These six made the price of admission money well spent.
For The World-Herald's six honorary captains of its All-Western Iowa football teams, a Friday night was something to savor. All six gave their fans season-long thrills with their all-around play.
The newspaper again has selected 24-player first and second teams in two divisions: Class 4-A/3-A and Class 2-A/1-A/A. It picked 18-player first and second teams in the Eight-Man division.
The honorary captains are Dom Thompson-Williams of Sioux City East (4-A/3-A offense) and Luke Neitzel of Creston/Orient-Macksburg (4-A/3-A defense); Paul Hutson of Logan-Magnolia (2-A/1-A/A offense) and Taylor Niehaus of Carroll Kuemper (2-A/1-A/A defense); and Mitchell Lensch of Glidden-Ralston (Eight-Man offense) and Nick Peppers of Exira-EHK (Eight-Man defense).
Among the large schools, Class 3-A runner-up Sioux City Heelan has seven All-WI honorees, with 3-A quarterfinalist Council Bluffs Lewis Central six, and Sioux City East, Carroll, Harlan and Creston/O-M five apiece.
In Class 2-A/1-A/A, 2-A semifinalist Carroll Kuemper and 1-A runner-up Council Bluffs St. Albert have seven selections each, while 1-A quarterfinalist IKM-Manning has five and Class A semifinalist Logan-Magnolia four.
In Eight-Man, four schools place four athletes each on an All-WI team: Exira-EHK, Glidden-Ralston, Sidney and Fremont-Mills.
In Class 4-A, East's Thompson-Williams is one of the most prolific receivers to come out of Sioux City. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound senior led all classes with 112.2 receiving yards per game, finishing with 1,234 yards on 58 receptions and 12 scores. The Black Raiders finished 8-3 and lost in the second round to eventual champion Ankeny.
Creston's Neitzel was a tremendous two-way star in his four-year varsity career. At safety, the 6-2, 185-pound senior had seven interceptions and finished third on the team with 56 tackles. Neitzel also starred at quarterback for the Panthers, who finished 7-3 and lost to eventual runner-up Heelan in the first round. Neitzel ran for 1,260 yards and 20 touchdowns, and threw for another 708 yards and eight scores with just four interceptions.
In Class A, the 6-2, 210-pound Hutson helped Logan-Magnolia to its first appearance in the UNI-Dome in 22 years with his two-way talents. On offense, the senior carried 194 times for 1,933 yards (10.0 avg.) and 27 touchdowns. He finished second on the team with 87 tackles from his linebacker post, as the Panthers finished 11-2 and lost to Hinton in the semifinals.
Carroll Kuemper will be one of the teams to beat in Class 2-A next year, and Niehaus is a big reason. The 6-1, 205-pound junior was named the defensive MVP of District 8 for his linebacker play, where he finished with a whopping 167 tackles, including 11 solo stops for losses. The Knights finished 12-1 and lost to eventual champ Spirit Lake by seven in the semifinals.
In Eight-Man, Lensch, a 6-2, 205-pound bruiser, would have been right at home on any field in any class in the state. The senior carried 233 times, the third-most of any player in the state, for 2,734 yards (10.2 avg.) and 38 touchdowns, punishing many would-be tacklers in the process. He also finished fourth on the team in tackles with 61, as the Wildcats finished 9-3 and lost to Exira-EHK in the quarterfinals.
That Exira-EHK team undoubtedly will start next season high in the rankings, and Nick Peppers is a great player to build around. The 6-1, 185-pound junior is a pure linebacker, finishing with 165 tackles — 66 more than any teammates — including 17 solo tackles for losses. He also fought off injuries to run for 923 yards and 19 scores as the Spartans finished 12-1 and lost to eventual champion MMC in the semifinals.
Creston's Neitzel and Riverside senior lineman Ricky Williams mark their second straight year on an All-WI first team, after making the second team as sophomores.
Ten more athletes are repeat first-team selections: Creston/O-M offensive lineman Keaton Hulett, Council Bluffs Lewis Central defensive lineman Zach Renshaw, Sioux City Heelan defensive lineman Zach Skibinski and Carroll defensive lineman Jose Zambrano in 4-A/3-A; OA-BCIG end/wingback Trever Ryan and Lo-Ma's Hutson and Caden McDonald, a defensive back, in 2-A/1-A/A; along with Glidden-Ralston's Lensch and the Fremont-Mills duo of Seth Phillips, an offensive lineman, and Clayton Wilson, a linebacker, in Eight-Man.
Fifteen more honorees jump from last year's All-Western Iowa second team to this year's first unit: East's Thompson-Williams, Heelan's Tyler Stolen, Creston's Trevor Frain, Atlantic's Sam Markham and Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson's Dominic Wilson in 4-A/3-A; Kuemper's Cole Neary, IKM-Manning's Cody Kahl, Lo-Ma's Logan Melby and A-H-S-T's Jake Larson in 2-A/1-A/A; and Exira-EHK's Peppers, West Harrison's Tyler Birdsall, Fremont-Mills' Mark Hall, CAM's Trevor McKee, Woodbine's Sam Powers and Glidden-Ralston's Dan Ertz in Eight-Man.
Six more are named to an All-WI team for a second season: Creston's Bryce McIlravy in 4-A/3-A; St. Albert's Cole Herr and Tri-Center's Doug Hoke in 2-A/1-A/A; and Boyer Valley's Michael Hanigan, Ar-We-Va's Elliott Kock and Coon Rapids-Bayard's Caylor Deeth in Eight-Man.
The All-Western Iowa teams were chosen by a vote of area coaches, a look at season statistics and observations of World-Herald staff writers.
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