The sweet taste of homecoming victory. A 4-0 start in district play.
Storm Lake and Schaller-Crestland want the former tomorrow. Aurelia and Newell-Fonda want the latter.
And Alta wants both.
A look at some of Week 6's area prep football matchups:
* Storm Lake (1-4, 1-2 district) vs. Spencer (3-2, 1-2 district)
Can Storm Lake make it two in a row - and on homecoming week nonetheless?
That won't be easy. The Tigers have fallen since being ranked third in 3A at one point this season, but they're full of speed, power, athleticism and size, said Storm Lake coach Bill McCabe.
"They have two kids that play both ways, so they have lots of depth," he added.
McCabe looks for Spencer to try to wear the Tornadoes down with their wishbone attack. Workhorse fullback Eric Norgaard will try to run people over out of the option in Spencer's double wing set.
"They haven't shown a lot of pass, but (Tigers 6-foot-1,180-pound quarterback Chris Lensing, a former all-district wideout) is a very fast, athletic kid," he said. "They try to stretch you and make you defend the whole field, with the fullback and their quarterback running."
Defensively they struggled against Bishop Heelan, but who hasn't? McCabe said.
"They have a good middle linebacker in J.J. Nair. They'll stay back and try to keep everything in front, come up and tackle us hard. They'll play a 3-1 or 3-2, put Nair in the middle and try to be physical with our receivers."
Storm Lake's keys: Not forcing things. Playing mistake-free football. No penalties.
"We have to be consistent on offense," McCabe said. "Our spirits are good. They got a new energy, they're listening now that we've won a game. They're more receptive to things, too. If you're pounding your head on a brick wall and never seeing results, it's hard to keep pounding."
Scott Glover, Mitch Creswell, Skylaar Konrady and Kyle Fitch all rotate in at running back for the Tigers.
Tyler Kacmarynski and Mike Crew are tough on the D-line for Spencer, and Joey Toale is a glue defender at corner.
Spencer's rushing total has decreased with every game this season. Their offense is predicated on long, time-consuming drives, and if they fall behind a team that excels at run defense, they often run into trouble.
Defensively, the Tigers have trouble stopping the pass at times, and don't have a lot of speed in their secondary except for Toale, a ball hawk. At the same time, Spencer has the ability to force turnovers.
The Tornadoes are more or less at full strength, with the exception of receiver/cornerback Courtney Goodchild, who was knocked out for the year with a knee injury he sustained in Week 1.
* Alta (3-2, 3-0 district) vs. Laurens-Marathon (3-2, 2-1 district)
Travis Leuer. Keton Joynt. Ryan Sernett. Zach Lovin.
Cyclones coach Kevin Hammer rattles off Laurens-Marathon's playmakers and shakes his head.
At least the Cyclones know whom they need to stop.
"We've been working on those guys," Hammer said. "We'll try to slow them down. It's a high potent offense. It's the most athletic team we face in our district.
"It will be a good test to see how we match up with their speed."
No different than any other game, Alta will try to stop the run first and get the Chargers in situations where they're predictable about throwing.
Despite beating Schaller-Crestland 50-0 last Friday, Alta probably won't suffer from overconfidence tomorrow in its homecoming game, Hammer said.
"Some games just turn out that way," he said. "Everything we did was right, and they just couldn't get things rolling. We're not looking past anybody.
"We'll be focused and ready to play."
L-M will run a 3-5 and at times a 4-4 defense, bringing different linebackers, blitzing, trying to confuse Alta's offensive line.
"What they're doing defensively is working," Hammer said.
The Cyclones will likely pass more than two times, which is all Aaron Hansen had to throw last week. But they'll be without a key contributor in Cameron Manteufel, who could miss 3-4 weeks with an ACL injury.
"A big play or turnover or special teams is going to have an effect (on the outcome)," Hammer said. "Our turnover ratio has been good. Whatever team puts themselves on the positive side of the turnover ratio is going to put themselves in position to win."
* Newell-Fonda (4-1, 3-0 district) at Clay Central-Everly (2-3, 2-1 district)
The Mustangs haven't lost a district game since a 9-7 setback to West Bend-Mallard Oct. 21, 2005. They've won 13 district bouts in a row.
Will they make it 14 Friday?
They'd better bring their hard hats if they have any plans of doing so, said Newell-Fonda coach Brian Wilken.
"Clay Central-Everly is gonna hit you in the mouth and not stop until the game's over," he said. "We have to find a way to match their toughness. When you go, you better bring a lot of physicality."
