IOWA DERECHO 2020

Cedar Rapids high schools find time (and a place) for football amid derecho devastation

Damage is seen to the Bob Brooks press box at Kingston Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/T
Damage is seen to the Bob Brooks press box at Kingston Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — "Hey, come check this out."

Cedar Rapids Washington football coach Maurice Blue walked a reporter Monday afternoon to the south end zone at Kingston Stadium and pointed to his right.

“Somebody just brought this up,” Blue said. “Look at that, would you? You can actually see Jefferson from here now.”

That’s not a good thing. Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School is a couple of blocks away but never clearly visible from the playing surface at Kingston.

That has changed thanks to the derecho that directly hit Cedar Rapids a week ago. The 100-mile-per-hour winds of the storm toppled so many trees in this neighborhood on the southwest side (every neighborhood in town, actually), it’s easy to view Jefferson’s campus from the end zone now.

You can stand in that same end zone, by the way, glance to your left and see the heavily damaged ImOn Ice Arena, including the huge hole blown through the back side of the building that houses the Olympic-sized ice sheet. On the other side of Kingston is Veterans Memorial Stadium, which had its outfield fence from center to right blown over, as well as a ribbon board and gigantic light pole in right-center.

The city’s longtime prep football stadium, Kingston suffered comparatively little damage. That allowed the three public high schools (Washington, Jefferson and Kennedy) opportunity to conduct varsity and sub-varsity practices, some for the first time.

In the midst of the devastation and cleanup of that devastation, not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic, kids playing football here was an absolutely surreal scene.

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“Almost everybody is here,” Blue said. “Only missing about five guys. That’s good. We found out so late yesterday, it was about 5 o’clock when we found out we finally had the OK to go ahead and practice.”

This is the second week of football practice for the state, with the Metro playing catch up. All seven schools (Washington, Jefferson, Kennedy, Cedar Rapids Prairie, Cedar Rapids Xavier, Linn-Mar and Marion) had practice Monday, with Jefferson going in the morning at Kingston, Washington the early afternoon and Kennedy the late afternoon.

They’ll rotate practice schedules this week as they prepare for their respective season openers a week from Friday.

“Yeah, I think this is a diversion,” Blue said. “How can it not be? The whole area around Wash, it looks like a bomb went off. But I think these guys want to practice. They want to get a couple of hours not to think about everything.”

Blue said Washington’s freshman and sophomore teams were missing close to 20 players Monday. The teams took buses from the school over to Kingston.

“There’s a lot of stress at home right now,” said Washington’s Quincy Underwood. “Knowing that you don’t have power, some people food. Coming here, you can take your anger out at practice. Take out your frustrations. I like being able to come out here and take my mind off of things.”

Blue said he asked everyone before varsity practice to raise their hands if their families’ home had electricity. His was one of the very few raised, his house’s power coming back late Sunday night.

“Supposed to get ours maybe by Thursday,” said Washington’s Seth Moore, who, like Underwood, lives in the Wellington Heights area. “We have a cooler, and we go and get ice a lot, though that’s been kind of hard to get. The things we did have in our freezer, me and my dad have been grilling it. We’ve grilled everything: hamburgers, chicken, pizza.”

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Moore said his family actually was supposed to move last week, something that obviously didn’t happen.

“The people who bought it couldn’t close, but they were supposed to close on it before noon today,” he said. “They had to do it before it was announced it was a (federal) emergency, because once that happens, everything gets shut down and you have to start over.

“We’re still able to close on our new house. But that whole thing, that’s been a struggle for my family.”

This whole thing has been a struggle for everyone’s family.

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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