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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Washington football program has developed a lot of NCAA Division I players over the years.
But this season could produce a first. This is the first time the Warriors have had two D-I senior offensive linemen on the same team.
They are bookend senior tackles Andrew Todd and Nolan Potter. Todd has committed to Miami of Ohio, while Potter is being recruited heavily by Northern Illinois, among others.
“It’s been rumored I have been notoriously hard on offensive linemen, but now I’ve got to be nice to them,” first-year Washington head coach Maurice Blue, a longtime defensive coordinator, said with a laugh. “We’ve got a good group to be nice to. Two Division I offensive tackles, are you kidding me? Who gets that? We’ve had our fair share of Division I linemen over the years, but I don’t think we’ve ever had two on the same team, playing at the same time, from the same grade.”
Todd had a plethora of offers, a three-star recruit by Rivals who went to several offseason showcases to show off his wares. The 6-foot-4, 260-pounder is in his third season as a Wash starter.
His brother, McCauley, just finished his career at the University of Montana and is helping coach the Warriors sophomore team.
“It’s just nice to come out here and know that I’m focused on this team and doing what I need to do for these guys instead of myself,” he said. “To have (college) out of the way is a big weight off my shoulders. I’m ready to go play.”
Potter is 6-6 and 250 pounds, a guy who has played his full share of basketball as well. His size and potential to add muscle and pounds is very intriguing.
Illinois State and South Dakota are other schools with serious interest in him.
“I really don’t think about (college) when I practice or play games,” Potter said. “I think about it more when I’m not on the field. It would be nice to get committed and get it off my chest.”
Needless to say, Washington will lean on its tackles and offensive line in an attempt to get back to the Class 4A state playoffs. The Warriors advanced to the semifinals in 2016, finishing 10-2.
Center Jared Scherrman also is back, giving Wash three returning starters up front. Quarterback Bryan Kunde will start for a second straight year, and senior Haven Henningsen is poised to have a big season at running back after missing most of last season with an injury.
“We’re going to have a dominant offensive line,” Potter said. “We’ve got a good running back in Haven, who was injured last year but who is coming back. We should be pretty stacked on the offensive line.”
“Skill wise is important, but the type of people we are is more important,” Todd said. “We are guys that work our asses off, that’s how it goes. To know that you have accountability amongst the entire group of guys, that’s something you need. That’s something special, when you know you’ve got dudes on both sides of the line taking care of business.”
Blue was asked how much his team will rely on its offensive line, specifically its talented tackles.
“They’ve got to set the tempo,” he said. “Coach (Jason) Wood is doing a good job of getting them going. He’s on them, he’s demanding of them, and that’s good. With those guys, you’ve got to be. Linemen get no credit, get no glory, but when stuff goes wrong, it’s usually on them. If we can’t get stuff blocked, they’re the first (blame). Sometimes you’ve got to be harder on offensive linemen. But you’ve also got to remember that you’ve got to love them up, too.”
“There are expectations, but expectations, you’ve got to work through reaching your goals,” Todd said. “Nothing is in stone, yet, nothing is given. But we definitely have the right guys to be something special.”
He meant overall as a team, too.
“I don’t think we expect anything but greatness,” Todd said. “You could ask any one of my teammates, and that’s what they’d say to you. We expect to win a state championship, expect to go undefeated. We expect to beat people. That’s just how it goes around here. The expectations haven’t changed in a long time here.”
“We don’t have the numbers, but it’s the same as last year,” Potter said. “(It’s) getting to the Dome and going undefeated.”
Coach: Maurice Blue (1st season, 1-0 career record)
Last year: 9-2 (won district, lost in Class 4A playoff semifinals to Iowa City West)
Top returning letterwinners: OL Andrew Todd, OL Jared Scherrman, QB Bryan Kunde, DB Ty Johnson, WR-DB Brayden Wright, LB Seth Semrau, FB Jojo Braggs, OL Nolan Potter, TE-DE Parks McBride, K Andrew Hammer, WR-DB Cade Saylor, DB Blake Martin, WR-DB Keiyon Smith-Allen, RB Haven Henningsen, LB Josh Tompkins.
Key losses: RB-LB Ian Thomas, LB Travis Metzger, DL O’Rien Vance, TE-DE Rane Weiland, WR-DB Drew Dostal, RB-DB Connor Malcolm, FB-LB Ben Nassif, L Billy Faulkner, L Peter Gruebel.
Key to making the playoffs: Staying healthy because this is not a deep team. Being competitive on defense, because a lot of key players on that side of the football graduated (Iowa State freshman Vance, for instance) or moved out of the district (Metzger).
Games to watch: The Washington-Kennedy game always is a lot of fun, so mark Sept. 1 on your calendar. Traditional power Bettendorf comes to Kingston Stadium the following week, then it’s a very interesting matchup against Linn-Mar. Paul James is in his first year as Lions head coach after spending four decades at Washington as a teacher, coach and administrator.
Aug. 25 — Cedar Rapids Prairie
Sept. 1 — at Cedar Rapids Kennedy
Sept. 8 — Bettendorf
Sept. 14 — Linn-Mar
Sept. 22 — at Cedar Rapids Jefferson
Sept. 29 — at Cedar Falls
Oct. 6 — Mason City
Oct. 13 — at Waterloo East
Oct. 19 — Waterloo West
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