CEDAR RAPIDS — Jerod Burns sounded a little weary.
Part of it was following around his son for a football game Saturday, then a baseball game. Most of it was the emotional roller coaster he, his football team and community have been on.
”I don’t think anyone thinks they’re going to have to deal with something like this,” the BGM head coach said. “It is just one of those things you see on the news, off in a distant place. Nobody ever plans for this. It has put things into perspective, for sure. We talked about that a little bit last night. Football can be used as a tool for these kids to heal and to come together as a unit for each other as friends, and hopefully for our community to heal.”
BGM opened its season Friday night with a 35-24 win at Lisbon. Quarterback Scott Tibbetts had three touchdowns in the first half as his team built a lead, then recovered a late onside kick to cement that lead.
He’s the younger brother of Mollie Tibbetts, the BGM graduate and University of Iowa student whose body was found early this past week in a local cornfield. Cristhian Bahena Rivera has been charged with first-degree murder in her death.
“Scott is a phenomenal kid,” Burns said. “He’s got a ton of heart and is a leader on our team. I’m really proud of him to put that behind him and try to (play). And he needs (football) at the same time. He needs to try to get his mind off of it. Just for him to have the guts to come out and do what he did last night and play the way he did, having one of the best nights of his life on the football field, the way he threw the football, especially early in the game (was great).
“He made some plays for us, made some plays with his feet, showed a ton of leadership for us. We changed personnel packages a lot, and he was leading from the sideline. It was just awesome to see him go out there and do his thing last night and have success and come away with a win.”
Burns said he and the coaching staff never talked to Scott Tibbetts about playing or not playing. Tibbetts approached them about it.
He missed practice for a couple of days but returned Thursday.
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“He’s that type of kid, he really is,” Burns said. “I knew that he would want to be out there. We talked about it, didn’t really know what he was going to do. We wanted it to be his decision. We did not want to push him one way or the other. We did not want to say a word to him about it. He had the character to come and talk to me about it. He approached me and said this is what I’m feeling.
“He came to the game Friday, I asked him if he wanted to play or if he wanted to be here to support his teammates. He said he wanted to play, and he deserves it. He has earned his starting spot, so we put him out there.”
Mollie Tibbetts, 20, disappeared in mid-July after going for a jog in Brooklyn. The story caught national attention.
Her death stunned and saddened everyone. Four days later, her brother and his team played football.
“It was kind of surreal, I guess,” Burns said. “We have trouble getting the kids to focus in practice and stuff, for obvious reasons. It was good to get our minds off of it a little bit. It was even better to get a win. We kind of looked last night like we’ve practiced. All preseason we were pretty sloppy. We looked pretty good at certain times and looked pretty sloppy at other times ... We were kind of holding on to our lead with both hands a little bit. It was good to get out of there with a win, for sure.”
THIS AND THAT
— A pair of long losing streaks came to an end Friday night. Rockford smashed West Central, 74-18, in 8-Player to rid itself of a 23-game losing streak. Ottumwa edged Burlington, 32-26, to end a 19-game losing streak in the 11-Player game. The longest active losing streak in the state belongs to Woodward Academy (26). Oelwein is next at 23, followed by West Central at 22 and Pocahontas at 20.
— Individual stars of the night Friday included West Delaware running back Caleb Kehrli, who ran for 234 yards and four touchdowns in his team’s 56-20 win over Dubuque Wahlert. Other big running nights came from Decorah’s Drake Shelton (194 yards in a win over Waukon), Lone Tree’s Bryce Houser (189 yards in a win over Montezuma) and English Valleys’ Cooper Andreassen (184 yards in a win over Winfield-Mount Union). Waukon’s Dawson Baures did his best to counter Shelton, finishing with 175 yards on the ground.
— Independence senior wide receiver Sean Geertsema accounted for 186 of his team’s 211 yards through the air, also securing a pair of TD passes from quarterback Logan Schmitt in the Mustangs’ 51-14, season-opening win over Oelwein.
— The best of next week’s schedule includes the annual tussle between West Des Moines Dowling and West Des Moines Valley. Other must-see games are Iowa City West at Bettendorf and Waverly-Shell Rock at Clear Lake.
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