NORTH LIBERTY — The first varsity football practice ever for Liberty High School was Monday morning at 6:30. Well, it was supposed to be at 6:30.
A deluge of rain forced a late change of plans. Players lifted weights for an hour or so first, then made the short trip over to Van Allen Elementary School to practice.
Kind of a fitting start for a program that has had to adjust to a lot of things on the fly.
“We love the fact that it stormed today,” said head coach Jeff Gordon. “We’ve always kind of tried to embrace adversity, since day one when we built this program up to today. So it was real great that Zeus stopped by. We just went and lifted first and then practiced, as opposed to the other way around.”
Liberty has never had a true football home and won’t for another week or so.
The Bolts (they prefer to go by that instead of the school’s actual nickname Lightning) had a freshman program two years ago, a year before Liberty even opened. It had a freshmen-sophomore program last season, practicing at Van Allen, or wherever, and playing “home” games at Iowa City West or Iowa City High.
A nice-looking football/track and field stadium is being constructed right next to the school. Purple paint (Liberty’s primary color) is all over the place on the home side.
But the stadium isn’t quite ready for occupancy, yet. Thus, Liberty continues practicing off campus.
“Our biggest hurdles right now are probably the press box and the amenities,” said Liberty Activities Director Mike Morrison. “If we can get concessions, restrooms and press box up and running, then we’ll be good to go.”
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Morrison said the hope is the football team will be able to practice on its FieldTurf field next week. Its first varsity game is Friday, August 24, at Iowa City High.
Liberty’s first home game is scheduled for the following Friday, August 31, against Waterloo East.
“It’s been pretty awesome to watch,” Morrison said. “Larson Construction of Independence is our construction company, and they have worked their tails off to try and get us in there by August 31. The spring wasn’t as good to them as it could have been, or else I think they’d be further ahead. But they’re moving pretty quick right now.”
If Liberty can’t get use its stadium, Morrison said it will play against Waterloo East at either West or City High. The Lightning are scheduled to play Week 4 at home against Mid-Prairie, and that most certainly will be a go.
Regardless of how it all works out, this team will deal with it. There were about 70 guys practicing Monday, one lone senior and 24 juniors.
They’ll be younger than virtually all of their opponents, but they expect to win some games. The juniors went 5-4 as freshmen and 6-3 last season, coached the whole way by Gordon, a former Iowa City West prep who grew up in North Liberty.
“These last three years have been the best three years of my life,” said junior running back-receiver-defensive back Kaleb Williams. “Coaches have made it really tough for us, treated us like varsity already our freshman year. I feel like every practice is tougher than the first one, and I like that. I like the challenge.”
“I don’t know, it’s hard to say how we’ll do,” said junior lineman Ryan Nugent. “We just want to be great and try our hardest.”
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