Cedar Rapids Kennedy seeks improvement in Thursday night matchup with Hempstead

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The schedule says this is the third game of the season for the Cedar Rapids Kennedy football team, but head coach Brian White doesn’t see it that way.

Thursday night’s encounter with Dubuque Hempstead at Kingston Stadium is really the Cougars’ second game. Let him try and explain.

“Last week was like a Week 1 for us,” White said. “They say you’ve got to make the most improvement between Week 1 and Week 2, so what we’re looking at is this is our Week 2. We’ve got to make our big improvement. We got exposed to what we need to improve upon, and now we’ve got to improve in those areas.”

Kennedy was outplayed in the second half and lost a week ago to Cedar Rapids Washington, 24-14. The Cougars smashed Muscatine two weeks ago, 50-6.

That’s what White means. He and his guys didn’t really learn much about themselves in the lopsided opener, but sure did last week.

The coach lamented first-half miscues against Washington that cost it potentially two touchdowns.

“We’ve had a really good week of practice,” White said. “Right after we watched the film, we realized we had a chance to be up, 21-3, at the half. We had a touchdown called back, threw a pick inside the 5-yard line, and those are the mistakes you can’t make against a quality football team. Then the second half, they got a quick one on us, and you would have thought someone had shot somebody’s mom on the sideline. It was just like the air was taken out of our team.”

Washington scored the go-ahead touchdown on a halfback pass, then scored on a long TD pass on the final play of the third quarter. White said he didn’t like how his team got punched in the mouth by the Warriors and didn’t punch back.

“There are adverse moments in a game, and you’ve got to figure out how to fight through that adversity,” he said. “We let the moment get to us and kind of lost focus a little bit. Got a couple of kids dinged up, and the next thing you know, they pull away.”

Hempstead also is 1-1, beating Davenport North in its opener, 30-26, and losing last week to Waterloo West, 33-7. Head coach Mike Hoskins was sophomore coach at Linn-Mar when White played there in the late 1980s and early 90s.

The Mustangs run the option offensively, so Kennedy’s defense must be tough against the run. Sophomore running back Cairron Hendred had two touchdowns last week for the Cougars and appears on his way to a special prep career.

Kennedy has playmakers all over the field and tons of speed.

This is likely the fastest overall football team the school ever has fielded.

“I would definitely agree with that,” White said. “We’ve got kids that can run. Defensively, we’ve got kids that can run, too. We’ve got kids who can boogie, there is no question about that.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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