SIOUX CITY – Familiar foes will hook up in the first round of the Iowa high school football playoffs Friday night.
Sergeant Bluff-Luton (8-1) plays host to Bishop Heelan (7-2) in a Class 3A opener, a rematch of a Sept. 21 contest won by SB-L, 23-9, at Heelan’s Memorial Field. Sergeant Bluff-Luton won all five of its District 1 contests and has beaten the Crusaders four straight times.
Heelan is making its 37th appearance in the playoffs, its 11th in the last 12 seasons. Roger Jansen returned to the helm this season after guiding the Crusaders to a couple of state titles and his team made this year’s 16-team bracket despite a 32-14 loss at Spencer in a regular season finale.
It’s the fifth consecutive playoff berth for Sergeant Bluff-Luton, which reached the semifinals in 2015.
Spencer, with its win over Heelan, qualified for the playoffs under the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s new format and the 7-2 Tigers travel to Norwalk (6-3) for a first-round game.
The winners of the Heelan-SB-L and Spencer-Norwalk games will meet in a quarterfinal.
Beginning this season, the IHSAA implemented an RPI system that helped determine the playoff field as well as seedings. District champions earned automatic berths, while RPI determined the rest of the field.
RPI (ratings performance index) consists of win-loss record (37.5 percent), opponents’ win-loss record (37.5 percent) and opponents’ opponents’ win-loss record (25 percent).
District champions earned the right to host first-round games. However, in the quarterfinals, the higher RPI gets home field advantage regardless of district finish. Brackets will be reseeded for the semifinals in the UNI-Dome.
Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley (8-1), two seasons removed from a state championship, plays host to Spirit Lake (7-2) in a first-round Class 2A game in Rock Valley. The second-ranked Nighthawks have lost only to Sergeant Bluff-Luton and won the District 1 title, while Spirit Lake is one of three teams from District 2 to make the field.
OABCIG (7-2) is one of three District 9 qualifiers and travels to District 2 champion Southeast Valley (7-2). The winner plays the Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley vs. Spirit Lake winner in a quarterfinal.
West Sioux, which won the Class A state championship last season, is back in the playoffs but this time competing in Class 1A. The Falcons, 8-1 with only a loss to Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley in a season opener, host Treynor (8-1) on Friday.
Whomever survives that contest will play either perennial playoff qualifier West Lyon (7-2) or South Central Calhoun (9-0) -- who square off at South Central Calhoun -- in the quarterfinal round. West Lyon is in the postseason for the 29th time, including the last 16 years in succession.
District champions Hinton (District 1) and Westwood (District 10) each get to host a first-round game. Westwood (8-1) entertains Akron-Westfield (7-2) while Hinton (8-1) welcomes West Hancock (7-2). Those winners will collide for a trip to the UNI-Dome.
Hinton and Akron-Westfield each finished with 4-1 records in District 1 but Hinton got the home game by virtue of a 17-16 win over the Westerners earlier this season.
Westwood’s only loss is to unbeaten AHSTW, which plays host to Alta-Aurelia (7-2) in another Class A first-round game. Alta-Aurelia earned its berth with a 20-6 victory over Sioux Central for the District 2 title.
Newell-Fonda (8-1) hits the road for a game at Southeast Warren (10-0) in the 8-player bracket. The Mustangs face a possible rematch with Ar-We-Va, which handed them their only loss, in the quarterfinal round.