gave Jeff Bauer an unforgettable win in his coaching debut.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Bauer said. “From how we started that first quarter, we had a lot of guys who hadn’t played and we shot ourselves in the foot numerous times. I think we had three or four turnovers, and you never win games like that–but we did. We were resilient. We kept battling. But it doesn’t surprise me. The boys’ character is unmatched, and our coaching staff is unbelievable. They put in a lot of time this summer, and it showed.”
It was a disappointing loss for the Jaguars, who outgained Ankeny by a 163-16 margin in the first 8 minutes of the game before the Hawks outgained Centennial, 393-217, the rest of the way.
“We got tired–no question about it,” said Centennial co-head coach Ryan Pezzetti. “I’ve never seen so many kids have cramps throughout the game–on both teams. It takes a little fire out of the game. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to make plays when it’s time and we didn’t, and they did.”
Centennial took a 3-0 lead on a 38-yard field goal by Ryan Bendezu with 8 minutes 13 seconds left in the first quarter. After the Jaguars recovered the ensuing kickoff, Trenton Smith then fired a 33-yard pass to Max Snyder to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Elijah Porter, who rushed for 210 yards on 24 carries.
Anderson was later intercepted by Centennial’s Chase Kluver, then Smith threw a 47-yard scoring strike to Snyder on the next play to give the Jaguars a 17-0 advantage with 3:50 to go in the first quarter.
“We were a little shellshocked right out of the gate, clearly,” said Ankeny linebacker Connor Kayser. “I don’t think any of us expected that. We were pretty hyped going into the game–we had a lot of emotion, and sometimes bad stuff happens when your emotions are running really high.”
Ankeny responded with a 10-play, 60-yard drive to get on the scoreboard. There was only one pass on the drive–a 27-yard completion to Akers.
“We were just beating ourselves at the beginning,” Akers said. “We had some mental errors, but we got it all figured out and that’s all that matters.”
Kayser capped the drive with a pair of runs out of the Wildcat formation. He gained 2 yards on 4th-and-1 to pick up a first down, then bulled his way into the end zone from a yard out with 11:47 left in the second quarter.
Centennial extended its lead to 24-7 on an 8-yard pass from Smith to Snyder with 1:34 remaining in the half. It capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive that included a 35-yard run by Porter.
“Obviously, they have a good team,” Bauer said of the Jaguars. “They’ve got a lot of skill guys, and they’ve got speed. But we kept battling.”
Ankeny closed the gap to 24-14 at halftime with a nine-play, 78-yard drive. Anderson completed passes of 24 and 12 yards to Irlmeier and a 33-yarder to Akers to set up another 1-yard scoring run by Kayser with 10 seconds left in the half.
“I thought (the Wildcat) was something we were going to put in,” said Kayser, whose father, Mike, was a standout quarterback at Ankeny. “I didn’t know if it would be this week, but I’m blessed that we did because we got two (touchdowns) out of it. I’ll take what I can get.”
The Hawks opened the third quarter with another long drive, but this time Kayser was stopped for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the Centennial 1. However, the Jaguars then turned the ball over on downs at their own 32, and that eventually led to a 20-yard field goal by Ryan Harrington that pulled Ankeny within 24-17 with 2:38 left in the period.
Bendezu missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt on the next possession, and the Jaguars then managed to gain just 22 yards in the fourth quarter.
“We tried to slow it down and keep the ball away from them, and we couldn’t,” Pezzetti said. “We probably should have tried to outscore them. They just made more plays than us, and that’s just the way it goes.”
The Hawks eventually tied the game with a 69-yard drive. Daniel Larmie, who ran for 122 yards on 26 carries, scored on a 2-yard run with 1:59 left in regulation.
Larmie, a sophomore, then caught a 10-yard scoring pass from Anderson on the first play of overtime. But the Jaguars matched the score when Smith plunged into the end zone from a yard out on third-and-goal.
Centennial took a 38-31 lead in the second overtime when Smith fired a 16-yard touchdown pass to Chase Schutty on second down. But the Hawks responded once again.
“I was confident we’d score,” said Ankeny linebacker Angelo Wernau. “We love our boys. They’re real good at punching it in.”
Afterwards, Kayser insisted that Wernau was the Hawks’ player of the game.
“That was one of the greatest games I think I’ve ever seen out of a linebacker,” Kayser said. “This kid was everywhere. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The 5-foot-8, 167-pound Wernau is helping to offset the loss of projected starter Nolan Morrison to a season-ending knee injury.
