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

The Webb Years ~ 2012-2017


Like our country in the 1930’s, Jefferson football was in the throes of its own “Great Depression.” The team had not experienced more than two winning seasons in over two decades. And yet, there was a successful 2A coach from Carroll Kuemper willing to take on the challenge of restoring respectability and ending the drought. Brian Webb was hired by principal Chuck McDonnell who was between athletic directors. A Cedar Falls native, Webb had gone 18-4 over the last two seasons at the parochial school in Carroll, Iowa. He was a football player at Northern Iowa and cut his teeth as an assistant coach at West Des Moines Valley, Spencer and St. Cloud State.

Webb wasted little time evangelizing the tenets of his program— work ethic and accountability. It started in the late spring with strength training and fitness camps. To westside football fans, all they envisioned was getting that first win and halting the 22-game losing streak left behind by the old regime. Visionary Webb saw a bigger picture— consistent effort, every day, every drill, every scrimmage, every week. Do that, and inevitably the winning will follow.

In the opener against Prairie, the goal was not primarily to win, but to fight tooth and nail for a full 48 minutes. Never submit, never surrender, never hang your head— and no more continuous clocks. This was a tough opener. The P-Hawks would go 8-3, advancing to the state quarterfinals. But their 28-7 defeat of Jefferson was not a walkover.

The second opponent, Xavier, would run the table with an unblemished record all the way to the state championship game before bowing to Ankeny. The Saints unleashed a hailstorm on the J-Hawks, cruising 49-0. Week three offered a real chance at breaking the now 24-game losing streak. Dubuque Hempstead, a once-proud program, had fallen on hard times. Webb had his success-starved team ready to pounce. Finally. The long-absent football gods smiled on Blue after a protracted hiatus. The title of the Gazette article detailing the win read: “J-Hawks Hungry for Respectability.” The opening sentence of the summary, a 12-7 takedown of the Mustangs said, “The foundation has been set. The rebuilding project has a sturdy cornerstone. The J-Hawks lifted a huge weight from their shoulders.”

The victory was short lived when the remaining six games did not offer another. In only two games did the J-Hawks find themselves within reach of a second win. During the Washington game— tied 21-21 starting the fourth quarter— the verdict was in doubt until the final two possessions. The Warriors converted each, ultimately winning 34-21. In the Waterloo East contest, the defense again yielded two late touchdowns. The Trojans came from behind to win, 30-24. East would go on to earn a 5-4 regular season record and win its first playoff game in three decades. A late-September thumping at the hands of City High, 38-0, was the last of five lopsided losses. In its last four games the J-Hawks were outscored 191-35. Webb’s first team finished 2012 with a 1-8 record. But the nagging losing skid was put to rest and new expectations had been set.


Brian Webb entered his sophomore season fervently expecting to win more than just one game as his team had done the year before. The first encouraging sign was his varsity roster increased by a dozen players. But it was “attitude” that Webb pointed to as the key to tangible improvement. “Its about pride in everything you do. It's about our improved facilities, equipment, how you practice, even how you wear the uniform. It’s everything that encompasses what we’re trying to get accomplished here.” Do the little things right and the big picture will come into focus.

Sadly, a 1-8 repeat of the previous season was the fate that befell Webb and his J-Hawk gridders. Still, ignoring the record, to say there was no improvement would be false. The continuous-clock rule was only invoked twice—against Xavier, who would become the state runner-up, and Iowa City West who would finish 9-1. The following quotes provide a snapshot of the season.

Week 1- Prairie. The game was tightly contested. Unfortunately, allowing three big-play scoring strikes was the story of the opening night defeat. Coach Webb: “Our effort was great. It was a lack of execution. That’s the bottom line.” Score: 24-7

Week 2- Xavier. Webb was unfiltered: “We just got mashed all the way around. We have a good football team, but when you play the No. 1 ranked team in the state…I was expecting to do a little bit more honestly. I thought we’d give more effort. We had a great week of practice. But they just out physical-ed us. That’s Xavier football.” Score: 44-0

Week 4- City High. Jeff lined up a handful of first-time starters after 20 players— half of the team— missed practice time with either concussion, injury or illness. “We should not hang our heads at all. Today we had a lot of kids grow up. I was really proud of their effort.” Score: 35-10. The Little Hawks finished 8-2.
Week 5- Waterloo East. For one night, the Jefferson offense frolicked. Score: 37-20

Then, there were three losses in which the J-Hawks did compete, giving themselves the opportunity for a triumph. Hempstead 21-12, Washington 14-7 and Dubuque Senior 28-17. In two other games the defeats were lopsided, Kennedy, 35-14, and Iowa City West, 47-7. Webb frequently bemoaned penalties, injuries, turnovers and an inability to follow through with execution at key junctures that prevented victory in winnable games.


