STATE CENTER - The West Marshall football team limped out of the playoffs a year ago.
The Trojans have spent this season speeding toward the playoffs and have finally reached their destination. The first of five, actually.
The first pit stop on the way to the UNI-Dome comes Wednesday when the Trojans host Bondurant-Farrar at 7 p.m.
T-R PHOTO BY TRAVIS HINES
West Marshall’s Tysen Streeter (11) streaks down the sideline during the Trojans’ Week 2 14-7 victory over Aplington-Parkersburg. Streeter, a member of the Trojans’ 4x200-meter state champion relay track team last spring, is one of many speedsters for the Class 2A No. 2 Trojans, who host Bondurant-Farrar on Wednesday in the first round of the playoffs.
The Class 2A No. 2 Trojans have been on cruise control this season, winning all but one game by at least three touchdowns en route to a perfect 9-0 record.
They've done it with an improved defense and an offense full of players who could - and do - double as track stars.
"This team has more speed than West Marshall teams have had," said head coach Ken Winkler, who won a state title at the helm of the Trojans in 1999 and at Treynor in 1979.
Iowa High School Football State Playoffs
First Round, Wednesday at 7 p.m.
JSPC (6-3) at Spirit Lake (9-0)
Sioux Center (5-4) at South Central Calhoun (8-1)
Kuemper Catholic (8-1) vs. Sheldon (6-3), at Denison
OA-BCIG (7-2) at Central Lyon/GLR (6-3)
Bondurant-Farrar (4-5) at West Marshall (9-0)
North Polk (7-2) at Pella Christian (7-2)
CMB (6-3) at PCM (9-0)
Clarinda (6-3) at Fort Dodge St. Edmond (8-1)
Cascade (5-4) at Forest City (7-2)
Clarion-Goldfield (5-4) at North Fayette (7-2)
Osage (6-3) at Dyersville Beckman (8-1)
South Winneshiek (8-1) at New Hampton (7-2)
Davis County (6-3) at Iowa City Regina (9-0)
West Liberty (6-3) at Albia (7-2)
Louisa-Muscatine (4-5) at Mediapolis (9-0)
Mid-Prairie (6-3) at Wilton (7-2)
"Until the last four or five years, we've never been known for speed. We have more speed and right now we have probably a little better depth than some of the teams we've had in the past."
West Marshall has three members from its state champion 4x200-meter relay team (Dalton Ferch, Josh Bunn and Tysen Streeter) and a host of other speedsters.
The Trojans had much of that speed last season and relied on it to create big plays.
This year, defenses, for the most part, have been able to keep those big-gainers in check.
"I think people are trying to coach against big plays," said Winkler, who needs just two victories to reach 300 for his career.
The long gains may not be as plentiful, but the points are for the Trojans, who are averaging nearly 48 points-per-game to lead Class 2A. The defense allows just 7 points a night to give the Trojans' the second-highest margin of victory in the class.
The Trojans are averaging 8.2 yards-per carry on offense and less than 4.5 on defense.
"I don't think we've hit our peak for defensive and offensive line," said Dustin Aikin, who leads West Marshall in tackles. "Still got a lot of improvement (possible) there."
West Marshall had won nine-straight games heading into a quarterfinal matchup with North Polk, a team they'd already beaten in the season, last year, but injuries derailed the championship bid as the Trojans looked nothing like the team that they had been weeks before.
"Got to stay healthy," said Ferch, who had a knee injury against the Comets, to the key of postseason play. "You've got to get a little lucky."
Ferch has 79 career touchdowns and 6,591 combined all-purpose yards heading into the playoffs. He's one of many seniors the Trojans lean on.
"I think everybody understands that it's one and out. These kids have thought about winning a state championship since they've been in junior high," said Winkler. "I think most teams that win state championships have good senior leadership and a good number of senior players. That's just the nature of football.
"I think they're well grounded, and I think they've got goals. Now, it's just a matter of if they can get it done."
If West Marshall can get by the Bluejays (4-5), who took West Marshall to overtime in the second round of the playoffs a year ago, the Trojans will face the winner of Pella Christian (7-2) and North Polk (7-2).
The quarterfinals will likely feature the winner of No. 5 PCM (9-0) and No. 8 St. Edmond (8-1), which the Trojans beat by 21 earlier this month.
"The bottom line is we have to go on the field for five games and be the best football team," Winkler said. "I think (the players') goal is to win a state championship, and I think we have an opportunity to do that, but you have to go on the field to do it."