Prep Football

Cedar Rapids Kennedy shakes up coaching duties with playoff hunt in mind

Cougars face challenging schedule in 2018

Cedar Rapids Kennedy head coach Brian White during football practice at Kennedy High School in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, July 27, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Kennedy head coach Brian White during football practice at Kennedy High School in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, July 27, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — His team was in the Class 4A state championship game in 2015 but didn’t even make the playoffs the next two years.

So Cedar Rapids Kennedy football coach Brian White sat back this past offseason, took a long look at his program and came to a conclusion. Someone else had to call all of his team’s offensive plays.

That’s why assistant coach Kyle Knock is the Cougars’ offensive coordinator this season. White will be Kennedy’s defensive coordinator, the two simply flipping duties.

“I thought ‘Two seasons in a row we have missed the playoffs on the last game of the season, so what can we do to get better?’” White said. “The first thing I thought of was that I need to go back to the defensive side of the ball. Not because Kyle was doing anything wrong. He did a fine job. It’s because we need an offensive coordinator in the (press) box. Now I know why P.J. (Linn-Mar’s Paul James) goes up there. So you can focus and call the offense and not have a situation where it’s 3rd-and-7 and panic. I had to do it for us to be a better football team.”

White has been Kennedy’s DC before and Knock was a tight end in college at Iowa State, so this should be a seamless transition.

“Going back to the dark side,” White said. “The thing is I enjoyed calling offense, we had some success. But here’s the problem. I am not built to be an offensive coordinator. As an offensive coordinator, you have to think so far ahead, and you have to keep your wits about you at all times. I’m an emotional guy, like being emotional. I like getting after it on the spot, like celebrating with players when things go well. Being down on the field, I think sometimes it caused issues. I want us to be as good as we can be. When that’s the case, you’ve got to look in the mirror.”

Kennedy’s sophomores were a combined 16-2 the past two years, so this should be a good group of Cougars.

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The offense features a big line and two capable running backs in junior Cairron Hendred and sophomore Max White, the coach’s son. Hendred was limited by injury last season but is a true home run hitter and possible Division I college recruit.

White had 1,400 yards rushing last season as a freshman on the sophomore team. You can add junior Cade Parker to the possible running back mix as well.

Who will be the quarterback is the offense’s biggest question. Coach White said it’s a battle between seniors Charlie Haefner (6-foot-4) and Lou Ervin (5-8).

Kennedy lost eight of its top nine tacklers from last season, though the returnee (linebacker Parker) was third in 4A.

“We’re excited,” Coach White said. “We’ve got a lot of talented kids who did some good things when they were younger. So that’s a positive. You’ve got some clay that you’ve got to mold a little. But the pieces are there, and now we’ve got to put them in the right spots.”

And now it’s time to talk about the schedule.

Kennedy is playing at West Des Moines Valley and Bettendorf, the Valley game followed up just six days later by a game against a very good Cedar Rapids Prairie team. The Cougars definitely should benefit RPI-wise from this schedule.

Seven district champions automatically qualify for the postseason in 4A, with the other seven bids decided by an RPI formula that takes quality of opponents into consideration.

“Every year, your team does their posters and whatnot,” White said. “We let the kids come up with a theme. One of the themes our seniors threw out there this year was ‘Redemption.’ I didn’t like that. I don’t want to focus on what we’ve done in the past. I just want to focus on this group, these two classes together. I don’t think any of us coaches have brought up the point that ‘Hey, we didn’t finish. We didn’t get the job done the past two years.’ Because that’s not this group, that’s not their fault. If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s the six coaches.”

“We have a tough schedule, we have to be a tough football team mentally. And we have to control what we can control. That’s just us getting better each day.”

Cedar Rapids Kennedy, at a glance

Coach: Brian White (5th year, 27-16 record)

Last year: 6-3, failed to make Class 4A playoffs

Top returners: LB-RB Cade Parker (junior), RB-DB Cairron Hendred (junior), OL-DL Nolan Jacobs (junior), OL-DL Josh Vis (junior), OL Noah Gloede (senior), TE Cam Jones (senior), WR Sam Harrison (senior), DL Tucker Klett (senior), DB Mike Gallagher (senior).

Key to making the playoffs: Survive the schedule, which includes road games at Bettendorf and West Des Moines Valley. Find a quarterback, as last year’s starter B.J. White graduated and backup Pacen Kennedy transferred out of state. Ride a big and experienced offensive line.

Games to watch: There are three that could be beauties. The Week 3 game at West Des Moines Valley, the following week against Cedar Rapids Prairie and Week 7 at Bettendorf.

Schedule

Aug. 24 — at Cedar Rapids Jefferson

Aug. 31 — Linn-Mar

Sept. 7 — at West Des Moines Valley

Sept. 13 — Cedar Rapids Prairie

Sept. 21 — Davenport West

Sept. 28 — at Cedar Rapids Washington

Oct. 5 — at Bettendorf

Oct. 11 — Davenport Central

Oct. 19 — at Burlington

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

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