“This feels phenomenal,” Wernau said. “I think I’m about going to cry right now. It was a real dogfight. The first half was a little scary, but I had 100 percent trust in everybody on this team.”
Snyder had six catches for 101 yards, but he did most of his damage in the first half, when he had four receptions for 95 yards and the two touchdowns.
“I just think we felt more comfortable with what we were doing (on defense), and we tackled better,” Bauer said. “We missed some tackles that first quarter that we shouldn’t have missed.”
Anderson completed 13-of-29 passes for 212 yards in his first varsity start. Irlmeier had eight catches for 104 yards, and Akers added three receptions for 89 yards.
Caden Henkes rushed for 74 yards on 16 carries, teaming up with Larmie to give the Hawks a punishing ground attack.
“It’s a great way to start the season,” Akers said. “I give it up to my o-line. They were out there fighting, running the ball down their throats. So it was great.”
The Hawks will host No. 1 Southeast Polk (1-0), the two-time defending Class 5A state champion, on Friday. The Rams opened the season with a 24-18 victory at No. 3 Valley.
Centennial, meanwhile, will play at Ames (0-1). The Little Cyclones dropped a 35-7 decision at Waukee on Friday.
“(Ankeny) beat us, and you know what, we’re ready to move on,” Pezzetti said.
Ankeny Fanatic by Dan Holm
Ankeny’s crosstown rivals will collide on the gridiron for the 12th time on Friday at Ankeny Stadium to kick off the 2023 high school football season.
Ankeny Centennial leads the all-time series, 8-3, but Ankeny has won two of the last three meetings–including a 17-10 victory by the Hawks in 2022.
“Ankeny’s had a very nice run the last few years,” said Centennial co-head coach Ryan Pezzetti. “I know they want to keep that up.”
Friday’s game marks the debut for Ankeny coach Jeff Bauer. He previously was an assistant under coach Rick Nelson, who left after last season to become an assistant coach at Northern Iowa.
Ankeny won a state title in 2020 and went 30-6 over the last three seasons, but returns just five starters from last year’s squad. With lower expectations outside the program, Bauer said nobody is talking about the Hawks.
“It’s not a bad spot for us to be in,” he said. “But the kids have bought in this summer, and they’ve worked really hard. I can’t wait to see how it looks on Friday.”
Centennial, meanwhile, has been listed in some of the preseason rankings. The Jaguars posted a 5-5 record a year ago and return 12 players who had significant roles.
“Obviously, they’re good,” Bauer said. “They have an experienced quarterback (in Trenton Smith), and (Chase) Schutty is as good as anybody around at tight end. (Receiver Max) Snyder is good, and they’ve got three guys who can run the ball and take it the distance. They do a lot of misdirection stuff, too.
“It’s a tall task, but our guys are excited,” he added.
Pezzetti said the Jaguars practiced in the mornings this week to avoid the extreme heat. The temperature is expected to be 87 degrees at kickoff, which is slated for 7 p.m.
“We all know the weather can change in Iowa,” Pezzetti said. “Hopefully, we’ll get some relief (from the heat) by Friday night.”
Pezzetti said both teams have a lot of unknowns heading into the contest.
“Once the game starts, we’re going to have to adjust to what they’re doing to us,” he said. “And they’re going to have to adjust to what we’re doing to them.”
Jag-Hawk Series History
2013: Centennial 17, Ankeny 7
2014: Centennial 24, Ankeny 21
2015: Ankeny 24, Centennial 16
2016: Centennial 31, Ankeny 18
Centennial 34, Ankeny 24 (playoffs)
2017: Centennial 21, Ankeny 0
2018: Centennial 20, Ankeny 0
2019: Centennial 17, Ankeny 14
2020: Ankeny 48, Centennial 6
2021: Centennial 14, Ankeny 7
2022: Ankeny 17, Centennial 10
Ankeny Fanatic by Dan Holm
Although the Ankeny football team lacks experience, the Hawks still boast plenty of talent.
Ankeny returns just five starters from last year’s squad that posted a 9-2 record, but first-year coach Jeff Bauer isn’t concerned about the number of newcomers who will be forced to play.
“Nobody is going to talk about Ankeny when you have just five returning starters–and justifiably so,” said Bauer. “But it’s hard to start at an Ankeny or a Southeast Polk if you’re an underclassman. Sometimes you just have to wait your turn, and the guys we have stepping in are no slouches. I thought we competed very well at Valley in a scrimmage on Friday.”
Ankeny’s top returning players are senior linebacker Connor Kayser and junior wide receiver Evan Irlmeier. Kayser was a first-team all-district pick a year ago, while Irlmeier earned second-team honors.
