The eyes of Iowa's class 1A football world will be on Marion County Friday night, as the 6-0 Pleasantville Trojans travel across the county to face the fellow undefeated Eagles of Pella Christian.
The two teams found themselves in the same district (Class 1A District 5) when the new districts were announced last year. Thus far, Pleasantville has outscored its opponents 213-41. The Trojans are coming off of back-to-back shutouts as well.
Pella Christian has outscored its opponents 352-46. They, too, put together back-to-back shutouts earlier in the year, against Des Moines Christian and Interstate 35.
"Our kids are very excited to continue to play great competition in our district," Pleasantville Head Coach Gabe Bakker said. "We have put ourselves in position to play for first place in the district against one of the best teams in the state. Our kids can't wait for Friday night. We will have our hands full, but it should be a fun game."
"Our team has worked really hard in the off-season and during the in-season to get to this point, so we are really excited to play this game," added Pella Christian Head Coach Rich Kacmarynski.
Statistically, the two teams are well-matched.
Pella Christian leads Class 1A in scoring with 352 points. Second place Madrid is at 302, and Pleasantville is in 13th place with its 213 points.
The Eagles are second in total offense (rushing and receiving) with 1,700 rush yards and 973 receiving. Pleasantville has 1,422 rushing yards and 748 receiving. Pella Christian also leads the class in total offensive touchdowns, with 47 to Pleasantville's 29.
In comparing quarterbacks, the Eagles' David Kacmarynski is 37-for-61 with 795 yards, 16 touchdowns and three interceptions. The Trojans' Owen Worthington is 59-of-94 with 744 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
Pella Christian's Levi Jungling and Pleasantville's Hunter Tyree are seventh and eighth in the state in scoring. Jungling has scored 102 points for the Eagles and Tyree has scored 84. Not far behind in the rankings is Pleasantville's Sawyer Phillips, with 78 points.
Jungling is sixth in the state in receiving with 473 yards on 17 catches and nine touchdowns. Tyree is 10th with 400 yards on 27 catches and six touchdowns.
"Pleasantville is well-coached and they have good team speed," Coach Kacmarynksi added. "They have a good plan and are working their plan."
"I think Pella Christian is one of the best teams in the state," Bakker said. "They are very well coached, aggressive, and sound in what they do. They have great playmakers who can breakaway at anytime, but they have fantastic players in the trenches. I have the a lot of respect for this football team."
The Trojan defense leads the state in solo tackles for loss with 56. Pella Christian is in fifth place with 42.
Pleasantville's Chaz Clark is truly one of the best defenders in the state, with 21 solo tackles for a loss (#1 in the state), 28 total tackles and seven sacks (#3 in the state). The Trojans have picked off opponents 12 times, to the Eagles' six.
Phillips has 38.5 total tackles for the Trojans and Eddie Pringle has 29.5 for the Eagles to lead their teams in that category. The Eagles lead the state in fumble recoveries with 13 for 39 return yards - including a touchdown. Pleasantville has four fumble recoveries.
Defense and the turnover margin will be a key to victory, according to both Kacmarynksi and Bakker.
"Like most football games, the team that controls the line of scrimmage and wins the turnover margin will have the best chance to win," Bakker said. "We have to be sound in everything we do and eliminate their big plays. Special teams will be huge in this game."
"Taking care of the football (turnover margin), controlling the line of scrimmage will be two keys to the game," Kacmarynski said.
The Trojans lead the state in the category of kickoff returns with 210 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles have 226 return yards, but no touchdowns. Both teams are evenly matched in punt returns as well, with the Eagles racking up 250 yards and a touchdown, and the Trojans with 235 yards and two touchdowns.
When all is said and done, this game will likely crown Iowa's Class 1A, District 5 Champion. Both teams will take turns facing the same opponents over the last two weeks of the regular season, Central Decatur-Leon (4-2) and Woodward-Granger (3-3). The losing team of the Pleasantville-Pella Christian contest is still likely to earn the coveted second spot to represent the district in the playoffs.
"This should be one heck of a football game," Bakker said. "These are the nights that players dream about, but we have to come ready to play on Friday."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Pella Christian High School.