CEDAR RAPIDS — If someone plays football for their high school, most likely they have played the game from a very young age.
They often begin with flag football during early elementary years and then, during fourth or fifth grade, move to tackle. They often go to games and summer camps run by members of their high school coaching staff.
All the while, they are looking up to the varsity team.
All of this is true for Cedar Rapids senior Jax Junge. A running back for the Saints in the fall, Junge played tackle football for the last eight years, as well as flag football before that. During his time in the feeder teams for Xavier, he dreamed of playing in, and winning, a state championship, like many of his fellow teammates.
So when he was standing on the sidelines during the 2017 Class 3A state championship game, a game his teammates went on to win, he had mixed emotions.
“It was really hard at first; all I wanted to do was play Xavier football,” he said. “It was the year I’d been waiting for my whole life, and the last thing I expected was to be hurt for the championship game.
“Even though I was not playing, I wanted the team to succeed.”
Junge underwent season-ending back surgery and missed the final five games, including all of the state playoffs. Junge played a big part in the dynamic Xavier offense. Before his injury, Junge rushed for 453 yards and four touchdowns. Without Junge, the bulk of the carries went to junior running back Braden Stovie.
With football being such a physical sport, most players will only play substantial minutes during their senior season. To work so hard, only to get injured during his senior year, was not the way Junge’s season was supposed to go.
His teammates wanted Junge to finish the season on the field.
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“Jax was a vital part of our team, even when he was injured,” senior fullback Collin Yanga said. “We felt for him and wish he could have been playing on the field with us.”
By the time players reach their final year, they have spent so much time together they often become more like a family than a football team. Even though Junge was unable to participate at the end of the season, he shared the spoils of victory nonetheless.