116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — This hasn’t been a typical football season for Linn-Mar.
The Lions were disrupted and displaced in the preseason thanks to problems with the installation of new field turf at their stadium. Instead of sulking about the inconvenience of off-campus practices and even playing the first home game at another Metro school, they opted to take on the challenges.
“It’s OK to have adversity, but it’s not OK to not respond to it and tuck your head and run,” Linn-Mar Coach Tim Lovell said. “You have to stand up to the obstacles in front of you and show it can be done, sometimes, in unconventional ways.
“That’s what I’m really most proud of our players, staff and administration, which gave us support of what we needed when we needed it.”
Linn-Mar improved to 2-2 after Thursday night’s 30-12 victory over Class 4A ninth-ranked Cedar Rapids Washington in a third straight game against a ranked opponent. The Lions return home next week. The sophomore team will actually play in Linn-Mar Stadium Tuesday and the varsity plays there Friday against Cedar Rapids Jefferson.
A late surge that led to 20 unmatched points against the Warriors is indicative of the toughness the Lions have demonstrated during the season’s unusual first half.
“Everyone realized the (field) situation we were in was out of our control and sometimes you have to learn to make lemonade out of lemons,” Lovell said. “I think the resilience our kids are showing on Friday night is a product of the way they have had to handle the summer and the fall, so far.”
Lovell has been down this misplaced road previously. He was the head coach at Marion when the 2020 derecho destroyed Marion’s facilities, forcing the team to find a new place to practice and hold home games. Coincidentally, Marion used Linn-Mar Stadium for its home contests that season.
He was able to transfer lessons learned from that ordeal.
“I’ve made that comparison to several people who have asked me about it,” Lovell said. “Again, it’s what you make of it. We didn’t have time to sit and complain about what we don’t have. We had to make do with the place we had and it was very sufficient. We were blessed to be there. Now we get a chance to go home.”
The Lions suffered two straight losses, falling into a deep hole against Iowa City Liberty in Week 2 and falling to third-ranked Pleasant Valley in overtime last week. They rallied to dominate the last 14 minutes against Washington to pull back to .500, despite the setbacks.
“It was really big,” said Linn-Mar receiver T.J. Jackson, who returned the game’s opening kick for a 90-yard score. “It was a good win. We really needed that. It was going to make or break us the rest of the season.”
Practices were held at the baseball facility at Oak Ridge Middle School and started later than normal. Staff had to obtain a pod storage unit for equipment from the stadium. The team was split into two locker rooms and coaches used a concession stand for their coaches’ office.
Lovell praised the maintenance staff for its work to provide a good practice area. He also complimented fans and students for traveling and creating an exciting environment at Cedar Rapids Prairie for last week’s “home game” against the Spartans.
“For all intents and purposes, it was a blessing in disguise,” Lovell said. “The message to the kids is it doesn’t matter where we are as long as we’re together. We’re looking forward to getting home.”
The situation helped unify the team, forging a strong bond that comes through in competition. The team celebrated Thursday night’s victory, blaring loud music in the locker room and the Kingston tunnel.
“It feels amazing,” Linn-Mar quarterback Austin Waller said after the win. “I trust everyone and I love all my teammates and my coaches. I couldn’t do it without them.
“We had a tough loss last week. This is crazy. We’re 2-2, now. We’re coming off a good team win. It’s only up from here.”
And, there will be no place like home.