For traditionalists, this was the sad year that recorded the extinction of MVC football. With the advent of two-year “district” configurations, Jefferson’s football schedule stayed the same in some respects, and changed significantly in others. Assigned to Jefferson, by the IHSAA, were two teams from Davenport (North and West) who offered refreshing new blood. The landscape had changed, and along with new scenery came a fresh energy for a J-Hawk team that was trending upward. Brian Webb’s third season would prove to be a positive campaign.

Four non-district games opened each team’s season. Traditional rivalries with Washington and Prairie comprised weeks one and two. Against the No. 5 ranked Warriors, the offense found its footing, but the defense was porous in losing, 43-26. The Kolache Bowl was a nail biter, decided by a late P-Hawk field goal. Jeff came up just short, 17-14.

Then came something totally outside the norm, consecutive trips to the Quad Cities for games with Davenport North and West. You had to go back to 1978 to find the last time a Jefferson contingent made the trek to venerable Brady Street Stadium.

The J-Hawk offense erupted for confidence-boosting lopsided victories, 42-7 and 62-0. Jeff’s 62 points scored against West tied them with the 1968 and 69 teams in the record books for most points scored in a single game. Jeff historians were also left scrambling for the record books to find the last time a J-Hawk offense scored 104 points over a two-week span. It was only eclipsed twice— homeric sums of 108 points in 1966 and 107 points in 1968. The team was now 2-2, entering the all-important district slate.

Class 4A was comprised of eight districts. The top four teams from each qualified for the playoffs. If there were ties for any one of the four places a “13-point-tiebreaker” rule was enacted. Jefferson was one of six teams comprising District 5.

Both Jeff and Kennedy understood the importance of their district opener in late September. The annual grudge match against the Cougars of 2014 would prove to be Coach Webb’s greatest victory as Jefferson’s head football coach.

The J-Hawks had not defeated the Cougars since 2002. And in recent years they had been on the losing end of the stick by wide margins. In defeating Kennedy, a psychological barrier was broken. The result would also enable another long drought to end, that of playoff exclusion. Jeff trailed, 24-21, in the only overtime period required. The Cougars, going first, settled for a 25-yard field goal. Going second, Jefferson scored on fourth-and-two. Coach Webb rolled the dice. “Great throw, great reception and great defense,” said Webb as the Band of Blue played “Sweet Caroline” in the stands. Webb told his players to celebrate and relish the moment, but don't be satisfied. "This is not my Super Bowl," he told them. "I have a taste in my mouth for more."

However, the satisfaction of the big win soured in back-to-back losses to Cedar Falls, 35-17, and Waterloo West, 23-17. A 35-0 win over luckless Waterloo East returned the train to the tracks, but a week nine loss to Linn-Mar, 42-21, meant mathematicians and the newly instituted tie-breaker rule would determine the fate of the J-Hawks.

Ultimately, Jeff tied for third in the district with Kennedy, thereby qualifying for the 32-team postseason field. Linn-Mar was the District 5 champion, followed by Cedar Falls. It was the first time the J-Hawks qualified for the playoffs since 2000.
What was the reward for their 4-5 record? A first-round trip to face No. 2 Bettendorf at Touvelle Stadium. The Bulldogs were a team that had qualified for the playoffs 17 years in a row. It would prove to be the only game of the year that was truly lopsided. The junkyard-tough Bulldogs prevailed, 35-7.

Jefferson was forced to settle for a 4-6 record. Yet their fans will attest, they were a spunky and entertaining group to watch. They carried themselves like winners and played for each other in a way that gave west-side fans hope their team could prevail each week. After a six-year absence, it was good to be involved in the post season again.


The 2014 season was a watershed year for a slowly recovering Jefferson football program laying dormant for well over a decade. Brian Webb began 2015 in his fourth season as the head man. These J-Hawk seniors never knew anyone else as Jefferson’s coach. They understood the expectations and the system. And yet, Webb was nowhere near satisfied with a four-win season and being just one of 32 teams (out of 48) to compete in the playoffs. Higher expectations were required.

