CEDAR RAPIDS — Hail and heavy rains interrupted Cedar Rapids Xavier’s second football practice of the season Monday afternoon. Straight-line winds did a number on some metal benches and heavy wooden training tables outside the football locker room behind the school, upending them and actually sending one traveling a few feet.
“We’ve waited out a lot of weather over the years,” Xavier assistant coach Stu Ballinger said. “But I’ve never seen anything like this.”
It was pointed out to Ballinger that this might be a harbinger of things to come this season. In a good way.
“Yeah,” he said. “Resiliency.”
Hopefully resilient is one word that will be used to describe these Saints. Inexperience, right now, is definitely another.
The only returning starter on offense is kicker Chad Gilmer. There are just three on defense: end Kevin Hosch, linebacker Jack Boland and back Jordan Weber.
Not that it seems to matter to this program because it always wins. Xavier went 7-3 in 2010, losing in the opening round of the playoffs to rival Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
Success like that is the expectation again.
“We’ll just go out and play our game,” said Xavier lineman Josh Nelson. “We’ve got a lot of guys stepping up and getting ready to play.”
“We’re trying to find where to put guys right now,” Hosch said. “Finding the spots for them, so people can do their jobs.”
This is a true football “program” that has continuity in its coaching staff, even going down to the middle-school level. Duane Schulte is the only varsity head coach Xavier has ever had, and top assistants Jim O’Connell and David Sullivan have been with him for a lot of victories.
Xavier seems to always win at the sophomore level, with this season’s juniors finishing 8-1 last season and the seniors going 9-0 two years ago.
“Our staff has been together a long time, and we try to teach the basics,” Schulte said. “That’s what we tell the kids. Just keep applying (at the varsity level) what you were taught at the freshman and sophomore levels.”
Boland said there is an adjustment period, though, to playing big time high school football at the varsity level.
“It’s a whole new speed,” he said. “But our practices are really fast, so that helps. And we have such an experienced coach staff. They make our transition easy.”
Xavier opens its season Aug. 26 against Kennedy at Kingston Stadium.
Here are a couple of videos of an up-tempo Xavier practice Monday afternoon: