CEDAR RAPIDS – There were 13 of them for the reunion last Sunday.
The seniors included Corbin Woods, Alex Cunningham, Trey Sampson, Jim Moore, Shane Herder and Ben Helms. The juniors were Hunter Baldus, Colin O’Connell, Bryce Grimm and Logan Clarahan.
The other three kids were Schultes, which you’d expect since this was their backyard. Reggie was the quarterback for one of the teams, which wasn’t a surprise, either.
Younger brothers Bryce and Quinn also played. Sixth-grader Quinn Schulte had the unenviable task of trying to defend Woods, six grades his senior and arguably the best all-around athlete at Cedar Rapids Xavier.
“Gotta make him tough,” kidded his dad, Xavier head coach Duane Schulte.
Amazing how everything came back to them: the first-down markers, what was out of bounds. At one point, an errant pass went over a chain-link fence two houses down.
All 13 kids immediately hit the ground, lying on their backs.
“Everybody always just got tired of jumping over the fence,” Woods explained. “So the last one down has to go get the ball.”
Xavier has a terrific football team this season. It’s 7-0 heading into its big game Friday night in the UNI-Dome against fellow unbeaten Cedar Falls.
There are plenty of reasons for the success. One of the hidden ones might just be those pickup football games a lot of these Saints played as kids in the westside backyard of Duane and Sherry Schulte.
We’re talking first grade through eighth grade, every Saturday and Sunday.
“It was a perfect setup for us,” said Reggie Schulte, Xavier’s senior QB. “My dad tried to get the perfect house with the best backyard and the best driveway, so we could kind of have the best of both worlds. We’d just call all the westside guys over: Trey Sampson, Corbin Woods, Shane Herder. Jimmy Moore lives a couple of blocks from us. They’d all just come over on the weekends and stuff.
“We’d always go out after college games on Saturday and NFL games on Sunday and live the dream, I guess, as we’d like to say. It was a lot of fun. We always still talk about them in school.”
They might be talking about the reunion, too. The Gazette asked the Schultes to recruit as many of the old guard as they could for a photo shoot of one more pickup game.
Kudos to neighbors Jamie and Yvonne Jonas for allowing it to happen – again. Despite all those boys traipsing in and out of their yard all those years, they never built a fence.
“They always put with it,” Duane Schulte said. “Otherwise our yard is too small. They were always great neighbors. Still are.”
It was baseball for the boys in the spring and summer, football in the fall. As Reggie Schulte said, they’d convene after an Iowa game on Saturdays, maybe after the Green Bay Packers or Minnesota Vikings played on Sunday.
Was it competitive? Oh, yeah.
“They were always fun and intense,” said wide receiver Grimm. “We’d get really into it. It was always a friendly game, though. We’d play other games together, but the football games were always fun in particular.”
“I’ve got a lot of good memories,” said Moore, a senior tight end who is out of Xavier’s lineup right now with a broken bone in his lower leg. “You could go on for days, the stories and stuff. We got back here today and right away we remembered things about it from the old days. Things like a tree route, where you would cut around the tree. Where the first downs were, out of bounds.”
Reggie Schulte and Woods always were the quarterbacks, as they were again last Sunday. As they got older and matriculated into high school, Woods moved into a wide receiver role in order to take optimal advantage of his running and catching skills.
“It’d get competitive, but we knew it was all for fun, so we’d come back the next day and do it all over again,” Reggie Schulte said.
“I think it’s helped us tremendously,” Woods said. “I think everyone shares a great bond. We made friendships back here that hopefully last a lifetime. You couldn’t beat it. It was pretty fun back here. And competitive. No one liked to lose, that’s for sure.”
They didn’t want to lose Sunday, either. At one point, Quinn Schulte caught a pass from his older brother that was an apparent touchdown.
Apparent because the opposing team thought he was out of bounds. A lengthy argument ensued.
“The relationships we’ve been able to build …,” Grimm said. “The chemistry on the field is still there, too.”
They took one big group photo when the game was over, another future reminder of their childhood years. Another memory for the “Westside Weekend Warriors,” as you could call them.
“These are the regular guys, but there were occasions when the eastside guys would come over, too,” Duane Schulte said. “I think it’s been invaluable. For one thing, we don’t have video games in the house. So if they wanted something to do, they actually had to come out and play. I’m either a bad dad, a mean dad or an old-fashioned dad.”