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Questions abound for Cedar Rapids Jefferson as football practice begins
J-Hawks appear to have a dearth of players at varsity level
CEDAR RAPIDS — You set a tone with the first official football practice of the season.
“Nobody walks down the hill!” yelled assistant coach Scott Andrews, as Cedar Rapids Jefferson players made their way from the school to an adjacent practice field that was, as Andrews pointed out, down a hill. “Let’s go!”
It’ll likely be an uphill battle and then some for the J-Hawks in 2021. They were 0-8 last season and appear to be facing a severe numbers crunch at the varsity level.
Just shy of 60 players took part in Monday’s initial practice, but that’s kids from all four classes. The freshman group is the largest, but, obviously, it’s not ready to contribute at the varsity level in Class 5A.
Coach Chris Buesing said he has a “small handful” of sophomores who would have helped, but they’re not eligible to play in games right now academically. Multiple seniors who would have been top players transferred to other schools.
So what exactly does that leave? He won’t delve into the specifics.
“I don’t have any comment on that right now,” he said. “It’s a touchy situation.”
Rumors have been flying for a while that Jefferson’s varsity season might be in peril, something that seems impossible to even consider. The J-Hawks are scheduled to begin Aug. 27 at Kingston Stadium against Cedar Rapids Washington.
“I plan to have a varsity team,” Buesing said. “We have a good group of seniors that have stuck around through some things. I’m not supposed to comment on the things that happened in the offseason, this summer, or whatever. For that, my hands are kind of tied on what I can say.
“We do have a good group of seniors, a lot of four-year kids that have worked it through. But they can’t play every position. If you saw our sophomore class (last year), there is a hole there. Kids in a COVID world, without structure, really floundered. So there is a loss of kids from the top that I can’t comment on, and there’s a loss of kids from the junior class, just from attrition. I guess I don’t want to say anything other than that.”
Buesing is a Jeff grad, as proud of his Westside roots as you’ll find. He has a plan in place for turning around a program that has had just two winning seasons in the 2000s, and he believes that plan starts with making sure there is a strong connection between his program and its youth feeder programs.
He believes that connection has been inconsistent in the past.
“I feel like we have good coaches here, I feel like we have good resources here. The school is a good school. I don’t know why it gets the rap it does, as far as the reputation of the community,” Buesing said. “We live in an age of if you go out to Des Moines and elsewhere, people move to the suburbs. New, shiny things.
“But Jefferson is a fantastic school. (Cedar Rapids) Washington is a fantastic school. For whatever reason, I don’t think they get the (positive) rep they should. You look at our weight-room facility and what we do in the weight room, for instance, and I think it’s as good as anybody in the state of Iowa. We did hit some bumps this summer, for sure, but I think we have a lot to offer. It’s all about getting the word out that we have a lot to offer. You hopefully get the support, so you can get that word out.”
Monday’s practice was upbeat, with tons of instruction going on. Regardless of what happens in 2021, Buesing is determined to get things straightened out at his beloved school.
“Every day is a day,” he said. “You’ve just got to wake up and take that day and win that day the best that you can. You can’t always control the circumstances. You just try and do the best that you can with the circumstances that you are given.”
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