MARION — They’re starting from scratch. And that’s no stretch.
The Cedar Valley Christian Huskies broke camp at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Thursday, a football team with virtually no football experience. And just three weeks from their first game, against a perennial powerhouse.
“We’ve kind of got a buzzsaw right off the bat,” Coach Ed Betsworth said, in reference to the Huskies’ debut to sanctioned interscholastic athletics, an eight-man football game Aug. 19 at West Central in Maynard. “That’s a playoff-caliber team every year.”
The Huskies want to get to that level. Someday. Their first steps came Thursday.
“It’s exciting to start something new,” said junior Jeremy Strutz, who was the first player called on at quarterback during a fundamental ball-handling drill midway through Thursday’s two-hour session.
“I think we’ll do OK. I know there’s not much expected from us this first year.”
Cedar Valley will play four games, all on the road, this fall. In 2012, the Huskies will play a full nine-game schedule and will be eligible for the IHSAA playoffs.
That level looks a long way off now; the first 40 minutes of Thursday’s workout were elementary basics — teaching a correct three-man stance and shooting out to block.
There is precedent for hope, though. Meskwaki Settlement School went winless — and all the games were lopsided — in its first season, 2009. The following fall, Meskwaki made the playoffs.
“It’s going to take a few years. We’ve got to get our numbers up,” Betsworth said, refering to a roster that contains 14 players in grades 9-12. “If we can win a couple games this year, I’ll be very happy.”
Judging by the eyeball test alone, the Huskies have athletes. But they’re not football players yet. Many of the Huskies’ prior experience to the sport was playing flag football in their elementary-school days.
Sophomore Alex Kennedy is a soccer player at Cedar Rapids Washington. He wanted to be part of Husky history.
“I hope we play as a team and stick together,” said Kennedy, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 150 pounds. “I’m pretty excited. I think I have some speed that will help.”
David Sperling is a senior who said he “always wanted to try football,” and now has an opportunity. He played flag football in second grade, and has “messed around in the back yard” since.
“I think we can compete,” he said. “I think we can win a game or two. I know a lot of people don’t give us a chance.
“If everyone works hard, we can do something. We can build something here.”
Sperling’s position? He doesn’t care.
“I’ll play wherever Coach wants me,” he said. “I’m just happy to be playing.”
West Central is waiting, only three weeks away.
“I know,” Sperling said, and his expression indicated as much. “We really have to pay attention.”
Cedar Valley’s first official practice is next Wednesday, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at St. Joseph.
The Huskies worked on a blocking sled, sold by an Olin school that discontinued its high school athletics programs this year (Olin’s students will participate for Anamosa in 2011-12).
“We still need to get some tackling dummies,” Betsworth said.
Cedar Valley is still seeking a permanent facility for practices and games in 2012.
All four of the Huskies games this season are on the road. In addition to the debut Aug. 19 at Maynard, the Huskies travel to Dunkerton (Sept. 2), Midland (Sept. 9) and Central City (Sept. 23).