When Marshalltown football coach Aaron Shipley said he planned on transforming the Bobcat defense into a 3-4, junior Blair Van Staalduine was mentioned as someone who would play a key role in the transition.
Turns out, Van Staalduine ended up being pretty good.
So good that the Iowa Newspaper Association tabbed him as a third-team defensive lineman after Van Staalduine finished the nine-game season with 16 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
Before the postseason began, the seven sacks ranked third in the state behind only Dowling Catholic's John Swisher (16) and Des Moines East's Arturo Marquez (9).
"Blair had a really good year," Shipley said. "On top of being a good player, he also is a hard worker and has high character. If he puts in the work this offseason, he has the chance to be a special player."
Other area first-teamers included the West Marshall duo of Duncan Ferch and Devin Chesler, Gladbrook-Reinbeck teammates Chase Clark and Zach Pierce, AGWSR offensive lineman Derek Schipper and BCLUW wide receiver Taylor Sams.
Van Staalduine was voted in as a defensive lineman but played primarily as the outside linebacker in the 3-4 system. That position though is responsible for making impact plays behind the line of scrimmage and is the primary pass rusher.
The good news for Shipley is that he gets one more year with Van Staalduine on his defense. There were seven non-seniors on the three 4A INA defensive squads.
"We are going to rely on him to make our defense better next year," Shipley said. "It is important that players who have good years get recognized so I am glad that he was able to get some recognition on the team."
Swisher, captain of the 4A team, ended up with 29 tackles for loss and 17 sacks - both 4A highs - to help lead the Maroons to an undefeated season and another state title. He also finished with 66 tackles and 51 solo tackles for a Dowling defense that only allowed more than 14 points in a game twice. The Maroons' defense gave up 49 points in five playoff games.
"He was an outstanding player on the state's best defense," Shipley said. "He made that defense go. It is pretty big when you have a three-technique player that is that disruptive."
Ferch completed his final season on the gridiron with another first-team all-state honor.
The third and final Ferch tallied 2,010 rushing yards and a Class 2A-best 25 touchdowns this season and was named to the INA's first team for the second straight year.
Ferch joined his two older brothers - Drake and Dalton Ferch - as multiple INA first-team all-state members. The youngest Ferch rushed for 2,264 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2012 as he helped lead West Marshall to the quarterfinals where it lost to Carroll Kuemper Catholic.
This season, Ferch and the Trojans were knocked out by the Knights, the eventual 2A champions, in round two.
Joining Duncan Ferch as an INA all-state first-teamer was Chesler and Elijah Streeter also was named to the second-team defense.
Chesler made the team as a linebacker after recording 102 tackles this season. He had 12 tackles for loss and three sacks but also rushed for 874 yards and 15 touchdowns as Duncan Ferch's fullback.
Streeter was a second-team defensive back after finishing with 63 tackles and three interceptions. He also rushed for 226 yards and three scores on the offensive end of the ball.
Ferch's banner year did not stop at rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. The future collegiate football player also had 54 tackles, a team-high five interceptions, two interception returns for scores and a kickoff return for a touchdown. He also recovered three fumbles and returned one of those for a score.
Clark led all of Class A in rushing with 2,122 yards and added 25 touchdowns as the Rebels advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Wapsie Valley. Clark averaged 7.7 yards per carry and had a long of 67.
Clark's primary blocker on the offensive line was Pierce, but the 6-foot-4, 240-pound junior was named to the first team as a defensive tackle after collecting 65 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and five sacks.
AGWSR won its first nine games of the season before injuries contributed to an early-round playoff exit.
A big part of the Cougar offense was the running game and Schipper helped pave the way for five different running backs to gain more than 242 yards, led by Clay Meinder's 814.
Sams' production helped the Comets get back to the postseason. The BCLUW senior wideout led the team in receptions (33), receiving yards (662) and touchdowns (7) this season.
The 662 yards led Class A, while he also was in the top 10 in both touchdowns and and receptions.
Other area gridders voted to one of the INA's three teams were second-team members Austin Heitland (tight end/wide receiver), Nathan Karsjens (punter), Trevor Bakker (offensive line) and Meinders (linebacker) of AGWSR and Grundy Center's Brady Hook (offensive line), while third-team selections included GMG's Bryce Newcomb (tight end/wide receiver) and Austin Vaughn (punter), BCLUW's Nolan Emley (offensive line) and Gladbrook-Reinbeck teammates Wyatt Swanson (kicker) and Pete Meyers (offensive line).