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Alumni gridders ready to bang heads

Forget the notion that the first-ever local high school alumni football games Saturday night at Kingston Stadium are going to be like sandlot free-for-alls with a bunch of out-of-shape, has-been ex-jocks.

These guys are dead serious.

Oh, most were in better condition during their prime playing days. And there are a few never-weres.

But pride and bragging rights will be on the line when alums from Linn-Mar and Marion High School square off at 5:30 Saturday, followed at 8 by fellows from Kennedy and Jefferson.

The trash talking has already started.

"I just hope those Jeff guys got their medical waivers signed," said Kameron "Freight Train" Beets, who at 19 is the youngest former Cougar on the Kennedy squad. "'Cause I plan to lay some of 'em out."

One-time Jefferson defensive tackle stalwart Nelson Evans, the second-oldest on his team at age 36, scoffed at such insolence.

"Cute nickname," said the former Truman State star. "I've known Kameron since he was a small boy. I remember being young, dumb and loud, too."

Some may think these games are a joke. But that's because it's never been done around here before, said Jason Chance, a team coordinator for the California-based Alumni Football USA.

He said the organization has been staging these contests for 26 years on the West Coast. Because of their popularity (drawing up to 20,000 fans at some venues), the concept has spread.

Chance said there were 158 games played in 20 states last year, and 300 are scheduled this summer. This is the first year in Iowa. An ex-coach dreamed up the idea, he explained.

"In most every sport, you can continue doing it in some similar form after high school. But for football players, all there is is flag or touch football," he said. "And that's not the same as strapping on the pads and going at it again."

The events are not sanctioned by the respective schools. Typically the proceeds are split with local charities. (Tickets are $10 at the gate, $5 for students and seniors.)

From Saturday's inaugural Cedar Rapids doubleheader, the local school district will benefit from the rental of Kingston Stadium and concessions operated by the Jefferson booster club.

Last spring, Chance put out the word about staging games in the Metro area and drew enough interest to field teams with players from the four local schools.

"It gives us old guys the chance to re-live the glory days one more time," said Kyle Knock, 31, a former Kennedy all-state lineman and current Kennedy assistant coach who played at Iowa State.

He assembled a group of 30 former Cougars who have practiced weekly since early May. About half of them are under 25, led by the likes of recent quarterback whiz Guy Martino and speedster Timmy Johnson.

But there's a sprinkling of veterans, too, such as onetime Iowa State tight end Brett Kellogg and Central College's Brian Rempt.

"You're going to see that we're bigger, stronger and faster than Jeff," said Knock.

Chance swears it's all going to be safe, saying there's never been a serious injury in all the years the tilts have been held. His organization provides top-of-the-line equipment, hires professional officials and even issues insurance protection.

Jefferson's Clint Miller, one of five J-Hawk grads from the Class of 2000 to start together at Loras College, expects a rock 'em, sock 'em affair Saturday night.

"I'm looking for it to be a real offensive show, assuming we don't get too tired," he said. "Both teams have a lot of good football players, and we don't want to get embarrassed. When the whistle blows, the old rivalries will kick in."

Miller's team will feature do-it-all former Nebraska starter Blake Tiedtke, 29, from the 9-and-1 Jeff club from 2000, along with 41-year-old Rich Hart.

And then there's elder statesman Evans.

"Our team never lost to Kennedy in four years," he said. "And one year we beat 'em in the regular season and in the first round of the playoffs. Can't wait to do it again."

Last Updated ( Friday, 08 July 2011 02:02 )  

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