WEST DES MOINES, IA – After both came so close to a state title last season, the Dowling Maroons and the Valley Tigers will meet on Friday at 8:30 p.m. (EST) Over 12,000 fans are expected at Drake Stadium, which will play host to the 2013 Great American Rivalry Series presented by the U.S. Marine Corps and Hibbett Sports.
The rivalry, which is considered one of the best in the nation by USA Today, pits two of the best teams in the state against one another. Dowling has won three of the last four matchups, including 27-17 last season.
The Maroons, coached by Tom Wilson, return 11 starters from last season’s 9-3 team, which reached the Class 4A state quarterfinals despite losing two of its top players to season-ending knee injuries early on. One of those players, junior Ryan Boyle, will return under center and be accompanied by leading rushers Nate Christian, a senior, and Chase Dowell, a junior. Also in the fold is senior transfer Rico Gafford, who led East with 717 receiving yards and seven interceptions last season.
Dowling will have to replace a couple of big-time players in Arizona State-commit Matthew Haack, who was the 4-A leader in catches, receiving yards and TD grabs last season and tight end Jon Wisnieski, who’s now at Iowa.
The Tigers also went 9-3 last season, losing in the Class 4A state quarterfinals under coach Gary Swenson. And they also return 11 starters, led by senior back Tyus Mason, who has rushed for 2,171 yards and 31 TDs the last two seasons.
Valley has reached the postseason 21 straight years, which is the second-longest streak in state history.
Dowling opened the season last Friday night with a 37-7 win at Southeast Polk. Boyle accounted for four of the five scores, running for 194 yards and throwing for 99 more. Gafford caught two TD passes.
Valley opened the season last Friday night with a 23-17 win over Waukee thanks in large part to Mason’s 61-yard TD run on third down late in the game. He finished with 202 yards.