CLINTON — Bellevue has lit up the scoreboard all season, and it might be another one of those nights tonight when the Class 1A football playoffs begin in Iowa.
The Comets entertain Wilton in a 7 p.m. matchup of two of the highest-scoring teams in the state.
Only three teams in Class 1A have scored more than Bellevue’s 371 points, and the Comets have scored at least 33 points in each of their nine games. Wilton ranks ninth in scoring with 329 points.
“If I were a betting man, I’d bet on a shootout more than a defensive struggle,” Bellevue Coach Chet Knake said.
There are more similarities between the teams than the point totals they put on the scoreboard.
Both carry 8-1 records into the postseason. Wilton’s lone loss was against perennial Class 1A state power Iowa City Regina, 49-7 on Sept. 29. Bellevue’s only loss was a 45-41 loss to unbeaten West Branch on Sept. 22 in West Branch.
The teams also have two common opponents: Tipton and Durant, both from Bellevue’s district. The Beavers opened the season with a 24-14 win against the Tigers in Wilton and won the following week at Durant 20-7. The Comets, meanwhile, won 42-12 at Durant on Sept. 15 and recorded a 42-0 win against Tipton a month ago at home.
Each team features a dynamic quarterback who leads the offense.
For Wilton, it’s 5-foot-9, 150-pound junior Jerome Mays.
Mays is a dual threat, leading the Beavers with 142 rushes for 962 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground while completing 108 and 157 passes (57.8 percent) for 1,285 yards. He has thrown 13 touchdown passes but also 12 interceptions.
“The Mays kid is unbelievable,” Knake said. “He’s the quickest, most elusive kid we will face. Their best plays have come from breakdown plays, and that’s tough to game-plan for.”
Third-year starter Cade Daugherty, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior, leads Bellevue’s offense. He has completed 117 of 182 passes (64.3 percent) this season for 2,038 yards. He has thrown 24 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. He also can run the ball when needed, gaining 238 yards on 43 carries.
Bellevue’s offense has remained strong despite the graduation losses of Peter Kilburg, the second-leading rusher in the state a year ago, and all-state linemen Mason Lyons and Ty Oster.
“Our linemen really up and came together,” Knake said. “We had three offensive linemen back, but I didn’t think our offense would be as good to the extent it has been. That’s a credit to the kids.”
The Comets rank third in 1A with 3,887 total yards.
Daugherty’s favorite target is his brother, junior Trey Daugherty (44 catches for 812 yards), but four other receivers have caught 10 or more passes each, including 16 catches for 394 yards by Trevor Hager.
Hunter Clasen, a 5-8 junior, has barely missed a beat as Kilburg’s replacement at running back. Clasen has 1,354 yards rushing on 188 carries, 23 of them going for touchdowns. He also is a threat coming out of the backfield with 18 receptions for 334 yards.
Riley Konrardy, who earned Herald All-Area honors last year as a sophomore, leads the defense with 64 solo tackles and 28 assists, but Clasen (66.5 tackles) and Junior Tennant (30.0) have been big-play-makers on defense. Clasen has 10 solo sacks and 18 solo tackles for lost yardage, while Tennant has five sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
“Riley Konrardy has been unbelievable,” Knake said. “He’s got a block or two on him on every play but still leads us in tackles. And Clasen is a game-wrecker on defense.”
Besides Mays, the Comets defense must be concerned with Cory Anderson, who leads Wilton’s receivers with 50 catches for 597 yards, while Brock Hartley has 25 for 369. They also have caught several passes from opposing quarterbacks. Anderson has seven of Wilton’s 15 interceptions, and Stevens has three.