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Chroniciling our history since the day we stepped on the field as J-Hawks

The Jacobson Years ~ 1997-2000


On March 6 Jefferson principal Bob Tesar and athletic director Jim Taylor announced the hiring of Dave Jacobson as their new head football coach. A Charles City native, Jacobson was a 1977 University of Iowa grad who cut his coaching teeth as an assistant to Larry Brown at Iowa City High. As a head coach, he directed West Delaware to the 3A championship game twice, winning a state title in 1991. Most recently, he served as offensive coordinator at Lake Forest College, but quickly realized he yearned to stand under the glow of the Friday night lights, guiding his own prep program once again.

Prospects for a triumphant home opener appeared remote. No. 6 Linn-Mar was one of the state’s most dominant playoff forces over the past decade, winning three state titles under Greg Purnell. But it was the J-Hawks who stood tall, leaving their home field with a stunning 21-14 win, its first week-one victory in five years. Step two came at the expense of a longtime rival from across the river. Jefferson scored 16 and Washington 8.

But flying high at 2-0, the good feeling and sustained prosperity was put on hold for the next four weeks. Losses to Iowa City West, 42-6, City High, 47-0, Kennedy, 48-20, and Cedar Falls, 30-22, followed. All but the Cougars would qualify for the 4A playoffs, and City High would advance to the 4A championship game.

However, the resilient boys in blue were not done winning. Gazette scribe Jeff Dahn’s lead aptly described the 35-28 overtime win against Waterloo West: “In a game that saw Jefferson’s offense turn in big play after big play, it was the J-Hawk defense that took the final bow.”

At Hempstead, the execution and good feelings persisted as the J-Hawks prevailed, 15-3. The upset victory that late October evening knocked the ranked Mustangs from playoff contention. A lopsided loss, 35-7, to a Prairie Hawk team that clinched a conference title, rounded out the ‘97 schedule. But not before J-Hawk fans were left feeling a corner had been turned. Jeff finished Jacobson’s first year a commendable 4-5.


Dave Jacobson’s second season at the helm kicked off with the fulfillment of two of his many goals for the team. First was the return of several veterans now familiar with his system and accompanying expectations. Secondly, in a nod to an emphasis on multi-sport athletes, was the addition of several key basketball and baseball players who were acknowledged difference makers, but had not been on the gridiron the year before.

Opening the season at Prairie was expected to be highly emotional, a chess match of coaching wit, and a physical donnybrook. It is fair to say there was no love lost between the west-side schools, or their fans, as 5000 plus packed Kingston Stadium. The brutal game delivered on all counts. The J-Hawks clung to an 18-14 lead late in the fourth quarter. Before the scoreboard lights were extinguished it read: Visitors 21, Home 18.

A similar scenario developed in week two with the inability of the defense again to withstand a final stanza surge by crosstown-rival Wash. Losing, 35-21, to their river rival, a frustrated Jacobson lamented, “We’re not executing when we need to. The areas we were strong in last week, we were weak in this week. I’m concerned about our approach to the game on the practice field and how that transfers over to the game.” There wasn’t any time to lick wounds and mope, a trip to Armstrong Field and a date with Linn-Mar loomed.

In a contest filled with offensive fireworks, neither defense was able to stop the other. A back and forth shootout ensued at Armstrong Field, but Jacobson’s troops prevailed, 42-32, on an evening that saw future Jefferson coach Chris Buesing run wild from his fullback position.

During week four, the annual Jeff-Kennedy tussle gave credence to the time worn cliche— you can throw out the record books when the J-Hawks and Cougars tangle. Once again, sportswriter Jeff Dahn’s opener summed things up nicely: “For sure drama, it lacked nothing. There were twists and turns usually reserved for suspense novels or hiking trails. A huge Cougar Homecoming crowd was on hand. Play was mostly clean, but there were enough miscues to make a difference. Heroics, heartbreak and controversy all had starring roles. And tears were flowing on both sidelines when the final buzzer sounded.” By a whisker, Jeff prevailed, 28-27. In doing so, they relied on the whims of the kicking gods when Kennedy missed its final extra point attempt, as well as a 41-yard field goal with 18 seconds remaining.

