CEDAR RAPIDS — The temperatures dipped and the wind whipped.
While coaches and fans were bundled up, Cedar Rapids Kennedy players were bare-armed and loving every minute of it, as the elements helped their ground-and-pound, hard-nosed defense brand of football.
“We’re a cold-weather team,” Kennedy Coach Brian White said with a laugh. “That’s what you do. You run the ball.
“The kids were in short sleeves. It didn’t bother them, but we’re happy with where we’re at.”
And, where they will be isn’t bad either. Short sleeves and all.
Max White scored three rushing touchdowns and the fifth-ranked Cougars defeated Urbandale, 27-13, in a Class 4A state football quarterfinal game Friday night at Kingston Stadium.
Kennedy (10-1) faces No. 2 West Des Moines Dowling in the semifinals at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls at 7 p.m. next Friday. The Cougars will make their first semifinal appearance since finishing runner-up to the Maroons in 2015 and the third in school history.
“It means the world to us,” Kennedy senior linebacker Jay Oostendorp said. “We’ve been hungry ever since summer. The first day of camp we were talking about going to the Dome. It’s definitely an amazing feeling, right now.”
Kennedy stuck to its winning formula, leaning on its run game. The Cougars powered their way to 263 rushing yards and four scores.
Max White amassed 138 of those yards, including two crucial touchdowns that bracketed the halftime break. His 4-yard score converted a fourth-and-2 with 1:14 left in the second quarter and allowed Kennedy to take a 13-10 lead into the half.
“He’s a tough kid,” Brian White said. “He loves the game of football. He loves everything that football brings. He’s in his sweet spot out here on the field.
“The thing he’s been wanting all year long is an opportunity to go up north to Cedar Falls and so was our entire team.”
On Kennedy’s second possession of the third, White broke a 51-yard TD run that put the Cougars up by two scores and ahead for good.
“I saw a hole and I ran through it,” said Max White, who added a 7-yard TD run with a little more than five minutes left to seal the win. “Whenever we get that spark, it lights a fire under us and we get going. I’m tremendously grateful I could provide that for our team.”
Brandtley Koske added 76 rushing yards, accounting for Kennedy’s first points on a 2-yard TD run with 8:13 left in the second quarter.
Kennedy’s defense bent at times but never broke, allowing 298 total yards. Urbandale (7-4) drove inside the Cougars 10 twice, setting up first-and-goal situations, but was forced to settle for field goals each time.
“We were telling each other this is what we’re made for,” Oostendorp said. “We tell each other we’re the best defense in the state and it shows statistically. It’s a gut check and we keep motivating ourselves.”
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Brian White said the first stop that resulted in Jackson Mears’ 33-yard field goal in the opening quarter was a difference maker.
“The first field goal was huge,” Brian White said. “You get down 7-0 and that’s a different ball game than being down 3-0. Plus, it gave us confidence that we could keep them out of the end zone.”
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