For a second year, the west side-east side rivalry opened the slate. The Warriors were coming off a state runner-up finish and found themselves highly ranked once again. With the score knotted, 14-14, entering the fourth quarter, the J-Hawks let it slip away late, losing 27-14. The annual battle for southwest-side supremacy followed. An angry bunch of J-Hawks— not at all happy about the final-stanza collapse the week before, or the fact Jeff had not beaten Prairie in 15 years— went to John Wall Memorial Field ready to stand their ground. Quarterback Eivins scored a whopping five touchdowns and the offense exploded for 55 points, unleashing a flood of emotion. “You could say we have a big play offense,” said a smiling Brian Webb in his postgame analysis.

After the emotional win two “gimmes” appeared for a second year in a row. Davenport North and West had offered little resistance the previous year. In 2015, both games were held in Kingston Stadium and there was no letdown. North succumbed 35-6 and West allowed the Jefferson offense nine trips into the end zone yielding, 62-12.

The Cougars proved too great an adversary for a surging group of west siders. But then, Kennedy would have its way with every team on the schedule— all the way into to the state championship game, which it lost to Dowling Catholic. Green bested Blue, 35-7. This was the only game of the season in which the J-Hawks were never competitive.

The Cedar Falls game was another matter. A late Tiger field goal sealed Jeff’s fate, losing 34-31. Webb knew his team let one slip away against a quality opponent, “We felt coming in we were the better team. But you can’t have four turnovers and beat a team like CF. They’ll make you pay.”

Back to their winning ways, the J-Hawks pounded Waterloo West, 44-15, in a game that saw Keenan Stewart block three punts— a school record. The regular season finale with Linn-Mar was also all Jefferson, 43-16, launching the team into the playoffs with its first winning season since 2000. It was the second year in a row the J-Hawks were part of the playoff field. They were hungry to make amends for an early exit the last time. No Jefferson team had won a playoff tilt since 1992, and the players sensed it was their time.

Round one pitted the J-Hawks against Dubuque Senior. The Jeff-Senior game was set for Ash Park, on the campus of Cornell College in Mt. Vernon. Finding themselves down early, 21-6, the J-Hawks regrouped and unleashed four touchdowns in a span of five minutes to blow the game wide open, cruising to the 61-43 victory.

A round two rematch with the crosstown Warriors took place five days later. This was not the first time Jeff and Wash had renewed pleasantries twice in the same season. It was the third time, in fact, with each team winning the rematch once. On this night, a carbon copy of the season opener verified neither team got any better or worse in the ensuing 11 weeks. The score was deadlocked in the fourth quarter, once again. In winning, 42-21, the Warriors claimed advancement rights, courtesy of four Jeff turnovers. The season ended 7-4 with two losses to Wash and one to Kennedy. Kennedy defeated the Warriors in the next round. This would be the best Cougar team in the 48-year history of the school. They advanced, undefeated, into the state championship game before bowing to Dowling Catholic.


At this juncture, it proves helpful to recount the story of the Webb era after four seasons: 1-8, 1-8, 4-6 and 7-4. Jefferson football players were soundly onboard and trending upward. They had painstakingly climbed out of the pit the once-proud program had fallen into.

Ultra-stiff competition commenced immediately in the four non-district games. Before ever lining up against foes in their playoff qualifying district, Jefferson was 0-4, having been outscored 166-66. They were not even mildly competitive in lopsided losses to Pleasant Valley, 31-7, Prairie, 38-14, or Kennedy, 52-7. They came out on the wrong end of a back-and-forth shootout with Linn-Mar, 45-38.
But remarkably, Jeff’s playoff contention was unaffected. With five district contests remaining, the J-Hawks simply needed to be first or second (of six) when the dust settled. To complicate matters, two of Jeff’s district opponents were top-ten ranked juggernauts that had breezed through the preliminary rounds unbeaten. In fact, looking ahead for a moment, those two would each go on to finish the regular season 8-1, while easily claiming the two automatic playoff bids from District 5.

Fifth-ranked Washington happily laid waste to the J-Hawks 44-0. The next week Waterloo West brought the best Wahawk team in two decades to Kingston. For a while, it seemed the J-Hawks had regrouped and were ready for an upset. They found themselves ahead 20-14 at intermission. But after the break, to quote Coach Webb, “It was like a grenade went off— BOOM. They put up 3 scores in a row and that was it. It wasn’t meant to be tonight.” The final was 35-20, in favor of Waterloo.

