CEDAR RAPIDS — Despite victories each of the last two weeks, Cedar Rapids Kennedy wasn’t thrilled with the start in either of those games.
The Cougars were focused to change that in their regular-season finale, using this as a springboard into the postseason.
Fifth-ranked Kennedy did exactly that, controlling the game from the opening whistle and trouncing Burlington 56-0 Thursday night at Kingston Stadium. The Cougars enter the postseason with an 8-1 record, going 5-0 in Class 4A District 5.
“The theme this week was to start quick,” Kennedy Coach Brian White said. “Get out of the gates and play hard right from the beginning. I think the defense was really motivated to keep the zero on the board all night and we did.
“I was excited with how our team responded with two weeks of not really starting off fast. They did tonight and that’s a great thing going into the playoffs. We got a quick start and played well in all three facets of the game.”
Kennedy’s defense smothered Burlington. The Grayhounds managed just six first downs, settling for one in the first half. The Cougars allowed 79 total yards with more than half coming on the final drive of the game against reserves.
More than one-third of Burlington’s offensive plays resulted in a loss.
“We just went back to our roots,” Kennedy linebacker Cade Parker said. “We played them like they were (West Des Moines) Valley or Bettendorf. Last week, we were a little lackadaisical. We played them like any other team. … We really put the hammer to them.”
The Cougars posted their second shutout of the season.
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“It’s more of a confidence booster,” Parker said. “We know we can do it on defense. We showed we can start off strong and we’re going to keep pounding and we’re going to carry this into the playoffs. Nothing less.”
Kennedy rolled the Burlington defense, rushing for seven touchdowns without Cairron Hendred, who entered the week ranked fifth in 4A with 1,032 yards.
Brandtley Koske and quarterback Max White helped pick up the slack. Koske amassed 125 yards on the ground, including a 19-yard TD run on the opening play of the second quarter for a 14-0 lead. He added an impressive 42-yard TD run on Kennedy’s first offensive snap of the third.
White threw for 85 yards and rushed for 65 more. He had his hands in the Cougars’ first four TDs, building a 28-0 edge at the half.
White ran for scores of 9 and 22 yards, then hit Koske for a 15-yard TD pass with seven seconds before the break. He also added a 1-yard QB sneak for a score in the third.
“It’s nice to have playmakers,” Brian White said.
As for Hendred, Brian White said they evaluated him Sunday and decided to rest him one more week as a precaution. He will be back for the playoff opener at Kingston.
“We want Cairron 100 percent in the playoffs,” White said. “He’s a three-year starter and two games means absolutely nothing. It’s not like he’s going to be rusty when he comes back. The fact of the matter is he’s one of the fastest kids in the state and we want him to be one of the fastest kids in the state when he has an opportunity to play next week.”
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