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Steven Allspach, Journal sports writer Sep 3, 2004

It’s the dawn, no, dusk, of a new era of Sioux City metro high school football.

Emotions will certainly be running high tonight when East High, under the direction of new coach Steve Zediker, opens the 2004 season at Des Moines Hoover.

Zediker is replacing longtime East Coach Walt Fiegel, who passed away last Nov. 12.

Black Raider players will be wearing “WF” decals on their helmets this season in memory of Fiegel.

East, 3-6 last season, will take its lead from running back Kirk Jaminet, who rushed for 955 yards last season.

However, the Raiders go into the game without starting defensive tackle Ben Collins and starting offensive tackle Mike Weltz. Collins is out with a broken leg and Weltz a broken hand.

Consequently, junior Ryan Lessman (6-2, 260) and sophomore John Kirwan (6-1, 225) will start at tackle on both sides of the football.

“We’re all excited about finally playing a game,” said Zediker, an East graduate who has also served in the past as head baseball and head track coach his prep alma mater.

“We don’t know much about Hoover, but we’re eager to get going.”

Hoover was 1-8 last season.

Since the Sioux City schools began playing Central Iowa Metropolitan League schools in 1998, Hoover has lost all eight confrontations, but they were to either Heelan or North.

In the other Sioux City openers, Bishop Heelan hosts Johnston at Memorial Field, North entertains Ottumwa at Roberts Stadium and West meets West Des Moines Dowling at West Des Moines Valley’s multi-million dollar complex that features FieldTurf.

South Sioux City, meanwhile, gets to go indoors for its opener with Vermillion, S.D., in the DakotaDome.

All the kickoffs are at 7:30.

Coach Al Carothers’ South Sioux team will be seeking to snap a 19-game losing streak dating back to a playoff loss in 2001 that ended a 10-1 season, the best in school history.

Quarterback Brett Gotch and junior Joe Rodriguez, who will do double duty at running back and linebacker, will play key roles for the Redbirds, 0-9 in each of the past two autumns.

In Vermillion, SSC will face a perennial South Dakota Class 11A powerhouse. Gary Culver, entering his 28th season as the coach, is 173-100 and the school, as always, has an eye toward the playoffs.

Defense will be a Vermillion virtue with veteran defensive end Sean Pederson starting for the third straight season.

Johnston, the Heelan foe, was 5-5 last season under the guidance of Coach Brian Woodley. It was the first time the Dragons qualified for the post-season since moving up from 3A to 4A in 1998.

“Johnston is very big up front and they’ve got four returning defensive starters,” said Heelan Coach Roger Jansen. “Our concern is how the five new guys on our offensive line develop.

“We’re tyring to be patient with the kids and keep them positive.”

After winning back-to-back state titles in 2000 and 2001, Dowling has been relatively quiet the past two seasons, although going 5-4 last season.

The Maroons will be without the services of senior tight end Trent Flander, an Iowa State recruit who will sit out the first 2 1/2 games due to an alcohol possession violation in July.

West Coach Tim Schmitt will rely heavily on the work of linebacker and running back B.J. Steed, a 6-2, 212-pound senior who is receiving substantial recruiting attention from several Division I schools.

The Wolverines were winless last season, but the school’s last encounter with Dowling resulted in a stunning upset of the Maroons in the 1997 playoff quarterfinals.

North and new coach Keith Hanks Jr. face perhaps the most difficult opening-night assignment.

Ottumwa, under the direction of veteran coach Tom Kopatich, is coming off an 8-3 season.

Quarterback/defensive back Alex Crosser and offensive lineman Troy Downing are all-state candidates among 13 returning starters from a team that lost in the 4A playoff quarterfinals.

Ottumwa has won four straight CIML Metro Conference titles and hasn’t lost to a Des Moines school during that run of success.

Ottumwa’s last visit to Sioux City was in 2002 when the Bulldogs topped East, 24-14. Ottumwa also belted East in Ottumwa in an opener last year, 49-0.

Ottumwa visited South Sioux City in 1991, rolling to a 54-0 triumph, but North handed the Wapello County school a 29-22 setback in a 1979 opener, the Stars’ lone victory that season. Kopatich coached old Cedar Rapids LaSalle to consecutive 2A state titles in 1982-83.

North, 5-4 in 2003, lost several standouts to graduation, including speedy receiver-returner Deric Manrique, The Journal’s 2004 Sioux City Metro Male Athlete of the Year, and linebacker Zac Brouillette, now a football walk-on at Iowa State. Manrique is a scholarship baseball player at Nebraska.

Anchors for the Stars will be be offensive lineman Adam Barcus and linebackers Jesse Greer and Anthony Ellis. All three were accorded pre-season all-state recognition by the Iowa Football Coaches Association.

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