Prep Football

No. 6 Cedar Rapids Kennedy buckles down for signature win over No. 5 Bettendorf

Cougars rally for 28-18 win to take control of 4A District 5

CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Kennedy had an opportunity to earn a signature win already this season.

The Cougars ran out of steam and watched that one slip away.

This time it seemed out of reach until the Cougars clutched it in the second half and didn’t let go.

Sixth-ranked Kennedy powered its way to 340 rushing yards after the break, scoring four second-half touchdowns and upending No. 5 Bettendorf 28-18 in a Class 4A District 5 game Friday night at Kingston Stadium.

“We thought we needed to come out and have a good showing here,” Kennedy Coach Brian White said. “Bettendorf is a great team. Certainly, we played well tonight, especially the second half.”

The Cougars amassed 404 total rushing yards with Cairron Hendred and Max White going for 123 apiece and Brandtley Koske contributing 113, including two long touchdowns.

“When you have a luxury like a Brandtley Koske behind him and a running quarterback like Max White and bring in a bulldozer like Cade Parker, we’re all right with Cairron being on the sideline,” Brian White said. “We still have guys that can do things and the offensive line is what makes it all happen. They did a great job tonight against a phenomenal defensive line.”

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Kennedy struggled with just 77 total yards in the first half, but came out firing on all cylinders thanks to Hendred. He provided an instant boost, breaking a 71-yard run by splitting defenders and out-running them to the goal line to pull Kennedy within 12-7.

White said the Cougars remained calm and were confident they could win in the locker room.

“Talk is one thing, but backing it up with action is another,” Brian White said. “Cairron had the big run and the kids truly really believed that they were going to come back and win this game.”

Hendred’s score was the last time he touched the ball. His ankle injury that caused him to be helped off the field before halftime flared up and White said they sat him as a precaution.

Enter Koske. His 39-yard dash for a score on the next possession gave Kennedy a 14-12 lead. Koske added a 27-yard TD run in the fourth to seal the victory, following his interception of Joseph Byrne with a little more than four minutes left.

Brian White said he recognized Koske’s talent in junior high.

“I knew the kid was special back then with the way he caught the ball and moved with the ball in his hands,” White said. “He’s just a special kid. If the state doesn’t know about Brandtley Koske they are going to know about him soon.”

After Koske’s first score, Bettendorf’s Taylor Pate juggled the ensuing kickoff, regrouped and then beat the Kennedy defense for a 74-yard return that gave the Bulldogs an 18-14 lead.

The Cougars demonstrated their toughness, battling back from the unlucky special teams play and Max White’s fumble as they tried to regain the lead.

On the next drive, Max White redeemed himself with a 39-yard TD run on fourth-and-3, giving Kennedy a 21-18 edge and one it didn’t surrender.

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“I knew we were going to get the ball back,” Max White said. “I knew we were going to have another opportunity and just going out and executing.”

Fourth-down conversions were crucial in the second half for Kennedy. The Cougars converted all four chances, including two that led to scores.

“It boils down to needing to beat an elite team,” Brian White said. “Every time it was a fourth-down situation we looked the kids in the eyes and said, ‘if you want to beat an elite team you’ve got to prove it.’

“We were going to go for every fourth down that was less than 5 yards. We were going to go for it.”

The Kennedy defense didn’t allow an offensive touchdown and only two first downs in the second half. It held Bettendorf to just 58 yards after the break.

“We have guys who are tough and that pays dividends,” White said. “It’s not just in the game. It starts in practice on Monday.

“Mental and physical toughness. If you have all that and talent, special things happen.”

The expected display of dynamic running backs didn’t disappoint, but the first half was highlighted by 137 yards and two touchdowns from Bettendorf’s Harrison Bey-Buie. The leading rusher in 4A broke free for a 55-yard scamper a little more than a minute into the game and added a 4-yard TD run later in the first quarter, helping the Bulldogs to a 12-0 halftime lead.

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“We just couldn’t get stops,” Bettendorf Coach Aaron Wiley said. “We had a hard time getting our defense off the field. That’s a credit to them because they’re really, really good up front. They’ve got a couple elite guys there. They were able to move us and their backs ran hard.”

Kennedy notched a top-10 victory after falling short against No. 1 West Des Moines Valley in non-district play, 28-14.

“We knew they were an elite team,” Max White said. “That Valley game definitely lit a fire under us. Anytime you win a game in 4A football it’s a tough one. Winning against an amazing team like that is pretty sweet.”

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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