CEDAR RAPIDS — They’re celebrating homecoming, as well as the 50-year anniversary of Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School this weekend.
There’s a dance Friday and gala Saturday. Homecoming kings and queens of years past were honored Thursday night at Kingston Stadium.
A number of all-state football players also were recognized, as were three members of Kennedy’s very first football team back in 1967. It would have been downright rude for the 2017 Cougars to spoil this party by losing.
They didn’t, riding an overpowering offense to a 38-28 win over Linn-Mar.
“Coach was telling us all week the game was the most important thing,” said Kennedy running back Justin Johnson. “We practiced hard all week, tried not to let the other factors get to us. I think we did a good job of that.”
“All week, we simply talked to our kids that ‘Our job is just to win the football game,’” said Kennedy Coach Brian White. “That was our only focus. It wasn’t the anniversary, it wasn’t homecoming. Our job was this. Because if you don’t take care of this, it makes everything else a little sour.”
With super sophomore back Cairron Hendred out with an injury, Kennedy (5-1, 2-0 Class 4A, District 8) turned to a group approach running the football. Johnson had 128 yards and two touchdowns, Michael Watkins 84 yards and a TD and Cade Parker 72 yards.
Even quarterback B.J. White contributed 76 yards rushing, running for a touchdown and throwing for one. Kennedy finished with 358 yards on the ground and 502 yards overall.
“They were just beating us up front,” said Linn-Mar Coach Paul James.
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“We moved the ball up and down the field. That was exciting,” White said. “The offensive line, the running backs, we played great tonight offensively. And I thought we played pretty good defensively for three and a half quarters.”
Kennedy stormed to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and was up 38-14 midway through the fourth. Linn-Mar (1-5, 1-1) rallied for two last touchdowns (both passes from QB Trot Carey to Alex Hess) and had the ball deep in Kennedy territory with a couple of minutes to go, thanks to back-to-back successful onside kicks.
Carey completed 23 of 33 throws for 221 yards and added another 67 yards rushing. Josh Hilsenbeck caught nine balls for 108 yards and a TD.
“They could have folded their tents in a number of places,” said James, in his first season at Linn-Mar after a long and strong tenure at Cedar Rapids Washington. “To transform something doesn’t happen overnight. There are a bunch of factors that occur. This was just another step for us, that never-say-die attitude that really stuck out tonight.”
After stopping Linn-Mar on downs inside its 35 with a minute to go, Kennedy confused what was left of the crowd by passing the ball and calling timeouts in an effort to score another touchdown. White explained it was in an effort to get the maximum 17 points for the victory from a district standpoint.
The Cougars run the gaunlet the next two weeks with games against Iowa City West and Cedar Rapids Prairie. Kennedy got inside the Linn-Mar 35 but did not score and ended up punting on the final play of the game.
“I look like a (jerk), but what do I say? What do I do?” White said. “I’m going to say I’m not going to do the best that I can to get our team in the playoffs? It shouldn’t have come down to that point.”
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