Despite being winless, two of Jeff’s final three opponents offered the expectation for victory. A feel good 50-0 win over a broken and bleeding Waterloo East unit helped to perk up spirits. This led to the prospect of an upset against a Cedar Falls team that had proven sluggish and was having an un-Tiger-like second half to its season. The J-Hawks yielded 14-10.

The curtain was drawn on a positive note. A 16-3 conquest of Mason City put an end to the autumn campaign. It was the first time a Jefferson team had ever played the Mohawks. The victory meant two of the last three 2016 skirmishes had been won. The long overdue upswing offered scant solace after the stinging rebuke of the first six assaults. But ultimately, the year-long mission was scuttled. Webb stated his J-Hawks were a much better team than their 2-7 record indicated. Also true was the fact his team had taken a major step backwards in his reconstruction plans. And it would ultimately take its toll on the skipper.


Insiders knew what was coming. The recession of Jefferson football in 2016 took a toll on its CEO. Said Webb, “We have to stay the course with what we believe in. There are challenges. It’s about finding what works for Jefferson High School and the needs of our kids. Some don’t have transportation, some can’t afford cleats, and many come to us having never experienced success. It is a jigsaw puzzle and it's up to us to put the pieces together. We connect the dots for them.” Hindsight always being 20-20, one could have seen what was coming in the next five months for the sixth-year head coach. His burden had become too heavy to bear. He looked in his bag of tricks, discovering it now empty.

The non-district slate was identical for a second year in a row. It began with playoff stalwarts Pleasant Valley, Kennedy and Prairie and also included a rising Linn-Mar squad, now coached by veteran Paul James who lateraled after nearly four decades at Washington.

In the opener, Jeff’s defense was unable to stop a swarming PV unit in yielding six touchdowns, 41-20. The next week the J-Hawk offense was shutout by a menacing Prairie defense, 28-0. However, the Linn-Mar skirmish proved to be a coming-out party of sorts for slot receiver Kyler Bell. In helping his team to the 27-20 J-Hawk win, the athletic and sure-handed senior scored on a nifty 91-yard pass play and a 54-yard screen pass on the final play of the first half.

Following a bare-fisted back alley loss to Kennedy, 21-3, it was time to tee-up the all important district slate. If Jeff could muster a top-two finish in its division, they would be playoff eligible, despite a 1-3 preliminary record. The first roadblock was Jeff’s enduring nemesis, Washington— now under the control of longtime-assistant Maurice Blue. After a scoreless first half, the Warriors converted just enough to hold off the delegation from the west, 21-18.

With two tight and emotional losses to inner-city teams in the rear-view mirror, there was no more room for error. At Waterloo West, the J-Hawks prevailed, 21-17. A punishing rout of the east-side Waterloo school, 42-12, set up a big showdown for postseason qualification rights in District 5. The J-Hawks were 3-4, but sat at 2-1 in its district. Beat Cedar Falls, and you punch your ticket, but come away empty handed and you are forced to play doormat Mason City in the season finale for pride alone. The 45-7 CF win was as lopsided as the score indicated.

A 34-7 feel-good lashing of the Mohawks concluded the regular season on a history-setting note. Gazette correspondent Matt Sulentic’s article detailing the contest trumpeted the news: “Bell Etches Name in Jefferson Lore.” Before the game concluded, Kyler Bell set three new school records. Two were registered that night for most receptions… in a season (39), and in a career (43). Those new figures erased records set in 1966 by the legendary Larry Baker. Bell also broke Sid Beck’s 2008 tally for reception yardage in a season. Bell established a new mark of 717 yards.

As rumored, in January, Brian Webb made the decision to move westward, accepting the head coaching position at Sioux City East. He was 19-38 at Jefferson after six seasons. Webb’s press release in-part read: “After much consideration and discussion with my family and close friends, I feel the time is right for new leadership at Jefferson. When I arrived, Jefferson had the state’s longest losing streak and my goal was to get it back to being competitive. We improved every year and the players continually fought, game after game, and that is something they should be extremely proud of.”

AD Chris Deam said Webb’s successor needed to be the right fit for the school’s clientele, noting the new man should “build on what had been established: accountability, school citizenship, high expectations… while also focusing on growing the roster at all levels.”

A more detailed profile of Coach Brian Webb
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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