Not much has changed with the Mavericks. They have a first-year head coach, but he's been in the program many years as an assistant, and they're still going to line up and run the football.
They can pass as well.
"They get their quick huddle single-wing offense rolling, and they become pretty effective passing the football because you've got to commit so many people to the run," said Wilken.
The Mavericks haven't blitzed much this year, and that scares Wilken.
"When you're able to win with base defense, that means you're pretty good defensively," he said, "because they haven't had to do other things to stop people."
CC-E is happy to run the clock, making execution a key for N-F, which will have limited offensive opportunities Friday.
The Mavericks are also a senior-dominated team.
Wilken said his team still has a long ways to go despite a key one-point win over L-M last week, but admitted they're improving with tackling and defensive discipline.
"We had a big win last week," he said, "but the bottom line in district play is, you've got about six hours to enjoy it from the time the game's over until you're watching film the next morning. You better bring your best, because you can't afford to take a step backwards."
* Schaller-Crestland (1-4, 0-3 district) vs. Rockwell City-Lytton (1-4, 1-2 district)
Following a 50-0 loss to Alta, Schaller-Crestland coach Mike Tiedeman said there's one thing he isn't planning on worrying about this week.
"I don't think I have any superb dancers, so we shouldn't have to worry about our guys looking forward to the dance," Tiedeman cracked.
All jokes aside, the Wildcats are getting back to business this week, and they'll have a healthy Justin Ronk with which to do so.
Ronk, the team's top running back, missed last week due to injuries he sustained against Laurens-Marathon a week prior.
"We're as full strength as we've been all year. We have no excuses anymore, and I think they all see that," Tiedeman said. "Practices this week have been very intense."
Rockwell City-Lytton's offensive formations are a lot like everyone else's in the district: line up and try to overpower the opponent, "which teams have done to us lately," Tiedeman said. The Wildcats have a talented quarterback who's dangerous when he gets out of the pocket.
"It's a young team, but they're well coached. They're out to prove something. It's going to pose a threat," he said. "If we get too run happy, they'll open it up and throw it downfield."
In losing three straight games to arguably the best three teams in Class A District 3, S-C has hurt itself with an overall lack of execution, said Tiedeman.
"We've broken down on assignments. If one guy breaks down - Alta showed that we're very vulnerable. But if we stick to our assignments, take on blockers, wrap up, and make sure tackles, we can be a good team. Execution and effort are the theme. Confidence is going to be a big thing Friday," he said. "Plus, Rockwell is coming off a big win. But I like our kids' desire. They're not hanging their heads."
* Aurelia (4-1, 3-0 district) at Whiting (1-5, 0-2 district)
The bad news is Alec Ohlson isn't expected to play the rest of the year.
The Bulldogs' fullback and linebacker broke his ankle last week, and Jason Glienke (another two-way starter) injured his knee and isn't likely to play tomorrow.
Kody Pinkerton will replace Ohlson at both positions.
The good news is Aurelia has more momentum than a speeding 18-wheeler after winning their last four football games.
And a win tomorrow over 8-man District 3 foe Whiting could solidify a playoff berth.
"It has huge implications for our playoffs," said Bulldogs assistant coach Mike Fry.
Fry said Whiting runs a solid power game.
"They'll overload one side and come right at you. Our defense needs to stop that and we should be OK; and then just let our offense take care of the ball on the other side," he said. "They're a young team, too, so it's going to be a battle, but we'll show up anyway."
Whiting struggled defensively against district heavyweight Harris-Lake Park, but that doesn't mean a whole lot, Fry said.
The impact of Aurelia's win streak is contagious, Fry said.
"It's been that way since the first week, which we probably should have won," he said. "They've improved every week. You got a bad attitude, it spreads. You got a good attitude, it spreads. Right now we're on the good side of that."
To add to that, the Sioux City Journal has selected Aurelia-Whiting as its game of the week.
"That kind of upped the intensity level in practice," he said.
* Sioux Central (0-5, 0-3 district) at West Sioux (2-3, 2-1 district)
Rebels coach Jeff Tiefenthaler says his team has a stiff challenge tomorrow, even though West Sioux's top running back is injured and isn't expected to play.
"They run the double wing and run it well," he said. "They return some big offensive linemen. Their offense and defensive line are their strengths and they will be a difficult challenge for us."
At the same time, Sioux Central has a couple starters that are questionable for tomorrow.
"On the positive side, it has been a long season so far for us but the kids are still playing hard," said Tiefenthaler. "For us to be successful, we will try to force them to pass the football and establish a running game of our own to keep it away from their offense.
"It will be a stiff challenge."