It's the middle game of "The Grind," a grueling 10-day stretch of three playoff football games -- if you're lucky enough to keep winning.
It started last Wednesday with the first round, when 32 teams in six classes took to gridirons across the state.
Monday is the second round. The field has been pared to 16 teams in each class. Four teams come from the Metro -- Xavier, Prairie, Kennedy and Marion.
The competition may be better. The stakes are just as high.
Winners advance to Friday's quarterfinals. Losers go home.
It's tough. It's brutal.
It's "The Grind."
Waterloo East (6-4) at No. 3 Xavier (10-0)
Site: Saints Field
Time: 7 p.m.
Radio: KMRY (AM-1450, FM-93.1)
Playoff appearances (last): Waterloo East 9 (2011), Xavier 9 (2011)
Playoff record (state titles): Waterloo East 2-8 (0); Xavier 10-7 (2006)
Storyline - Xavier's quest for a second Class 4A state title brings it up against fellow Mississippi Valley Conference member Waterloo East, a tradition power in the 1960s that has seen its fortunes rise the past couple of years under Coach Kody Asmus. The Saints did not play the Trojans this season. Xavier won the Valley Division and East finished fourth in the Mississippi Division. The Saints beat the Trojans, 19-13, in 2011 and most of the principal players are still around on both sides. Xavier can't afford to look ahead to a possible Friday date against Iowa City West or the Saints will find themselves at home. The Saints have taken care of business so far. Expect them to march on.
Waterloo East - The Trojans struggled out of the gate, standing 1-2 after losses to Cedar Falls and Iowa City High. Injuries to standout quarterback Desmond Van Arsdale and running back Aaron Taylor forced the Trojans to survive the middle portion of their schedule and a 31-21 win over Dubuque Senior in Week 8 put them back in the playoffs. Van Arsdale was healthy last Wednesday, passing for 142 yards and a TD and running for 156 and three TDS in East's stunning 33-14 win over No. 6 seeded Davenport Assumption.
Team stats (season averages per game) - Rushing offense (194.3), Passing offense (191.0), Total offense (385.3), Points (27.9); Rushing defense (192.5), Passing defense (121.1), Total defense (313.6), Opponent points (25.4). Individual leaders - Rushing: Aaron Taylor 163-923 6 TDs, Van Arsdale 111-613 15 TDs, Jordan Johnson 44-287 2 TDs; Passing: Van Arsdale 78-153-3-1358 7 TDs, John Magnuson 35-67-4-552 7 TDs; Receiving: Javon Middleton 31-371, Jacob Hewitt 23-305 2 TDs, A'Darrius Riley 19-421 4 TDs; Tackles: Russell Jones 131; PATs: Juan Martinez 25-32; FGs: Martinez 8-11 (long 39).
Xavier - The Saints are in the midst of a record-setting storybook season. Reggie Schulte has completed 75.8 percent of his passes, which leads the state in all classes. His 33 TD passes rank second in the state and tie for first in Class 4A. Corbin Woods ranks sixth in Class 4A in receiving yards with 915 and his 14 TD receptions tie him with Prairie's Jarred Edmonds for first in 4A. Schulte threw five TD passes in the Saints' 48-10 win over City High in last Wednesday's playoff opener. The defense was hit for a season-high 279 yards by City High. The Saints did not allow more than 196 yards in a game during the regular season.
Team stats (season averages per game) - Rushing offense (192.0), Passing offense (195.6), Total offense (387.6), Points (43.1); Rushing defense (92.8), Passing defense (87.1), Total defense (179.9), Opponent points (8.5). Individual leaders - Rushing: Brendan Miller 110-723 7 TDs, Wes Gardner 33-187 2 TDs, Nick Steingreaber 17-163 3 TDs, Logan Jones 23-129 2 TDs; Passing: Schulte 113-149-3-1951 33 TDs; Receiving: Woods 41-915 14 TDs, Bryce Grimm 26-326 5 TDs, Matt Nelson 12-149 8 TDs; Tackles: Craig Murtha 61 (36 for loss); PATs: Ryan Persick 55-57; FGs: Persick 4-7.
Prairie (7-3) at No. 2 Iowa City West (10-0)
Site: Iowa City West High School
Time: 7 p.m.
Playoff appearances (last): Prairie 15 (2009), Iowa City West 11 (2011)
Playoff record (state titles): Prairie 5-13 (1981); Iowa City West 18-7 (1995, 1998, 1999)
Storyline - Prairie is in the Class 4A playoffs for the first time under Coach Mike Morrissey, who is in his second season at the helm of the Hawks. Prairie was only 2-7 a year ago, but flipped that around this season en route to a third-place finish in the Mississippi Valley Conference Valley Division. Iowa City West is in search of the school's fourth state football title. The Trojans rocked the Hawks, 58-27, during the regular season when they ran for 452 yards and seven TDs. Prairie took some important steps this season. A win against West would be a giant leap.
