Linn-Mar, C.R. Washington seek to rebound Thursday in football game with interesting subplot

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Paul James and Maurice Blue randomly bumped into each other at a convenience store Sunday.

James, who lives on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids, was on his way over to Linn-Mar High School to do some football business. Blue, who lives in Marion, was on his way to Cedar Rapids Washington High School for the same reason.

“We were both on our way to staff meetings,” James said. “So we ended up kind of having our own little staff meeting there.”

“It’s like him and I should just trade houses,” Blue said, with a laugh. “During the football season, he’ll live in my house, and I’ll live in his house. That would make it easier for both of us.”

It’s probably not going to be easy for either of them Thursday night. That’s when Washington and Linn-Mar play at Kingston Stadium.

Opening kickoff will be about 7:30.

Blue was an assistant coach for James for 15 years at Washington before taking over for him this season. James was an assistant coach at Wash when Blue played there in the 1990s.

After spending parts of four decades as a teacher, coach and activities director at the school, James unexpectedly left to take the Linn-Mar football job this season. He’ll be coaching against a bunch of kids he coached a year ago.

“I think the kids are pretty excited and want to get after it because we’re playing a team that has our old head coach,” Blue said. “And I know they are going to want to get after us because this is their head coach’s old school. There will be a lot of that going on. It’ll be interesting. It’ll be weird.”

No doubt about those last two things.

“When I first started out as an assistant coach, within the first couple of years, we played Cedar Falls,” said James, seemingly trying to downplay things a bit. “I’m going against my former head coach in Pat Mitchell. With that, you are trying to show you belong and whatever. This is totally different.

"We’re trying to build things up, we’ve got some injuries and things. We’re just trying to get better week by week, so when district comes around, we’re ready to go. The fact that it’s Wash, honestly, a lot of other people make more out of it than I do.”

These teams run pretty much the same offense and defense, so there shouldn’t be a ton of surprises that way. Washington is 1-2 and coming off a 56-0 home loss to Bettendorf, Linn-Mar 0-3 and coming off a 27-20 home to Cedar Rapids Jefferson.

“I think we’re going to be running into a team that’s angry,” James said. “(But) honestly, it’s just another team, and we’re looking to get our first win. Yeah, I know a lot of the players and a lot of the coaches. In that respect, I’ll obviously be very familiar with personnel and that kind of stuff.”

“Offensively, it’s funny,” Blue said. “You are watching the tape, and it’s like, ‘Huh. OK.’ Some of the stuff they are doing, I helped him install (at Washington). Now all of a sudden, I’m watching it and getting ready to compete against it. Then you start thinking ‘OK, what’s he going to do? What’s he going to do to be tricky?’ You are almost over-analyzing it. But I know he’s going to have a few wrinkles. I think we’ve done a pretty decent job of talking about the possibilities of this, that or the other thing happening.”

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

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