Kayser made 42.5 tackles, including 11 for losses. The Northern Iowa recruit will lay in the middle of the Hawks’ 3-3-5 defensive alignment.
“Connor is really good,” Bauer said.
Kayser will be counted upon heavily to make up for the loss of fellow linebackers Nolan Morrison and Trent Jacobs, who combined for 69.5 tackles last season. Jacobs moved to Florida at the end of last year, while Morrison suffered a knee injury while playing basketball this summer and is out for the season.
“That was really unfortunate,” Bauer said. “Nolan is a great kid, and I think he had a chance to be all-state this year."
Senior safety Dylan Dougherty is back after making 19.5 tackles and recovering two fumbles last year. He’ll be joined in the lineup by fellow safeties Nolan Dalton and Sam Sandvig.
“Dalton was a 6-foot-2 receiver, and he can dunk a basketball,” Bauer said. “But we put him at safety this summer, and he just took off.”
Senior nose tackle Braegyn Carter will anchor the defensive line. He has been named one of the team captains along with Kayser, Dougherty, Devon Akers and Lukis Beroth.
Beroth, a junior offensive lineman, is a nationally-ranked deep snapper.
“Beroth is very good,” Bauer said. “He’s a hard worker, and he was voted one of our captains as a junior. That’s the type of kid he is. He’s a great leader.”
Junior Jack Dorfler is another returning starter on the offensive line. He will help protect junior Luke Anderson, who won a three-way battle against junior Jett Each and sophomore Kael Roush to become the team’s No. 1 quarterback.
Anderson completed all four of his passes for 50 yards and a touchdown as a sophomore while backing up all-stater JJ Kohl, who is now competing for the starting job at Iowa State.
“Luke has really made some strides,” Bauer said. “All three of our quarterbacks are doing a nice job, but he just performed a little better so that’s where we decided to go.”
Junior Caden Henkes is the top returning running back. He ran 32 times for 252 yards and two touchdowns in 2022.
Irlmeier enjoyed a breakout season as a sophomore, when he caught 30 passes for 412 yards and six scores.
“He’s quick, he’s got great hands, and he’s a great route runner,” Bauer said.
Akers is expected to provide a nice complement to Irlmeier. He caught six passes for 75 yards as a junior, when he missed most of the season after breaking his collarbone in Week Two.
“I got a feeling there will be some heads turning with (Akers),” Bauer said. “He’s a legit 6-6 1/2. He’s taller than (former Ankeny star) Brody (Brecht), and he ran in the state track meet and had sub-22 splits in the 200. I’m hoping it will be a little d éjà vu. Everyone knew about Brody as a freshman, but we’ve had a Division I receiver for the last four years. It’s been hard to break into the lineup if you’re younger, and last year Devon got hurt against Ankeny Centennial so he lost most of the year. I think he’s got a little chip on his shoulder.”
The Hawks will open their season on Friday against Centennial. Kickoff at Ankeny Stadium is at 7 p.m.
“We’re excited to get going,” Bauer said. “Obviously, we don’t have much experience, but we’ve got a lot of young kids and they’ve showed up every day. They’re working hard.”
The first half of Ankeny’s schedule might be the most difficult stretch for any team in the state. After Friday’s game, the Hawks will host two-time defending Class 5A champion Southeast Polk on Sept. 1 before playing Dowling Catholic on Sept. 8 at Valley Stadium and then hosting Johnston on Sept. 15.
“The good news is that we don’t have to play all four of them at the same time,” Bauer said. “We’re focused on Centennial right now, and then after Friday we can move on to the next challenge.”
It’s officially time for high school football.
Well, not high school football games; those aren’t on the calendar until the final weekend in August.
But Aug. 7-11 marked the first week of practice for fall sports in Iowa, football included. Teams — most fresh off summer workouts and team camps — donned pads and helmets and went through the early motions of putting together a system for the upcoming season.
Here the deal: There are a ton of high school football programs in and around Des Moines. There are five Des Moines Public Schools programs alone. The Register tried to see as many of the local teams as possible during the first week of practice. We got a look at a baker's dozen, from Ankeny to Waukee and everywhere in between.
Here is what we learned from the first week of Iowa high school football practice:
Typical powerhouse Ankeny is going to look different — really different — this year. The Hawks have a new head coach, Jeff Bauer, and return just three starters on offense and two starters on defense. But from the looks of it, Ankeny is in a pretty good spot.
Hawks rotated between three quarterbacks — with returners Luke Anderson and Jett Each mainly competing for the starting spot — at practice, and they seemed to connect well with the receivers Ankeny’s brought back. Defense was strong in scrimmages against their own teammates.
