116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
LISBON — For the last three seasons, the Lisbon track and field team played a major part in the Lions' football success.
And the Lisbon football team has returned the favor.
The Lions, bolstered by speed from the track and field team, made the playoffs each of the last three years. Over that same span, the track and field team won three state titles. However, three major players during that run — Jack Butteris, Derek Bova and Blake Langhurst — are gone. They took nearly half of the offensive yardage (1,853 combined rushing and receiving yards) with them.
'We can't replace Jack, Blake and Derek,' said new head coach Phil Whitman. 'We have a few kids that can step in, though they may not be as fast.
'We've considered the track and field team as sort of an assistant coach. They push the kids on the track and we do the same on the field.'
New and returning Lions are ready to step in and put their work ethic on display. Austin Krob, Jake Jennett and Logan O'Connor hope to take the baton, so to speak, without pause from their predecessors.
'The team is kind of like a machine,' said Jennett, the Lions' quarterback. 'It takes 11 guys to run efficiently. One person out of place can really slow things down.'
One of the big questions will be the wide receiver position. Langhurst led Class A with 11 touchdown catches and was second with 712 yards. Those numbers will be tough to duplicate, but Jennett is confident in replicating the same success in 2017.
'Obviously, I will miss throwing to Blake,' Jennett said. 'I'll always remember that. But we've all been working well in the offseason. Bryce (Hasselmann) and I have been working together really well.'
Last season's defeat at the hands of Saint Ansgar (43-12) in the state quarterfinals still sticks with the Lions.
'Knowing we were that close and didn't succeed, it definitely lights a fire under us,' said O'Connor, who plays offensive and defensive tackle.
Defense figures to be a strong suit for the Lions. Lisbon returns nine seniors and two juniors to a team that shut out four opponents a season ago. The offensive line is in a state of transition, with a pair of sophomores and maybe a freshman getting the starting nod.
'We're just going to have to be efficient in everything we do,' Whitman said. 'Whether it's with game film or on the practice field — coaches or players — we need to work hard and learn more every day.'
Lisbon, at a glance
Coach: Phil Whitman (1st year, 0-0)
Last year: 9-2 (lost in Class A quarterfinals)
Top returning letterwinners: QB Jake Jennett, RB/LB Austin Krob, OL/DL Logan O'Connor, LB Tyson Williams, OL/LB Bryce Warderman, DB Bryce Hasselmann, RB Clay Hudson
Key losses: Blake Langhurst, Jack Butteris, Derek Bova
Key to making playoffs: Lisbon needs to replace a lot of team speed in Langhurst, Butteris and Bova. If a few Lions can step in, Lisbon should be poised to make another playoff run.
Games to watch: The Lions have a tough and important stretch, starting with a home game against East Buchanan on Sept. 22 and a road game at Wapsie Valley the next week.
Aug. 25 — at Winfield-Mt. Union
Sept. 1 — at North Cedar
Sept. 8 — Starmont
Sept. 15 — at North Linn
Sept. 22 — East Buchanan
Sept. 29 — at Wapsie Valley
Oct. 6 — Postville
Oct. 13 — at Alburnett
Oct. 20 — Edgewood-Colesburg