PLEASENT HILL — The score was what the score was.
No. 1 Southeast Polk beat Cedar Rapids Kennedy 48-0 in a Class 4A state football quarterfinal game Friday night.
But that’s not what Kennedy coach Brian White wanted his team to focus on. In his postgame speech, he reflected on everything the team has been through this season.
The August derecho devastated central and east-central Iowa. Kennedy was hit as hard as anyone.
“This is a unique group because they have had more taken from them than anyone in the state of Iowa — and I feel confident in saying that,” White said. “These guys lost their school, we lost a week of practice at the beginning because we didn’t have a school — we didn’t even have a field to practice on. We didn’t get into a locker room until three weeks ago. We didn’t have a locker room.”
During the weeks without a locker room, the Kennedy players essentially lived out of their cars.
“They rolled up to the practice field in their cars and put on their gear,” White said. “And after practice you don’t have any place to meet, you don’t have any place to do film, you don’t have any place to do anything.”
On top of the derecho, Kennedy’s football team was shut down for two weeks due to COVID-19. In all, Kennedy missed three weeks of football and didn’t have a locker room for much of the season.
And it still made the quarterfinals for the eighth time in school history.
“These kids have had more adversity than anybody and yet they still found a way to fight and make it to the quarterfinals,” White said. “Like I told them, I don’t care what that scoreboard says, I really don’t right now, because of the character of these young men — they’re going to be so successful in life. I’m just so damn proud of them.”
Quarterback Max White is as tough as anybody and he proved it against Southeast Polk. The senior was the Kennedy offense on Friday. He rushed 27 times for 108 yards and completed two passes for 19 yards. He also returned kicks.
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“I don’t know that I’ve ever been around a tougher football player in my career in 25 years of coaching,” Brian White said. “He’s just mentally and physically tough as nails. And he loves the game. You can see that he’s a competitor. Even in the worst moments, he still finds a way to play hard. He never takes a play off. I appreciate that and we’re going to miss him. He’s a three-year starter. But he’s got better things to go onto and hopefully play D-I college football.”
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