CEDAR RAPIDS - After placing fourth at the state wrestling meet last season, Cedar Rapids Kennedy had a few holes to fill.
It appears the Cougars have armed themselves with a corps of promising freshmen.
Three of Kennedy's six pins we ... »
CEDAR RAPIDS — The stakes are high enough.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy is searching for its first victory.
Cedar Rapids Washington is attempting a 2-0 start. The Warriors aren’t consumed with a little revenge for their only two setbacks last season, ending the season short of a second straight trip to the UNI-Dome by the Cougars.
“They have a different team and we have a different team,” Washington Coach Paul James said. “You can’t say much about that. It’s just about trying to go out and get a second win.”
The Class 4A third-ranked Warriors still have the opportunity to avenge those losses from a year ago, facing No. 9 Cedar Rapids Kennedy Friday night at Kingston Stadium. The kickoff is scheduled for 7:15.
Washington has won 23 of its last 24 regular-season games. Kennedy snapped a string of 16 straight regular-season victories in the second game of 2015.
“The kids know,” James said. “We don’t have that many seniors, but they are well aware of what took place last year. I don’t have to say too much to motivate those kids.”
The Warriors don’t have payback on their minds in the non-district game. Winning and a high-quality opponent drives them.
“Pretty much it’s just another week and we’re trying to get our second win,” Warriors senior Drew Dostal said. “They are our rival anyway, so we should be able to get up easily for this game.”
The Warriors have an 8-4 advantage in the last 12 games of the series, outscoring Kennedy, 299-213, over that stretch. The last six games, however, have swayed the pendulum in the Cougars’ favor, going 4-2 including a 21-7 win in the state quarterfinals last year. The Cougars became more competitive thanks to self-confidence, believing they were at Washington’s level, according to Kennedy Coach Brian White.
“That’s what makes this week so fun,” White said. “You need that to have a rivalry. It’s about bragging rights for this year.
“It’s cyclical. It’s hard to explain how that works.”
A year ago, Kennedy stormed to an early lead, surrendering it in the second half but coming back with a score late in the fourth to win. Tight contests are indicative of the series and White expects more of the same.
“It’s normally a close game,” White said. “It comes down a lot to who has the ball last.”
Washington opened the season with a 27-14 triumph over Cedar Rapids Prairie. The Warriors had to replace most of their offensive production this season. The rushing game struggled at times, amassing 123 yards and getting 63 from Connor Malcolm and 36 from O’Rien Vance, who added 64 receiving yards.
The passing game was a bright spot with quarterback Bryan Kunde throwing for 193 yards, hitting Dostal six times for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’ve been working all summer for this,” Dostal said. “We’ve been working a lot and it showed. It paid off last week, so hopefully we can do it again.” The defense came through, limiting the Hawks offense after the opening touchdown and forcing four turnovers (two fumbles and two interceptions). James said the defense adjusted well as the game progressed and they have worked on identifying keys this week.
“We’ve got leaders there,” James said of Vance, Rane Wieland and Dostal. “Some of our younger kids will continue to improve. It was a good starting point.”
To better their odds for another win, the Warriors will need to control the line of scrimmage. The Cougars won that battle last year, but Washington opened the season strong up front.
“We played respectably on our offensive line,” James said. “I think we had pretty good effort there.”
The Cougars have already faced a highly-ranked foe, letting a 10-point lead slip away in the second half in a 29-25 loss to now fourth-ranked Muscatine.
“We have some things to clean up,” White said. “Everything is fixable.”
A win over Kennedy could be a springboard the Warriors need to replicate their 2014 start that included 14 straight victories and a trip to the state title game.
“We’re just trying to go in and get another win,” Dostal said. “Hopefully, pile them up, make it to the playoffs and then make it to the Dome.”
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