CEDAR RAPIDS – The start of high school football season sneaks up on most of us in broad summer daylight. School just got started. Labor Day still is 12 days away. But come Friday night (Thursday for Cedar Rapids schools Jefferson and Xavier), it’s on.
The season, however, hasn’t crept up on the players.
“Pretty much, football has been my life this summer,” said Cedar Rapids Washington running back Andre Dawson, who carries the ball and the distinction of being the top college football recruit in his city.
“Coming in at 6 o’clock every morning, working out for a good four or five hours every day,” Dawson said. “When you’re doing that you tend to get a connection with your team.”
Washington had a six-week “conditioning camp,” meeting four days a week for two hours a day.
“Football really is our job right now,” Dawson said Monday afternoon, without a trace of regret in his voice. Then he returned to the Warriors’ practice field.
Last night, Washington worked out at Kingston Stadium. That’s where it begins the 2009 season with a showdown game that would seem best-saved for at least early October instead of late August.
Cedar Falls and Washington. Last year the Warriors opened the season with a win in the UNI-Dome over the Tigers, but Cedar Falls won the rematch in a Class 4A state semifinal. Though wonderful talents like receiver Keenan Davis and quarterback Wyatt Suess graduated, Dawson and the rest of a 40-player varsity team are thinking big.
“I’m looking for my teammates and I to make it to the state championship,” Dawson said. “With that comes hard work and dedication.”
Dawson follows Adrian Arrington and Davis as recent Warrior players who have been wooed by college coaches near and far. Arrington, now with the New Orleans Saints, went to Michigan. Davis is a freshman at Iowa who could — forgive the hype — become a special college player.
Now, in Coach Tony Lombardi’s complex (“Even if a spy came in here, you wouldn’t be able to get anything,” Dawson said.) spread offense, this is a year to showcase a back who was second-team all-state a year ago after compiling 1,483 rushing yards and 28 total touchdowns.
“To get 1,500 rushing yards with our offense throwing for 2,500 yards a year,” Lombardi said, “that’s pretty amazing. And he doesn’t carry the ball with lead blockers very often.
“Andre is a kind of a pro-style back. He runs well from tackle to tackle, but he’s capable of breakaway speed. He’s not going to wow you with jitterbug moves. But he’s kind of like Shonn Greene in that over time he’ll wear defenses down.
“He’s got great vision and acceleration. He finishes runs nicely. At the next level, he’ll be pretty good.”
Dawson said he has a couple of official college visits he wants to take after football season ends. “I’m pretty sure I’ll commit after the playoffs,” he said.
“All seven of my offers right now are in the Midwest. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Purdue, Kansas, Illinois …” He blanked out on the seventh school, so I said “Iowa?”
But for now, a big game against Cedar Falls is all-consuming. A big game in August.