Lions answer early call for new football season

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 8/5/23


The pounding heat of July hadn’t yet retreated, and Lone Tree’s football Lions were already on their practice field early Monday evening.

That’s what a Week 0 …

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Lions answer early call for new football season



The pounding heat of July hadn’t yet retreated, and Lone Tree’s football Lions were already on their practice field early Monday evening.

That’s what a Week 0 game in another midwestern state does for you.

Opening their preseason camp a week earlier than anybody else around here, the Lions ran plays to focus both on offense and defense. They pounded out sprints, four laps at a time.

Senior quarterback Ethan Bockelman jumped up for a snap from center and then sprinted ahead between defenders and coaches.

And just like that, football season had arrived.

Instead of opening their season August 25, as most Iowa teams will do, the Lions will head east nearly 180 miles on August 18 to play Parkview Christian Academy in the outer Chicago suburbs, in Yorkville. Parkview Christian has a total student population of less than 300 and is in the second year of a varsity football program, but in eight-man, not 11-man.

This so-called Week 0 game will give Lone Tree a bye week in the third week of the season.

But all those details mattered little Monday as the Lions began practice under the close examination of head coach Joe Donovan and a handful of assistant coaches dispensing instructions to the 20 or so players.

In addition to Bockelman, the Lions starting quarterback last year, the team features a group of underclassmen and returnees including seniors Jader Sanchez and Dominic Graap, juniors Brody Magruder and Jack Patterson, and sophomore Emmett Burke.

For other teams, that opening practice will come August 7 with some playing a preseason scrimmage on the night that the Lions head toward Chicago for their first game.

New AD in Town

When Mid-Prairie opens its football season August 25 against Wellman, there’ll be a change along the Golden Hawks sideline, and in the press box and in the stands and at the admissions gate and every other place an athletics director is supposed to be.

Pete Cavanagh, the winningest football coach in school history, is now Mid-Prairie’s athletics and activities director. He takes over for Tyler Hotz, who is now the superintendent of schools in Lone Tree and will be busy himself on August 25 as the Lions host Iowa Valley that night in their home opener.

Cavanagh began his duties as AD in July when the Golden Hawks were still in baseball and softball season.

“Our school has been successful in many different activities in my time here as teacher and coach,” Cavanagh said. “Our diversity of success is a strength.”

Cavanagh will direct activities at both the high school in Wellman and the middle school in Kalona, so there’s a guy you’ll see pretty regularly on Highway 22.

“I will definitely miss teaching my classes,” said Cavanagh, who was a social studies teacher at the high school. “I’m a teacher at heart. Looking forward to this leadership opportunity and chance to impact our school culture and success.”

Meanwhile, down on the football field, one of Cavanagh’s football assistants will take over as head coach. Daren Lambert, formerly the defensive coordinator, will take on the head coaching role and will also be offensive coordinator, as Cavanagh was. Lambert will continue as the school’s head coach in men’s basketball.

Laughlin: Back to back state champ

Dani Laughlin, a 2023 graduated senior at Iowa City Regina Catholic and a Riverside resident, finished off her high school softball career with another state championship in July.

Laughlin, an incoming freshman and softball scholarship recruit at NCAA DI Texas State, had a hit and scored a run in the Regals’ 6-2 win over Van Meter in the 2A softball state championship game played July 21 in Fort Dodge.

The Regals, a 2A power playing in the River Valley Conference, won 30 games this summer.

Laughlin’s batting average of .604 ranked number one in 2A and fourth in Iowa, all classes. She is expected to play in the outfield for Texas State, which won 35 games this past spring and advanced to the NCAA Regionals at Austin, Texas. The Bobcats’ season typically begins in February.

Laughlin also helped the Regals win a 2A state title in 2022.

News columnist Paul Bowker can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @bowkerpaul

Lone Tree football, Mid-Prairie, football, Dani Laughlin, Regina