Unfortunately, the squeaker over Kennedy was to be the final win of the season. Cedar Falls and newly opened Xavier, both possessing stellar defensive units, smothered Jefferson, 14-0 and 35-0 respectively. Subsequent losses to eastern Iowa powers Dubuque Wahlert, 46-20, and Hempstead 34-7, in addition to Iowa City West, 48-14, provided evidence Jeff’s defense would need to stiffen in coming seasons in order to run with the big dogs. Jefferson ended 1998 at 2-7. Two late-season setbacks came at the hands of the top-two teams in the MVC. Five losses to top-tier teams in the Valley left the junior dominated J-Hawks with a bad taste in their mouths going into the offseason. Jacobson relished their dissatisfaction. It was what he had been hoping for. He knew, if channeled properly, the losses could serve to motivate his troops toward significant improvement.


This was Dave Jacobson’s third year at the school and his players were all indoctrinated into his system. The seniors were each multi-sport athletes who lifted with their teams year round. The juniors who joined them were anxious to follow suit. The two classes bonded early on producing a tight-knit team with good chemistry.

Opening the season against Prairie, at John Wall Memorial Field, confidence was high on both sidelines. Nothing about the Blue victory was easy. The J-Hawks found themselves down, 13-10, with 38 seconds left in the game. Jeff kicker B.J. Sarchett calmly drilled a 24-yard field goal to send the contest into overtime. It was Sarchett’s second clutch kick of the game. Entering extra innings, the Jeff defense upheld their end of the bargain and elusive-tailback Blake Tiedtke ran around end on Jeff’s first play to secure the road win, 19-13. It was the first J-Hawk triumph over the P-Hawks since 1992.

Back home, the annual grudge match with the red-jerseyed Warriors produced another nail biter that came down to the last possession of the game. With victory hanging in the balance, linebacker Blake Borrett intercepted a Wash pass that set up the winning drive, capped off by a Chris Buesing run. The J-Hawks stood tall, once again, with late game heroics, outlasting the Warriors, 33-26.
Two highly emotional wins to open the season took their toll in week three against Linn-Mar. Two steps forward, one step back. The Lions blitzed their way through the Jeff O-line to a 19-7 win. Losses to Kennedy, 27-14, and Cedar Falls, 41-14, set up a game of reckoning with Xavier. The blue offense exploded on the Saints for a 53-17 lashing.

The next week produced a similar lopsided affair in a whipping of Wahlert, 28-7. But the final task at hand was almost impossible. In facing the Men of Troy on their home turf, the J-Hawks attempted an upset of the defending state champions who would go on to repeat a few weeks later. And yet, West High only led Jeff 9-3 entering the fourth quarter. Future Hawkeye and NFL kicker Nate Kaeding’s three field goals were the only scores for the Trojans. A wild final stanza from both teams produced a 36-17 victory for West, but the score was not indicative of the hard-fought game the J-Hawks brought to the best team in 4A.

Regardless of how competitive the loss was, it ended any playoff hopes the J-Hawks may have had. Yet a 5-4 record was possible with a win in the season finale at home against Hempstead. It had been seven long years since the last Jefferson team tasted a winning season. For the seniors, and the juniors supporting them, they would not be denied. Pummeling the Mustangs, 49-7, brought forth a wide range of emotions from a team that was trying to defeat recent history as much as the opposition.

Building up a downtrodden program is a slow step-by-step proposition, but the 1999 season served as a gigantic leap. A corner had been turned.


For the first time in many years, preseason talk surrounded Jefferson’s size and athleticism. Early speculation pointed to every man up front weighing in excess of 250 pounds. It was also expecting big production from speedster tailback Blake Tiedtke, the beneficiary behind the bulk. In addition, it had the MVC’s top returning receiver in Jon Rife as an aerial target. Before the season was over, Tiedtke would go on to rewrite the Jefferson record books for most rushing yards in a single season (1214) and most rushing yards in a career (1934). Against Xavier, he set the record for the longest touchdown run from scrimmage (98 yards). He also showed special teams savvy setting records for best punt return average (22.6 yards), best kickoff return average (40.2 yards), and longest kick return (98 yards).