Prairie - The Hawks are riding a four-game winning streak after disposing of Dubuque Senior, 30-28, in last Wednesday's first-round game at Dubuque. Prairie had an incredible defensive night, returning three interceptions for touchdowns. They Hawks will need some more of that luck against West. Prairie's losses have been to the Trojans, Xavier and Cedar Falls, who are seeded 2-3-4 in the tournament and have a combined record of 29-1. Quarterback Jace Hanna is seventh in Class 4A in passing yards with 2,019 and his 24 TD passes rank fifth. Jarred Edmonds is third in 4A in receiving yards with 1,039 and his 14 TD receptions are tied with Xavier's Corbin Woods for the lead in Class 4A.
Team stats (season averages per game) - Rushing offense (128.9), Passing offense (233.1), Total offense (362.0), Points (33.8); Rushing defense (228.9), Passing defense (97.4), Total defense (326.3), Opponent points (26.9). Individual leaders - Rushing: Mitch Christensen 96-458 4 TDs, Hanna 67-297 3 TDs, Demetrius Harper 30-142 1 TD; Passing: Hanna 131-223-7-2019 24 TDs; Receiving: Harper 51-535 5 TDs, Edmonds 47-1039 14 TDs, Kentrel Smith 14-254 3 TDs, Mitch Dellamuth 14-198 3 TDs; Tackles: Cam Rathje 130, Casey Becker 97; INT: Dellamuth 5; PATs: Sam Drysdale 42-46; FGs: Drysdale 4-5 (long 34).
Iowa City West - The Trojans have been pounding teams all season. They average 52.5 points per game with a low of 35. West does it with a balanced attack. The Trojans are averaging 266.3 yards rushing and 208.8 yards passing for a whopping 475.1 yards per game. Their top two receivers are standout basketball players on the Trojans' defending state championship cage team and both will play Division I basketball in college. It is a team of athletes on a mission. And these kids know how to win.
Team stats (season averages per game) - Rushing offense (266.3), Passing offense (208.8), Total offense (475.1), Points (52.5); Rushing defense (163.9), Passing defense (125.1), Total defense (289.0), Opponent points (17.4). Individual leaders - Rushing: Ezra Reiners 103-941 12 TDs, Devin Raffensperger 68-564 5 TDs, Micah Kelsay 67-288 14 TDs; Passing: Nate Boland 124-188-3-1988 19 TDs; Receiving: Dondre Alexander 45-834 5 TDs, Jeremy Morgan 42-734 10 TDs, Reid Bonner 12-196 1 TD; Tackles: Jessie Peterson 72 (7 for loss); INT: Bonner, Morgan 4; PATs: Morgan 30-32, Mueng Sunday 26-26; FGs: Morgan 1-1 (long 27).
Kennedy (5-5) at No. 8 Cedar Falls (9-1)
Site: UNI-Dome, Cedar Falls
Time: 8:45 p.m. (approximately)
Radio: WMT (AM-600, JIP after Marion game)
Playoff appearances (last): Kennedy 14 (2011), Cedar Falls 24 (2011)
Playoff record (state titles): Kennedy 9-13 (0); Cedar Falls 36-22 (1986)
Storyline - These teams both do the same things well - run the ball and stop the other team from running it. Kennedy is averaging just under 200 yards rushing per game and holding its opponents to 94.5 rushing yards per game. Cedar Falls is averaging 220 rushing yards per game and allowing nearly 124 rushing yards per game. That gives this the makings of a classic brawl game, strength against strength, man against man. Kennedy has not played Cedar Falls since a 10-7 loss in the first round of the 2006 Class 4A playoffs. This is Kennedy's toughest test since a Week 5 game at Xavier. Even though it was a 35-0 loss, that game turned the Cougars' season around. They need this one to keep it going.
Kennedy - The Cougars have won five straight games since starting the season 0-5. They have averaged 232 yards rushing, while holding foes to 58 rushing yards in the last five games. They also have outscored their opponents 190-68, including a 20-17 upset win at Muscatine in last Wednesday's first round. Alex Hillyer is third in Class 4A with 1,539 yards rushing, which set a single-season school record. Four of Kennedy's five losses were to playoff teams.
Team stats (season averages per game) - Rushing offense (196.4), Passing offense (76.3), Total offense (272.7), Points (25.7); Rushing defense (94.5), Passing defense (187.1), Total defense (281.6), Opponent points (21.7). Individual leaders - Rushing: Hillyer 261-1539 18 TDs, Miles Moa 54-215; Passing: Riley Fergus 55-123-5-682 10 TDs; Receiving: Jacob Frazier-Flores 15-281 4 TDs, Patrick Martin 12-179 4 TDs; Tackles: Grant Miller 79, Andrew Johnson 60, David Hynek 58; INT: Donovan Kosman 3; Fumble Recoveries: Tommy Kaiser 4; PATs: Eric Bertroche 29-33; FGs: Bertroche 4-6 (long 38).
