Another week, another drive to Cedar Falls.

This is another early morning drive for me – probably getting up and being on the road no later than 5 a.m. – to get to the UNI-Dome by 8:30 a.m. and a good parking space.

I’m sure the parking lot will fill fairly quickly: It’s a pair of first-time state championship game opponents, with CAM taking on Easton Valley.

There’s a couple of Quad City connections here. I noted in my story – and have also in a few past stories – the ties CAM coach Barry Bower has to eastern Iowa. That’s when he spent three years at Durant High School, from 2007-2010. His first year was understudying the school’s athletic director and coach, who was also in his first (and only) year as head coach. It was a tough year, losing most of their games by double digits in a decent Iowa Class 2A district, but the Wildcats came back to win the last game of the year over Danville-New London (who were in a cooperative program at the time) in convincing fashion.

Bower took over in 2008, and although his teams won just five games over his two-year stint, the Durant program, which had more downs than ups earlier in the decade, was definitely on its way up.

I covered a lot of Durant football when I was at the North Scott Press, and they – like CAM – had good community support and players who competed hard, regardless of who they were playing. I guess the win I remember most from that era was a signature homecoming win over Wapello, which was a come-from-behind victory where the front line buckled down late, got a defensive stop and scored a late touchdown to win.

Barry Bower definitely left Durant a better program than before. I believed it 12 years ago. I believe it now.

That NSP (and sister paper, the Wilton-Durant Advocate News) was, by the way, the only media as far as I could tell to have any writeup of the win over Danville-New London.

The other connection is with Easton Valley ... the school district where my aunt and uncle (from my mom’s side) live. Mom’s youngest sister, Joanne, married a young man named Bob who grew up in Sabula, the island city that sits (literally) on the Mississippi River, just across the way from Savanna, Ill., and about 15 miles north of Clinton. My uncle went to Iowa State University, where he lived in a house on campus with a young man named Alan, who happened to be dating my mother’s other sister, Nancy, the middle girl in the family. Alan brought Bob struck up a friendship, and one weekend came home, Bob and Joanne met, and the rest is history.

And yes, Alan and Nancy married – some 56 years ago. Bob and Joanne, during the tale end of the infamous summer of love in 1967. Still married today and as close as ever.

A few years ago, I visited Alan and Nancy for Easter ... and we spent a few hours taking about how he and Bob met, how they had to deal with the landlord ... and a lot more. Some neat stories. Even learned a little bit more about Mom and her first husband, Marlan, who died in a car accident in 1962 ... as it turned out, during the very height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I heard of the time she and Nancy (while Alan was away at college) went for a ride in Marlan’s new 1961 Chevrolet Impala ... complete with the most souped-up engine available and a four-speed floor shifted transmission. Somehow, one afternoon, he decided to see how fast the car could go ... and let’s just say the car could go at least 110 mph.

Anyhow, back to Bob and Joanne. For years, they lived between DeWitt and Maquoketa, north of the Quad Cities, before moving to a home overlooking the Mississippi River just outside of Sabula.

It’s a beautiful view of the river they have.

And with that, let’s play state championship football.

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