116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — Tim Lovell just stood back and took it in.
After watching his Linn-Mar football team deliver a 63-14 defeat to visiting Muscatine on Friday night at Linn-Mar Stadium, Lovell watched as his players celebrated with their fellow students in the middle of the field.
“This was just great for the kids, the students and the community,” Lovell said. “For me to come back here and get to celebrate in front of all the kids was great. It felt good and it was good to see this for the kids because it has been a long time since they have had a chance to celebrate like this.
“(The win) validates everything we did in the offseason from the weight room to the accountability to the discipline. We've been preaching buy-in and team first.”
It also was Lovell's first win as the Lions' head coach. He returned to Linn-Mar this season, where he had served as an assistant before becoming the head coach at Marion in 2016.
“It feels great,” senior lineman Luke Gaffney said about giving Lovell a win in his first game as Linn-Mar's head coach. “Not only does he deserve it, but all our coaches do. They put in a lot of work and they deserve this every bit as much as we do.”
On offense, it was all about big plays for the Lions. The shortest of their eight offensive scores was 12 yards and their defensive score was a 40-yard interception return from Cam Guenther.
“We had a lot of kids make big plays tonight,” Lovell said. “It wasn't just one person and that's to me what was so awesome about it. Everybody was cheering for each other and everybody wanted somebody to make a play.”
Junior Carter Henderson made the most of his chance at tailback. He rushed for 155 yards on 13 carries and three touchdowns in the first half. One of his backups, junior Ben Blackford, did the damage in the second half, carrying six times for 129 yards and two scores.
Senior quarterback McKade Jelinek was just 3-of-9 passing for 106 yards, but two went for scores of 48 yards each to Jack Robertson and Guenther.
Linn-Mar built a 42-7 lead at intermission and was able to play its reserves much of the second half.
Gaffney was a key figure on both sides of the line as the Lions dominated play at the line of scrimmage. As a three-year starter for Linn-Mar, Gaffney did not underestimate the importance of getting off to a good start in 2021 under a new head coach, especially coming off a 1-5 finish in 2020.
"It's a really rewarding feeling to get a win like this," he said. "We cleaned up a lot of stuff that hurt us last year. A lot of guys knew what they had to work on and that showed up tonight."
Linn-Mar is back in action at home next Friday against Iowa City Liberty.