Prep Football

Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Iowa City Liberty seek to rebound from lopsided Week 1 losses

Teams square off Thursday night at Kingston Stadium

Jefferson's Dylan Markham (21) tackles Washington's Jabari Dobbs (34)  during the first quarter of their Mississippi Val
Jefferson’s Dylan Markham (21) tackles Washington’s Jabari Dobbs (34) during the first quarter of their Mississippi Valley Conference high school football game at Kingston Stadium in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Both teams got shut out last week in their respective season openers. One team had 100 total offensive yards, the other 97.

That’s a lot of similarity.

But while one coach was happy with the effort he saw from his guys, the other coach wasn’t by any stretch.

That’s where things stand as Iowa City Liberty and Cedar Rapids Jefferson get ready for their Week 2 game Thursday night at Kingston Stadium: looking to rebound, looking to play better, one team looking for better effort.

“We have talked about playing the next play, and I think after a lot of learning of it, that’s where the focus has been this week,” said Jefferson Coach Chris Buesing. “Trying to turn up the intensity a little bit and being a little more physical. (Last week) was uncharacteristic of how we have played from an effort standpoint at Jefferson. We pointed that out to our kids. So it has just been mostly focusing on that.”

Jefferson was destroyed by rival Cedar Rapids Washington last week, 55-0. The J-Hawks did just about everything wrong you could: commit lots of penalties, blow pass coverages that went for long touchdowns, make turnovers that turned into opponent points, get a punt blocked that went for a touchdown, the whole shebang.

Some of that you might be able to chalk up to having one less week of practice because of the derecho that pummelled the city, but Washington was in exactly the same boat. Buesing won’t use that excuse.

“I think our kids are onboard,” he said. “They were embarrassed, I was embarrassed as coach. After the game, I said ‘If you want to blame someone, blame me. It’s my job to get you ready. If you are going to point fingers, point them at me.’

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“Ultimately we all have to look in the mirror over the next couple of days and figure out what we can do to get it right. Look at the film and figure out what we can do to help our team be successful. That’s what I’m going to try and do and our coaches are going to try to do. That’s what we need the players to try to do.”

Liberty was more representative in its game, a 27-0 loss to Iowa City West. The Lightning only trailed 6-0 at halftime.

But like Jefferson, 100 yards (actually 97) isn’t going to win you many football games.

“The thing we have been focusing on is getting better in practice, and hopefully the game takes care of itself,” said Coach Jeff Gordon. “We understand we’ve got a long way to go, but we said we’ve got to practice well on Sunday and Monday. We’re taking it one day at a time. I don’t know how we’ll play Thursday night, but we’ve definitely gotten better in practice, and, hopefully, that will carry over to the game.”

You’ll likely see a lot of rushing attempts in this game, as Jefferson uses a spread-option attack and Liberty a power attack with a full-house backfield much of the time. The line of scrimmage winner on both sides likely will be the game winner.

COVID-19 safety procedures announced Monday will limit Thursday night’s crowd to a maximum 1,300 fans, with Jefferson allowed as many as 800 fans and Liberty 500. Liberty played its game against West without any fans because of a huge COVID-19 spike in Johnson County.

“I thought the guys played really hard. They played hard last week,” Gordon said. “We have to do a better job of putting them into positions to be successful. I learned a lot. For so long, maybe we’ve been trying to fit square pegs into round holes, so we’re just trying to figure out what we can do well and keep building on that.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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