So, time (and real games) will tell if Ankeny can return to the top this season.
August 1, 2023 by Dan Holm, Ankeny Fanatic
It didn’t take long for Rick Nelson to land one of his former Ankeny football players as a Northern Iowa recruit.
Connor Kayser, a senior-to-be linebacker for the Hawks, announced his verbal commitment on Monday to play for UNI in 2024.
“I told myself that coach Nelson wouldn’t be the reason I committed, and he definitely was not the only reason just because of the fact that he won’t coach my position,” said Kayser. “But he was very honest with me on where they stood, and he didn’t really mince words in terms of what they thought of me as a player, which I liked. Most of the communication for visits and things of that nature were through him so I think that helped to have someone familiar walking me through that.”
As a junior, Kayser helped the Hawks to a 9-2 record in Nelson’s final year. He was named to the all-district first team.
Kayser made 42.5 tackles, including 15 solo stops. He had 11 tackles for loss and two sacks.
After the season, Nelson left Ankeny to rejoin the Panthers’ coaching staff as an offensive line coach. UNI was one of a few schools that targeted Kayser.
“I didn’t have a lot of offers. I had enough that I had options, but not so many that I was overwhelmed,” Kayser said. “I think that really helped me because I got to build some very personal relationships with coaches. UNI had by far the best group of coaches, and I think as much as they can teach me about football they can teach me just as much about becoming the person I want to be when I’m done.”
Kayser’s father, Mike, was a standout quarterback at Ankeny who went on to play for the school that is now known as Minnesota State-Mankato.
“My dad was very helpful in a lot of ways,” Kayser said. “His recruiting was obviously a little different just because it was a long time ago, but he helped me sort of see the bad side of certain places when I was getting blinded by the big facilities and things like that. He did a very good job of staying out of my decision because he wanted it to be something that I figured out not necessarily by myself but with minimal help so that I wouldn’t be influenced by other people.
Ankney Fanatic, April 14, 2023 by Dan Holm
Football schedules for the 2023 and 2024 regular seasons have been announced by the Iowa High School Athletic Association.
Class 5A uses a success model for its group format and regular season scheduling. Groups are assigned by the IHSAA, then schools select preferred non-district opponents and submit them to the IHSAA through a priority list.
The IHSAA attempts to align schedules with as many priority list selections as possible. However, opponents and availability can not be guaranteed.
Ankeny Centennial will host Ankeny in the 2023 season opener on Aug. 25 at Northview Stadium. Here are the complete schedules for both teams:
Aug. 25 Ankeny
Sept. 1 at Ames
Sept. 8 Cedar Falls
Sept. 15 at S.E. Polk
Sept. 22 D.M. East
Sept. 29 Dowling Catholic
Oct. 6 at D.M. Roosevelt
Oct. 13 Waukee Northwest
Oct. 20 at Urbandale
Aug. 25 at Ankeny Centennial
Sept. 1 S.E. Polk
Sept. 8 at Dowling Catholic
Sept. 15 Johnston
Sept. 22 at I.C. West
Sept. 29 at C.R. Prairie
Oct. 6 I.C. Liberty
Oct. 13 at Valley
Oct. 20 C.R. Washington
*Note: The 2024 schedules will be the same opponents in the same order, with the home and away teams reversed.
Ankeny Fanatic, February 28, 2023 by Dan Holm
It turns out that the successor to Ankeny football coach Rick Nelson was already on his coaching staff.
Assistant coach Jeff Bauer has been named to replace Nelson, who announced in early January that he was leaving to return to his previous position as the offensive line coach at Northern Iowa.
“This is what I’m supposed to be doing,” said Bauer, an Ankeny native. “When I went for this (job) and got it, I thought, ‘This is it.’ This is my hometown. What more could a guy ask for?”
Ankeny Activities Director Adam McDonnell said Bauer emerged from a strong pool of candidates.
“Coach Bauer’s deep community ties and vision for the future of Ankeny Hawk football set him apart from the others,” McDonnell said. “It is evident that Jeff is passionate and invested in Ankeny not only from the program and school standpoint, but from a community at large.”
Bauer spent the last six years on Nelson’s staff. He was a volunteer assistant the first year, then became a paid assistant in 2018.
Bauer helped the Hawks to a 37-10 record over the last four years, including the Class 4A state title in 2020. His son, Jase, was the star quarterback on the championship squad.
