INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
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MARION — If you are a football player at Cedar Rapids Kennedy, and your position is listed as “RB,” there’s a real good chance you got to carry the football Friday night.
Even if your position isn’t listed as “RB,” you probably got a carry.
Let’s just say the Cougars spread the football around in a 31-14 win over Linn-Mar at Linn-Mar Statdium. A lot.
“We’ve got so many athletes, I’ve got to find a way,” Kennedy Coach Brian White said. “And they’re all kind of unique.”
Six different RBs (running backs) had rushes, three scored touchdowns. Add quarterbacks Nick Duehr and B.J. White to the mix, as well Zak Packingham, a wide receiver who had back-to-back carries out of a shotgun formation, and that’s nine different guys getting the football.
It actually was more than that, with four players having receptions. Rizaiha Maide and Payton McCarty had both rushes and receptions.
That is a whole lot of dudes getting touches, which ought to make a whole lot of dudes happy.
“You’ve got to figure out a way to get them all the ball,” Coach White said.
Kennedy (4-2, 2-0 in Class 4A District 8) has improved a ton since a pair of season-opening losses, especially on the offensive side. The Cougars have gained continuity on an inexperienced line and alternated QBs in an attempt to get the quick and athletic Duehr the ball in different ways.
Kennedy had 264 rushing yards here, with sophomore KeyShawn Allers, McCarty and Sam Pape scoring touchdowns. The diminutive Allers led the way with 89 yards on 16 carries.
“Spreading the ball around, that’s good,” Allers said. “I think it’s an advantage because then you can take breaks when you’re tired. You don’t run yourself dead.”
“We got off to a rough start to the season,” Kennedy center Austin Maus said. “But we’ve really gotten it together, and the chemistry is starting to connect. We focused on making sure we could run the ball this week, as well as passing well. Our chemistry is just there.”
Quarterback Reese Phillips threw for 239 yards for Linn-Mar (2-4, 1-1), which had to play catchup virtually the entire game. Wide receiver Kirby Kerr caught 10 of his passes for 144 yards.
Neme Siaway and Brennan McGaffe had the Lions’ touchdowns, on runs of 22 and 2 yards, respectively.
“They’ve got a good football team and proved it tonight,” Linn-Mar Coach Bob Forsyth said. “They were better tonight. We’ve just got to find a way to get going earlier. For the life of me, I don’t know what it is. But we’re going to try to figure it out.”
Kennedy was methodical in moving the football on the opening offensive series of the game. A 15-yard scramble by Duehr converted a 3rd-and-12, and Duehr eventually connected with Carter Krall on an 11-yard pass.
On 2nd-and-12 at the 26, White threw a screen pass to Ki Jenkins, who found little resistence on his way to the end zone. Alex Stone’s extra point capped the 11-play, 75-yard march, one that took 5:09 off the clock.
Linn-Mar went three-and-out on its first possession, with a short punt setting up Kennedy at the Lions 45. The screen play again worked, this time for 16 yards from Duehr to Maide to the 1.
Fullback Pape bulled over from there for the TD, with Stone’s extra point making it a 14-0 game with 4:13 left in the first quarter. Stone then made it 17-0 with a 37-yard field goal late in the second quarter.
He has turned into quite a weapon, with his kickoffs regularly going into the end zone (and beyond) for touchbacks.
Linn-Mar drove to the Kennedy 13 in the final minute of the half, but Phillips was sacked on third and fourth downs. Kennedy outgained the Lions by a 233-125 margin, including 175 yards on the ground.
The Cougars had seven different ballcarriers.
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