As if District 7 of Class 2A wasn't difficult enough, the West Marshall football team played its two non-district games against perennial state powerhouses.
Eleven challenges. Eleven victories.
The next and stiffest task for the Trojans comes tonight in Monroe against PCM at 7 p.m. with a trip to the UNI-Dome and the semifinals of the Iowa High School State Football playoffs at stake.
The No. 2 Trojans (11-0) earned five victories this season against teams that were either rated or receiving votes in the final edition of The Associated Press' rankings.
They've dispatched each of those teams without much difficulty.
West Marshall sent setbacks to Class A No. 7 Madrid (58-0) and Class 1A No. 3 Aplington-Parkersburg (14-7) before district play began and later defeated then-unbeaten Fort Dodge St. Edmond (42-21). The Trojans put a pair of losses on North Polk (42-6; 63-35), which was receiving votes in the final poll.
West Marshall (11-0) at Prairie City-Monroe (11-0)
When: Tonight, 7 p.m.
Where: PCM High School, Monroe
The No. 5 Mustangs (11-0) earned just two of those type of victories, the latest coming in a 17-7 triumph over No. 8 Fort Dodge St. Edmond last week in the second round.
But now comes the toughest test in PCM, which West Marshall head coach Ken Winkler called the best team his squad has faced this season.
"I think we're prepared because of the demanding schedule we played all the way through," Winkler said in a phone conversation Sunday. "The schedule was good for us."
Having been a part of high-intensity games already this season should help the Trojans face another high-profile and undefeated foe this evening.
West Marshall, however, never has seemed to be swallowed by the moment.
"This is a low-key group. They're pretty even-keeled," said Winkler. "It's their personality. They've played a lot of football and a lot of them play more than one sport."
West Marshall may be keeping its cool, but the defensive coaches for PCM are sure to be worried about the Trojans' Dalton Ferch.
The senior has put together a pair of masterful performances thus far in the playoffs.
He ran for 443 yards and five touchdowns in the opening round against Bondurant-Farrar before scoring eight total touchdowns last week against North Polk.
"I'm sure they're going to be trying to take Ferch away, keying on him and trying to contain him," said Winkler. "We have some other weapons, though."
West Marshall quarterback Braydn Beals has thrown nine touchdowns against two interceptions and has over 1,000 yards passing on the season. Tysen Streeter has averaged 7.5 yards-per-carry this season and has rushed for six TDs, as has Beals.
PCM relies on its star running back, Hutch Burns, to do most of its damage.
Burns has 1,543 yards and 23 touchdowns on the season while sporting a 7.4 YPC.
Joel Wiggins and Nate VandeWall have been splitting time under center as of late with Wiggins throwing 12 touchdowns on the season and VandeWall 10.
"They do what they do on offense regardless of who's playing quarterback," Winkler said. "They have a lot of athletes and good speed on offense. To a certain extent, they have a similar makeup to us."
Whichever team emerges tonight won't find the path to a state title takes any breaks with Class 2A still sporting five undefeated teams.
Third-ranked Spirit Lake (11-0) faces No. 6 Carroll Kuemper Catholic (10-1) and is on the same side of the bracket as West Marshall and PCM. No. 1 Iowa City Regina (11-0) and No. 4 Mediapolis (11-0) meet in a quarterfinal tonight as well.