“The last four years have been a pretty special run,” Bauer said. “But with that being said, everything is not going to be status quo. There are some things that need to be fixed or changed up. It’ll be a little different, but I also know why we’ve been good the last few years.”
Bauer was picked from a pool of candidates that included three other finalists.
“I think in my interview, my passion for Ankeny really showed,” Bauer said. “I’m a lifelong guy here who knows the community and the school district. I think they realized that this position wasn’t going to matter as much to other candidates as it matters to me.”
Junior linebacker Connor Kayser said the Ankeny players were thrilled by Bauer’s promotion.
“First of all, I applaud the other finalists because they all did great and I know they will all have success wherever they end up,” said Kayser. “I think that familiarity is a good thing, especially when talking about high school sports. The whole team was rooting big-time for (Bauer), and I think we were all very happy with the district’s decision.
“One thing that I think the players really love about Bauer is that he wants to win games of course, but he wants to become more involved in the community just as much. That’s really big as a player because you know that you have a coach that can also shift his focus into helping us become better men alongside becoming a better football player. I think the players already love him, and I’m sure that the city of Ankeny will come to love him in no time!” he added.
Bauer graduated from Ankeny in 1986. He played on both sides of the ball for the Hawks and was a first-team all-conference pick.
Bauer then joined the Iowa State program as a walk-on and became a four-time letterwinner for the Cyclones from 1987-90. Last month, he was named to the Ankeny Fanatic all-time Ankeny football team.
After coaching in Texas for several years, Bauer moved to Overland Park, Kan., and coached for five years at Blue Valley North High School, helping the program to five winning seasons and four playoff berths. He coached the defensive backs and was also the defensive coordinator.
During this time, Bauer met New York Jets executive Terry Bradway and eventually joined the franchise’s front office. He served as a Midwest scout for 11 years and then spent two more years as the Director of Scouting.
However, Bauer’s tenure with the Jets came to an end in 2015 when Mike Maccagnan was named the General Manager.
“I knew (Maccagnan) was going to bring in his own people,” Bauer said. “I thought I’d get back into (scouting), but I ended up being the runner-up for some other jobs.”
After a brief stint in the mortgage industry, Bauer joined Nelson’s staff at Ankeny. He briefly flirted with the XFL in 2020, but then the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
Now, Bauer is fully committed to the program that he once played for.
“I’m real excited,” he said. “Being an Ankeny guy and getting this opportunity, it’s pretty cool.”
The first challenge for Bauer will be to assemble his coaching staff.
“We’ve got to get the right guys in place,” he said. “I don’t want any egos on our staff. I want everybody to feel free to have an opinion. It’s not a ‘my way or the highway’ kind of deal. I think good football coaches are always trying to get better, and that’s what I want to do.”
Ankeny Fanatic, January 10, 2023 by Dan Holm
Ankeny football coach Rick Nelson is headed back to Cedar Falls.
Nelson, who was a longtime assistant coach at Northern Iowa before taking over the Hawks’ program in 2015, has announced his resignation. He will rejoin the Panthers’ staff as the offensive line coach.
Nelson replaces Ryan Clanton, who was the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at UNI the last five seasons. He left to become the offensive line coach at Iowa State.
“This (job) came open,” said Nelson. “I’ve had a couple other opportunities to go back to UNI and I stayed here, but this time I just felt like it was the right time to go back.”
Nelson coached at Ankeny for eight seasons, guiding the Hawks to a 61-26 record. Only one of his teams failed to make the playoffs.
In 2020, Nelson led Ankeny to the Class 4A state championship–the third title in school history. The Hawks ended Dowling Catholic’s seven-year run as champions with a dramatic double-overtime victory in the semifinals, then rolled to a 42-14 win over Southeast Polk in the final.
Nelson again led Ankeny to the championship game in 2021. The Hawks lost a rematch against Southeast Polk, 24-7, in the first-ever Class 5A final.
Ankeny went 9-2 in Nelson’s final season last fall, which ended with a 23-13 loss to Johnston in the Class 5A quarterfinals. The Hawks went 37-10 over the last four years.
“We’ve had really good players, and they worked extremely hard,” Nelson said. “We’ve had a great coaching staff and a lot of parent support. The kids just needed some direction. It’s been a lot of fun working with them.”
Nelson will be reunited with Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley, who has coached the Panthers since 2001.
“He’s done a nice job there,” Nelson said. “It’s a tough league just like the Des Moines area is a tough league in high school. UNI is in a tough league.”
Nelson said he had a desire to return to the collegiate level. “I don’t know if I ever quite adjusted to high school,” he joked. “But it was still a tough decision. I have a lot of family here.”