Cedar Falls - The Tigers' only blip this season was a 24-7 home loss to Xavier and it cost them the Valley Division title. This is not a typical Cedar Falls team in that the Tigers have no true standouts on offense. They have three running backs with 475 yards or morel. Tight end Ike Boettger an Iowa recruit, has caught more than half of the passes completed by quarterback Brayden Longnecker. The Cedar Falls defense held Davenport Central's Zach Minch to 46 yards on 16 carries in Wednesday's playoff opener. Minch is the leading rusher in Class 4A with 1,946 yards.
Team stats (season averages per game) - Rushing offense (220.4), Passing offense (90.3), Total offense (310.7), Points (26.9); Rushing defense (123.7), Passing defense (147.1), Total defense (270.8), Opponent points (14.2). Individual leaders - Rushing: Jake Buck 166-978 9 TDs, Nick Clark 93-592 10 TDs, Eli Berregaard Crowe 66-475 3 TDs; Passing: Brayden Longnecker 59-105-3-736 7 TDs; Receiving: Ike Boettger 30-416 4 TDs, Brandon Corkery 13-193 3 TDs; Tackles: Jared Farley 108 (17 for loss), Nick DeBuhr 77; PATs: Jacob Newton 32-35; FGs: Newton 3-4 (long 35), Berregaard 2-3 (long 37).
DeWitt Central (7-3) at Marion (8-2)
Site: Thomas Park
Time: 7 p.m.
Radio: WMT (AM-600)
Playoff appearances (last): DeWitt Central 8 (2010), Marion 16 (2010)
Playoff record (state titles): DeWitt Central 5-7 (0); Marion 10-14 (1980)
Storyline - Marion is back in the playoffs after a one-year absence, but the Indians limped in after suffering two key injuries in a Week 9 loss to DeWitt Central that caused a three-way tie in Class 3A District 6. Versatile Andrew Davis, valuable as both a runner and receiver, broke his leg and lineman Justin Dolley tore a knee ligament. Both are out of the playoffs. DeWitt won the game on a fourth-quarter field goal by Keegan Lass. Marion had three turnovers and allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown. DeWitt Central avenged a Week 1 loss to reach this game. Perhaps it's a payback Monday for Marion.
DeWitt Central - The Sabers ride a five-game winning streak into this tilt. DeWitt avenged a season-opening loss to West Delaware in last Wednesday's playoff opener, 24-21. The Sabers ran for 330 yards and three touchdowns. More impressively, they held West Delaware to 126 rushing yards after the Hawks put up 350 on them to open the season. DeWitt averages nearly 52 rushes and 310 yards per game. The Sabers' low output was 166 yards against Marion. That was the only game they did not break the 200-yard barrier.
Team stats (season averages per game) - Rushing offense (309.7), Passing offense (56.1), Total offense (365.8), Points (25.1); Rushing defense (120.3), Passing defense (144.3), Total defense (264.6), Opponent points (16.0). Individual leaders - Rushing: Chris Keitel 176-1170 9 TDs, Mitch Green 144-798 9 TDs, Jake Feldpausch 58-382 4 TDs, Austin Lechtenberg 67-356 2 TDs; Passing: Green 40-84-2-486 3 TDs; Receiving: Lechtenberg 13-126 2 TDs, Keitel 7-118 1 TD; Tackles: AJ Smith 56 (16 for loss); INT: Mitch Kirby 3; PATs: Patrick Haller 19-19, Keegan Lass 5-5; FGs: Haller 1-2 (long 30), Lass 2-2 (long 25).
Marion - The Indians run the ball and run the ball and run the ball some more. Yet it was a 75-yard TD pass from Trevor Hardman to Quinn Cannoy that pulled out a 29-27 win over Western Dubuque in Wednesday's playoff opener. Trev Biery leads District 6 in rushing with 1,177 yards and averages 7.4 yards per carry. His 17 rushing TDs are tied for seventh in the state in Class 3A. Hardman has not thrown much, but has only two interceptions in 97 attempts. The defense has been magnificent. Only four teams have broken the 100-yard rushing barrier, topped by DeWitt's 166.
Team stats (season averages per game) - Rushing offense (248.1), Passing offense (79.4), Total offense (327.5), Points (29.5); Rushing defense (78.7), Passing defense (91.2), Total defense (169.9), Opponent points (12.5). Individual leaders - Rushing: Biery 160-1177 17 TDs, Colton Mowry 93-424 5 TDs,Tyler Gunderson 46-310 2 TDs; Passing: Trevor Hardman 49-97-2-794 6 TDs; Receiving: Quinn Cannoy 16-377 2 TDs, Ethan Herren 14-178 1 TD. Tackles: Herren 70, Isaac Frazier 68 (31 for loss); INT: Biery, Cannoy 3; PATs: Dalton Ott 20-22, Ben Kroemer 6-7; FGs: Ott 4-5 (long 34).