The foundation has been set and the rebuilding project has a sturdy cornerstone.
The Cedar Rapids Jefferson J-Hawks have also lifted a huge weight from their shoulders.
Jefferson snapped a 24-game losing streak with a 12-7 Mississippi Valley Conference win over Dubuque Hempstead on Friday night at the University of Dubuque. It was Jefferson first varsity win since beating Dubuque Senior, 20-13, in 2009.
“I’m more happy for the kids, especially the seniors,” First-year J-Hawks head coach Brian Webb said. “They never gave up on the J-Hawk football program, regardless of who was here. The seniors deserve a lot of credit for sticking with it.”
The team celebrated and sung the school’s fight song on the field with Jefferson students, who traveled to Dubuque for the game. Players also spent time with their families and members of the Jeffferson community.
“It was pretty emotional for all of us, because it’s been awhile,” J-Hawk quarterback Layne Sullivan said. “We’ve all won before. It’s not like it’s never happened to us, but this is a different level of playing. It feels good to get the victory. The bus ride home was definitely better than the past.”
Jefferson (1-2) trailed 7-0 in the first quarter, but didn’t surrender a point the last three quarters, allowing 220 total yards and just 139 after Hempstead 81-yard touchdown pass.
The J-Hawks tallied 388 yards of total offense, getting a 5-yard TD run from Nick O’Connell in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 7-6 at halftime.
“The score was no indication of the game,” Webb said. “We had some untimely turnovers, missed field goal opportunities (and) out of 48 minutes we had the ball for 32 or 33 minutes. We controlled the entire game, as far as time of possession and line of scrimmage.”
In the third, Sullivan capped a short drive with a 2-yard TD run on a keeper off left tackle. They were able to finish a drive and were determined to finish with the lead.
“We just ran it down their throat,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think there was any doubt in our minds the entire game that it was ours to win. We proved it. We were being more physical and working them.
“When we got the lead, it felt good and it calmed us down so we could just play our game.”
Sullivan threw for 104 yards and added 58 on the ground. Junior Michael Moncivais made a big impact for the J-Hawks, returning from injury that sidelined him the first two weeks. Moncivais led Jefferson with 151 rushing yards, averaging more than 9.4 yards per carry.
“He’s one of our toughest and hardest working kids we have,” Webb said. “He refuses to quit. He’s a wrestler. He’s not very big, but he gives you everything he has every single play.”
Moncivais demonstrates the fight and toughness Webb said he wants in his program. The effort was there in the first two losses, and it propelled them to the first win in three years.
“The kids we have are ones that want to fight and win,” Webb said. “We really haven’t been focused on winning or losing just the effort. I thought (Friday) night’s effort was the best we’ve had all season.”
The work continues after the memorable win. Webb said another program can answer questions about losing streaks now. The J-Hawks will look to add to their win total.
“Our season’s not over,” said Webb, whose team hosts Iowa City High (2-1) next Friday at Kingston Stadium. “One win is not what we want. We want more than that, and the kids realize that.”
Sullivan said the J-Hawks are happy, but they are far from satisfied.
“We’re a group of competitive guys,” Sullvan said. “We have six more games left. Our goal each week is to execute and find ways to win the game.”
Morgan gets support for football
Iowa City West wide receiver Jeremy Morgan reeled in three touchdown catches in the Class 4A third-ranked Trojans’ 35-14 win over Cedar Rapids Kennedy on Thursday at Kingston Stadium. The performance tied a school record shared by Pete Svare, who had three TD catches against North Scott in 1976 and Josh Luerkens, who accomplished the feat in 1999 against Dubuque Senior.
Morgan, a 6-foot-6 basketball standout, has committed to play for University of Northern Iowa and basketball coach Ben Jacobson. The Panthers were not concerned with injury, encouraging Morgan to continue playing football at West (3-0).
“They said they liked it,” Morgan said. “They said they’ve had a lot of football players in the past. It helps improve toughness. I always knew I was going to finish out my high-school career in football.”
Morgan scored on passes of 39, 42 and 17 yards from West quarterback Nate Boland, who threw for 277 yards, including 164 to Morgan.
Dudak makes big gain
What a difference a year makes for West Delaware’s Ryan Dudak. The Hawks running back finished with three carries for a 1-yard loss last season. He is off and running to start his senior season.
Dudak rushed for 164 yards and two touchdowns in West Delaware’s 26-6 win over Western Dubuque on Friday night at Manchester. He ranks among the Class 3A leaders with 517 rushing yards, averaging 172.3 yards a game. Dudak also has seven touchdowns, scoring at least two in each game this season for the Hawks (2-1).