CEDAR RAPIDS — Friday night’s 43-14 win at Davenport Central gave Class 4A No. 5 Cedar Rapids Kennedy its first district football title since 2015.
Sixth-year Kennedy Coach Brian White took a moment to compare his current team to that special 2015 bunch that won its first 13 games before losing in the 4A state championship game.
“There are some similarities and then there are a lot of differences,” White said. “With the team in 2015, we had just a couple of really good players in Shaun Beyer, who is obviously down at Iowa now, and Tyler Dralle, who is over at Coe. Those kids were kind of the meat and potatoes of our offensive unit and now we have got playmakers all over the field offensively. When you look at Cairron (Hendred) and Brandtley Koske and Max White and Cade Parker. We have just got guys all over the field. They are hard-working just like the 2015 team, but I would say we probably have a few more playmakers offensively than we did in 2015.”
Hendred has surpassed 1,000 rushing yards (1,032) and leads the Cougars (7-1, 4-0 District 5) with 13 touchdowns on the ground. After running for 160 yards and TDs of 80 and 62 yards in just three attempts Friday night, Koske now averages a whopping 19.2 yards per carry (26 rushes, 500 yards). He also returned a punt 57 yards for a score.
Under center, Max White has thrown for 552 yards and run for 716 with 15 total TDs. Parker averages 6.1 yards per carry with a pair of TDs and is relentless on the defensive side of the ball. The junior is a two-time all-state selection at linebacker with a whopping 275.5 tackles in less than three full seasons.
“It was beyond satisfying,” Parker said of the district title. “We showed everybody that we are a top-tier team again and we can hang with the big guys. We worked really hard for this. Just from the summer until now, we are still working hard. We are not over with it yet, but we are happy with the district championship.”
Kennedy will close the regular season against Burlington (1-7, 0-4) on Thursday at Kingston Stadium, which should give the Cougars a chance to work on improving their first quarter play. Kennedy faced early deficits of 7-0 at Davenport Central and 12-0 against No. 7 Bettendorf in the past two weeks.
“Obviously we still want to win the football game, but it is going to allow us to maybe work on some things that we need to get better at going into the playoffs,” White said. “Certainly, there are always things that you can work on. Instead of making the focus, ‘Hey, we need to win a district championship.’ Now the focus is going to be, ‘We need to get out of the gates earlier this next game. We have got to start faster. We need to play better in the first quarter.’ There are little things that we can focus on versus the big picture of winning a district title.”
Other district champions
A host of other area teams clinched district crowns Friday night with one game to play in the regular season.
In Class 4A, Linn-Mar joined Kennedy, while No. 2 Solon and top-ranked Western Dubuque locked up 3A districts.
No. 1 Waukon and Williamsburg have sealed district titles in 2A, while 1A No. 4 West Branch and a trio of Class A teams – No. 3 North Tama, No. 4 MFL MarMac and Belle Plaine – have also secured the top spot.
In 8-Player ball, No. 3 Turkey Valley won a winner-take-all district battle against No. 6 Easton Valley, 72-62, on Friday night.
Indee 8-0 for first time since 1973
With its 35-18 victory at Waverly-Shell Rock Friday night, Class 3A No. 4 Independence has started a season 8-0 for the first time since 1973. That year, the Mustangs finished 9-0 under Coach Lyle Leinbaugh, whose name now adorns the football field in Independence.
The Mustangs can clinch the District 3 title with a win at Lyle Leinbaugh Field against Decorah (4-4, 3-1) this Friday.