CEDAR FALLS, Iowa | The talk of this town?
In the week that was, it was football, football, football. The high school version, mainly, college to a lesser extent.
Even during a Thursday afternoon Northern Iowa team practice while ear-splitting crowd noise was being piped into the UNI-Dome you could hear a pin drop more clearly than conversation about 5-5 UNI’s chances Saturday at Missouri State.
As for the preps, it was mostly “Mismatch Thursday/Friday’’ under the big top until Solon and Washington locked horns in the Class 3A vision of Iowa’s playoff semifinals in the evening.
In a 9 a.m Thursday breakfast call, Exira/Elk Horn-Kimballton blasted Newell-Fonda and Gilbertville Don Bosco barely worked up a sweat in a 78-21 one-man (officially eight-man) rout of Adair-Casey.
Then came Bishop Heelan’s demolition of Clear Lake, a cruise past the resort community that featured quarterback Trent Solsma passing for 376 yards and five touchdowns. He completed all 23 of passes before for his final toss of the game was intercepted late in the third quarter.
A capper on Friday was West Lyon’s 63-21 cakewalk over Avoca A-H-S-T. Realistically it could have been 80-21. Well, face it, 100-21. It was 50-14 at halftime.
More than idle chatter during the weekend was also devoted to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963. To the day, it’ll be 50 years ago on this Friday.
Reminiscing, some folks recalled players on both sides who would have appeared the following day in the Iowa-Notre Dame football game that was cancelled on the afternoon of that fateful Friday in world history.
The Iowa roster included Sioux Cityans Leo Miller (Heelan) and Cliff Wilder (Central), along with future NFL draft picks Paul Krause, John Niland, Wally Hilgenberg, Mike Reilly, Karl Noonan, Al Randolph, Bob Sherman, Gus Kasapis, Dave Long and Bill Briggs.
The Irish, who lost to Syracuse in Yankee Stadium the following week to finish 2-7, featured Jack Snow and Jim Kelly. The third-string quarterback was John Huarte, who played sparingly and didn’t even earn a varsity letter, but came back to win the Heisman Trophy in 1964. Heelan graduate Denny Conway was a squad man then earned monograms as a running back in 1964-65.
Iowa, with all its talent, wound up no better than 3-3-2.
Memorabilia collectors out there may be interested to know they’ll be hard-pressed to find a game day program, which cost 50 cents, but were never sold to the public.
The Iowa Athletic Department destroyed nearly all the programs immediately after the game was called off.
The cover featured a young boy dressed in tan football pants, a blue jersey and wearing a red helmet with white stripe. For some creative reason he was stationed in front of a music stand playing a violin.
| Folks on media row in the UNI-Dome press box during halftime of the Heelan-Clear Lake 3A semi were frantically searching the 11-man playoff record book for the number of passing yards in one half, most TD passes and most completions. To no avail, though. The IHSAA doesn’t track official one-half records. In that half, Solsma completed all 19 of his passes for 327 yards and five TDs.
| The other quarterbacks drawing rave semis reviews was Don Bosco’s Jake Hogan and slick option artist Brandon Snyder of West Lyon. Like Solsma, Hogan, a pinpoint thrower, threw for 236 yards and three TDs on just five completions, but also ran for 251 yards and six TDs. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior was third in the state wrestling meet at 152 pounds as a sophomore and eighth at 160 as a junior only because had to injury default in the quarterfinals. Coming into the upcoming mat campaign he’ll likely be ranked No. 1 going up a weight or maybe two.
| The Don Bosco head coach is Colby Yoder, whose father, John, serves as one of his assistants. John, you remember, was the head wrestling coach at Heelan when Joe Curran won the 2A 189-pound state title, the last Crusader to stand atop the podium in Des Moines.
| Clear Lake Coach Fred Wieck hedged a bit, but when pressed, confessed that Heelan was a better team than the gun-slinging Grinnell club his Lions had clawed in the quarterfinals. “Heelan has all the weapons, both sides of the football. We’ve had our troubles with spread formations and in Heelan, you see one of the most efficient,’’ said Wieck, a 35-year coaching veteran who guided Garwin GMG to the 1987 Class A state title and Clear Lake to the 3A throne in 2000.
| Any state football playoff weekend, especially the UNI-Dome variety, requires a visit with Siouxland Super Fan Kenny Bern of Cherokee. Kenny was in his usual spot above the tunnel on the 25-yard line on east side of the dome to view each and every game. Talk also included delightful news he will be attending his 68th consecutive boys basketball tournament in March. “It would be over 70, but after going in 1941 I spent time in the service and then started going again in 1946 and haven’t missed since,’’ said the spry and loquacious Bern, who will be 87 next May.
| And baseball wedged into the live weekend chat rooms, too. Former Cherokee all-state infielder and pitcher Cory Ege is the new head baseball coach at Cherokee High School. His prep teammate, Matt Koch, a pitcher in the New York Mets minor league system, is recovering from horrific facial injuries received when he was struck in the face by a line drive in a late-season game.
| Word has it that the eastern Iowa Class 4A schools will soon vote on the option of adopting district football as is the case here in the western half of the state. The three largest 3As for football are Cedar Rapids Xavier, Davenport Assumption and Council Bluffs Lewis Central. Xavier and Assumption play 4A football, but are considering a drop to 3A. Lewis Central’s enrollment may soon move the school up to 4A.