DUBUQUE — The good news was Cedar Rapids Kennedy got to play a football game Friday night after two excruciating weeks off because of COVID-19.
The bad news was the game itself.
Dubuque Hempstead pretty much did what it wanted when it wanted offensively and beat the Cougars, 38-20, at Dalzell Field. The Mustangs (4-1) entered The Gazette’s Class 4A poll this week at No. 10 and looked even better than that here, piling up 507 yards with a balanced spread attack that Kennedy (1-2) had no answers for.
“They’re the best team on this side of the state, and we knew that going in,” said Kennedy Coach Brian White. “They played great offensively. Their quarterback is a handful, their tailback is a handful ... They’ve got kids who can help you move the ball, and when you’ve got multiple skill kids, that makes you really dangerous.”
Quarterback Aidan Dunne threw for 218 yards for Hempstead and added 93 more on the ground, running for a touchdown and throwing for one. Running back Jalen Smith had 106 yards rushing and two TDs for the Mustangs, who led from the middle of the first quarter on.
Hempstead’s loss was in Week 2 to a good Class 3A team from Western Dubuque.
Kennedy’s three TDs came courtesy of quarterback Max White, as usual. He had just under 200 combined yards rushing and passing, scoring on runs of 21 and 36 yards and throwing a 60-yard TD pass to Jalen Cotton.
“He’s a warrior,” said Kennedy assistant coach/offensive coordinator Kyle Knock.
Coach White was asked how much the rust of having to sit two weeks contributed to this loss. Certainly Hemsptead was better, but Kennedy did make some mistakes, including committing nine penalties.
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“I would say this was like playing your Week 1 game,” he said. “It’s like going back to scratch. We were making the same mistakes you would make in your Week 1 game ... But that’s not an excuse. You still line up, have 17- and 18-year old kids, just like the team across from you. You still practice, you still plan, it wasn’t like we just started practicing. But it does hurt you. It is what it is. It’s 2020, it’s coronavirus time, and our kids are playing football. That’s more important than anything else right now. We’re getting a chance to play.”
Kennedy took the opening kickoff and moved the football deep into Hempstead territory. But White was intercepted in the end zone by the Mustangs’ Zach Sabers on a third-and-6 pass from the Hempstead 26.
It took Hempstead then just four plays to put the first points on the scoreboard. A 17-yard pass completion was followed by a 39-yard jet sweep, a 7-yard Dunne keeper, then a 17-yard TD run up the middle by Smith.
Kennedy came right back, though. On third-and-5 at the Cougars 40, White hit Cotton over the middle for a 60-yard touchdown bomb. Cotton came wide open as a Hempstead defensive back fell down, with White nailing him with the throw in stride.
The extra point missed, however, allowing Hempstead to keep the lead, 7-6.
The Mustangs drove right back down the field on the ensuing possession. Dunne connected with Jackson Ostrander for a 27-yard gain and eventually ran in from 8 yards out for the TD and a 14-6 lead after a quarter.
Hempstead made it a 21-6 game midway through the second quarter on a Smith 6-yard scoring run. White countered with a 36-yard touchdown run for Kennedy, with Hempstead’s Ben Jaeger making a 26-yard field goal at the halftime horn for a 24-13 Mustangs edge.
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