The opening week of district play in Iowa high school football features some marquee match-ups involving teams from the Cedar Valley and northeast Iowa tonight (Friday, Sept. 9, 2016).

In Class-2A District 4, five of the group's eight teams are ranked among the top-10 in this week's Associated Press poll. The strength of the district will be on display this week as four of the rated squads square-off in a pair of games that will go a long way in determining the playoff qualifiers.

"Having a strong district should benefit all of us," said La Porte City Union Coach Joe Hadachek. "Why would you not want to play the best in pursuit of becoming the best? It's a long season and still too early to say one district is the best. It's going to be a big challenge to finish top two."

Hadachek's team is involved in one of the key district match-ups this evening. The fifth-ranked Knights (2-0) play at No. 10 Monticello (2-0).

"We're not concerned with rankings or who we are playing at this point, honestly," Hadachek said. "We just need to keep progressing and getting better in all three phases: offense, defense and specialty teams. We know this is our first road test so that is going to be a challenge. Our kids are excited to play game number three and we look forward to getting the show on the road."

One of the keys to beating Monticello is containing junior quarterback Jacob Maternach, who has already thrown for 404 yards and five touchdowns this season in wins over Anamosa and Camanche. Hadachek referred to Maternach as the "backbone" of the Panthers' offense.

"As he goes, the offense goes," Hadachek said. "(Maternach's) long balls are a concern and some things they do formation-wise are different than we have seen so far. Special teams have to be in our favor to get good field position. Offensively we will face a defense that likes to play man and we have not seen that yet.

"We have to be the aggressor. We have to play physical and do a better job of tackling and blocking than last week. Defense has been our strength, as our offense tries to identify what we do best."

The game against Monticello will be a good measuring stick for the Knights as they work to improve.

Said Hadachek: "This is a fun team to coach and go to practice with. THEY get it. It takes unity to become a champion, and it takes hard work. We are not even close yet to being the team we can be. Only time will tell."

The other marquee match-up in Class-2A District 4 is top-ranked North Fayette Valley (2-0) playing at No. 3 Cascade (2-0). The other top-10 team in the group is No. 7 Waukon (1-1), which plays Beckman Catholic (1-1) at Dyersville.

At the other end of the spectrum in District 4 are a pair of teams that have struggled to record victories in recent years. Oelwein (0-2) and Waterloo Columbus Catholic (0-2) are each 2-36 since the start of the 2012 season. The Huskies host the Sailors for Homecoming in Oelwein.