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Kingston Stadium at 70: Cedar Rapids high school football players and coaches share their memories

Kingston Stadium at 70: Cedar Rapids high school football players and coaches share their memories
Kingston Stadium in an aerial photograph in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (The Gazette)

This is the 70th year of high school football at Kingston Stadium in Cedar Rapids. Here is a sampling of what those involved remember.

Playing at Kingston

Former Washington player and assistant coach and University of Iowa receiver Bill Happel (Washington ’82): “I think it’s so cool so many different high school kids over the years got to experience playing at Kingston. I think it’s a highlight. I got to go on and play at some pretty iconic stadiums, but Kingston was always a big deal. There is something special for high school kids to experience that as opposed to an on-campus stadium. …

“One game I think we were ranked No. 1 and Dubuque Hempstead was a big rival then. They came in and took it to us, leading 7-0 at halftime. They stopped the game because of lightning and forced Hempstead to come back the next day to play the second half. We outscored them 28-0 in the second half. I talk to some of their guys and they said if we finished the game they would beat us. Certainly, the way things were going I couldn’t disagree. That was a game I remember.”

Xavier Coach Duane Schulte (LaSalle ’80): “When I was a junior, I handed off to my older brother Jack. And when I was a senior, I handed off to my younger brother Kary. …

“My senior year, we were playing on a Saturday afternoon. It was a bright, sunny day and we were playing Quincy Notre Dame. We went out for the coin toss, and those guys were freaking huge. We went out and beat them, 21-6. …

“I remember, my junior and senior year, after we played Regis, the next day I was so sore that I could hardly walk.”

Former Regis player, Jefferson Athletics Director and Kennedy Coach Greg Reed (Regis ‘64): “I grew up on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids so when we drove by Kingston Stadium as a boy, I always dreamed of playing there. I would try to convince my dad to take me to all the games. So, for me, every time I stepped on the field in my Regis uniform, it felt like I was living the dream. I have always believed Kingston Stadium to be one of the premier venues in the Midwest. It was always a thrill to play or coach in that facility. Kingston Stadium holds many great memories for many athletes and coaches alike. I was lucky enough to experience it from both ends of the spectrum!”

Cedar Rapids Kennedy students cheer
Cedar Rapids Kennedy students cheer during a 2015 game at Kingston Stadium. (The Gazette)

Former University of Iowa player and current Green Bay Packer Shaun Beyer (Kennedy ’16): “Kingston Stadium holds a special place in my heart. There is NOTHING like Friday Night lights. There is something very special about taking the field at Kingston with your best friends and playing in front of your friends and family. Some of my favorite memories playing football occurred at Kingston Stadium and are some memories that I will never forget.”

Coaching at Kingston

Former LaSalle state champion coach Tom Kopatich: “Washington, Jefferson, Kennedy, Regis, LaSalle … we all played there. One year while Prairie was getting its field redone, they played there too. That year, there was a lot of rain, and between the 20s and between the hashmarks, everybody was ankle-deep in mud. …

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“We had never beaten Regis before I was there. Beating them for the first time, that was a big deal. The Regis-LaSalle games, when we played on Thursdays, it was the only game in town, and there were some really big crowds.”

Former Regis player, Jefferson Athletics Director and Kennedy Coach Greg Reed on the Cougars’ 7-0 victory over Washington on Oct. 28, 1977: “It was an exciting night that featured two great teams and the game lived up to the hype. Over 10,000 fans were attending and Tracy Crocker scored on a dazzling 43-yard run late in first half for the game’s only score. The Cougar defense held the Warriors scoreless for the remainder of the game. Watching our players celebrate was something I’ll never forget! John Campbell of KCRG even did the 10 p.m. sports live from our locker room.”

Washington Coach Maurice Blue (Washington ’94): “It’s so much better now than when we played. It’s always been a good place to play. I think it’s one of the best in the state, but I’m biased. … Lots of good memories, but some nightmare scenarios, too.”

Kingston Stadium in 1952, the
Kingston Stadium in 1952, the year the stadium was completed. (Gazette file photo)

Longtime Washington Coach and Activities Director Paul James: “What I remember is there was just excellent football in the Metro back then. Tracy Crocker at Kennedy (who played at Iowa), Sweeney over at Jeff. With Jack Fisk’s teams, they were always 6-3, 7-2 and just tougher than nails. We were able to put some good teams together. I think it was 1978, we had eight straight years in the playoffs and six of them we made it to the semifinals. We could never get past that game. But there were some great games out at Kingston. A couple of playoff games against Dubuque Hempstead that I remember. …

“Just the rivalries. I don’t know if it’s the same now as it was back then, but maybe because that was because you were in the moment then. But the rivalries, and just all the great players that have come through and played there. Great performances. Guys like Kurt Warner, Dedric (Ward), Adrian (Arrington), who played in the NFL.”

Former Jefferson coach and longtime high school football broadcaster John Hegarty (Jefferson ’75): “The thing that comes to me first and foremost is how lucky the Cedar Rapids community schools are to have such an outstanding outdoor facility that has been kept in very nearly pristine condition for 70 years. You think about that, it’s absolutely amazing the foresight and the money they put into that place from the get-go …

“To this day, that stadium remains a source of pride for Cedar Rapids. And just look at all that has sprung up around it. You talk about the sporting hub of the city, there it is.”

Covering games at Kingston

Former KCRG Sports Director John Campbell: “I remember shooting (Iowa City West’s) Nate Kaeding kicking like a 50-yard field goal, and that was really long for a high school kicker. … I remember a big hit by (Washington’s) J.J. Puk. I still have video of it. …

“I certainly remember (Iowa City High’s) Tim Dwight playing at Kingston. If you ask me who the greatest football player was that I’ve ever seen, I don’t have to think twice.”

CR-M Live Sports broadcaster and radio co-host of KGYM’s Gym Class Scott Unash (Kennedy ’84): “Here are a few memories in no particular order: 2015 first-round playoff doubleheader (Kennedy and Washington); Many weekends with up to four or five games with high school, Coe and semi-pro games; Tim Dwight’s epic first-half performance vs. Jefferson. I believe he had five TDs in a homecoming game that ended at halftime; A Kennedy vs. Washington regular-season game with over 1,000 yards of total offense. Plenty of ‘mud games’ played that wiped out the grass field for the remainder of the season.”