CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Take a deep breath, Kennedy Cougars. You'll go into your final pair of regular-season games virtually assured of a playoff berth.
A 42-6 blasting Thursday night of winless and undermanned Waterloo East at Kingston Stadium means Kennedy won't be playing do-or-die football the next two weeks. That's unlike the previous couple of seasons.
There's still a whole lot for the Cougars to play for, things like a better seed in the Class 4A postseason and home-field advantage in the opening round. Kennedy (5-2) has tough games with Dubuque Hempstead and Iowa City High still remaining.
But the main goal has been accomplished. For that, you can take a bow, boys.
"I think anyone would say that it feels great," said running back Miles Moa, who rushed for 128 yards and a pair of touchdowns. "The motivation for the whole thing is that we want home-field advantage."
"It's all about seeding now," said Kennedy Coach Tim Lewis. "I think four wins usually gets you in, five you are pretty much guaranteed. Now it's just about seeding. That's what we're going to focus on, finishing on a positive note and get the highest seed we can. It's a chance to play at home, a chance for our seniors to play at Kingston again. This is a great place to play. There's still so much riding on those last two games."
East (0-7) hasn't come closer than 12 points to any opponent this season and was missing starting quarterback John Magnuson (baseball commitment) and leading rusher Deshay Wright (medical procedure). Not to say that guaranteed a Kennedy victory here, but back-to-back defensive TDs in the opening 1:46 all but did.
Defensive end Killian Magee scooped up a fumble on the first play of the game and ran it back 20 yards for a score. Three East plays after that, defensive back Jacob Shannon stepped in front of a Darren Scott pass and took it to the house for a 29-yard touchdown.
The first of Moa's TDs, this one from 13 yards, made it 21-0 later in the quarter and a rout.
"That was great," Magee said of the early defensive scores. "I just expected our offense to dominate. Luckily, the first one was me ... I trust everyone on our defense to just stop them and get those touchdowns defensively, too. This was an all-around victory."
Kennedy ran a lot more of its offense out of the shotgun, eschewing the Stacked-I some of the time. The Cougars still were ground heavy with 204 of their 254 yards coming via rush.
Quarterback Derek Jacobus was able to throw a pair of touchdown passes to tight ends Magee (2 yards) and Drew Heitland (8 yards).
"I thought we drove the ball real well," Moa said. "Keep up the tempo, Coach said before the game that's what he wanted us to work on. So we just focused on our assignments, and I think we did that well tonight."
The only real downer of the night was a first-half left ankle injury to leading tackler Triston Christopher. The senior linebacker was on crutches after the game, though Lewis expressed hope he'd be OK, noting the injury was to the lower part of Christopher's ankle and not higher.
"He's a tough kid who wants to end his senior year on a positive note," Lewis said. "So we'll see."