Several of Dave Jacobson’s goals for his resurgent program were realized. It gained a perfect 9-0 regular season, an MVC conference divisional crown and a playoff berth, the first for the J-Hawks since 1992. Tiedtke was voted MVC player of the Year and was named to the Des Moines Register Elite first team roster for all classes.

The first four games shouted the team’s dominance. One description holds true for each contest. The J-Hawks scored five or six memorable touchdowns via 10-plus play drives before Jacobson sent in the reserves who routinely surrendered one score in relief duty— Hempstead, 41-7, Kennedy, 35-6, Waterloo West, 41-6 and Xavier, 35-7. The one-sided pattern held until week five.

It was midseason, game five at Linn Mar’s north Marion creekside stadium, when the J-Hawks met their first stiff competition. Gazette veteran, Jeff Dahn, reported it this way: “Ever wonder if 5 dollars admission to a high school game is worth it? If not, you should have been at Linn Mar Friday night. Records were set, expectations heightened and hearts broken. It was prep football at its finest and brought out the best in everyone involved.”

Trailing 20-12, heading into the fourth quarter, 4A eighth-ranked Jefferson put 21 points on the scoreboard and escaped, 33-30. The ensuing week-six game against river-rival Washington, a 24-10 win, put less points on the board than was the norm. But Jeff’s defense limited the Warrior big-play offense. Amassing “W’s” continued, including accomplishing something a J-Hawk defense had not registered since 1992, a shutout. It happened at John Wall Memorial Field, against an undefeated and playoff-bound Prairie team. The 16-0 win over its southwest-side rival was a defensive masterpiece.

A spunky Dubuque Senior outfit was the next victim, 33-7. The Rams’ lone score was courtesy of an interception return, but they came to hit. The win set the stage for a big regular season finale, a showdown against top-ranked Iowa City High. The raucous crowd assembled at Kingston stadium was estimated at 8000 and the 19-14 Jefferson win was the first MVC championship for the J-Hawks since 1976.

On to the playoffs. Who would the undefeated J-Hawks draw in round one of the playoffs? Typically, undefeated teams drew an opponent finishing 6-3 or 7-2. In a stunning unprecedented turn of events, 9-0 Jefferson was assigned to 9-0 Cedar Falls by the Iowa High School Athletic Association. They were the No. 1 and 2 ranked teams in the final 4A poll. The Tigers were mainstays in postseason games and featured the state’s top running back in Terrance Freeney. Just five days after the emotional win over City High, the J-Hawks again took the Kingston Stadium field. Circumstances would require a lightning quick recharge of the emotional battery in yet another attempt to defeat the (newly-appointed) top-ranked team in the state— for a second time in less than a week.

The emotional and abiding Little Hawk hangover proved too much to overcome, along with Jefferson’s recent postseason inexperience. Dazzling Tiger running back, Terrance Freeney, frolicked to the tune of 321 yards on 42 carries and four touchdowns. The 27-14 loss at the hands of

Cedar Falls brought an end to a magical season for the J-Hawks who earned praise from the Elite all-state back himself in the post game.

The success of the 2000 J-Hawks fostered a renewed sense of pride to the beleaguered football fans living in Cedar Rapids’ far west quadrant. You needed to go back 28 years to find the last time a Jefferson football squad recorded a perfect regular season. Beyond that, athletes at the school once again walked upright, chests full and with a slight swagger in their step. It wasn’t just football that was succeeding on the athletic stage. Jacobson’s intense focus on multi-sport athleticism, in addition to speed and weight training, was contagious and evident in every sporting season.

In the midst of all the joy, goodwill and hopes of future conquest, Jacobson dropped a bombshell. In resigning his coaching duties, shortly after the conclusion of the brilliant 2000 season, jaws dropped around the state. His four-year record at Jefferson was 20-17. Jacobson, Ted Lawrence and Jack Fisk are the only J-Hawk mentors who ended their careers at Jeff with winning records.

A more detailed profile of Coach Dave Jacobson
and his teams can be had by purchasing the book
“Fight, Team, Fight - The History of Cedar Rapids Jefferson Football”
by John Hegarty Jr.
268 pages, including 661 photos. $25
Email: FightTeamFight2020@yahoo.com
or call 319.551.8008

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