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CCA’s Friday night lights get a little help from a star

Clipper football kicks off the season in a big way with singer Jake McVey
Country music performer Jake McVey interacts with a pair of young fans while performing on the Clear Creek Amana sideline Friday, Aug. 7. (photos by Chris Umscheid)

TIFFIN– There are many ways to conduct a fundraiser, but when Clear Creek Amana (CCA) coach Matt Hughes went looking for a way to raise some additional money for the high school football program, he decided to go big.
“I like to think outside the box in a lot of things I do and do things that are different,” Hughes said as the crowd filtered into the Clippers’ stadium in Tiffin for the first CCA Football Kick-Off to Friday Night Lights on Aug. 7. The event featured silent and live auctions, autographed T-shirts signed by the varsity seniors and the introduction of the marching band and fall sports athletes. It culminated in a concert, on the sideline, by Iowa native and country music performer Jake McVey.
Hughes and assistant coach Mark Mitchell have known the rising country star for several years. He sang his hit “Anything is Possible” at a team dinner last season.
“He told (the team) his story and where he’s from, and the hard work it takes for him to do what he does and that’s made him successful,” Hughes said, adding the message resonated with the team.
“Quite honestly, that was before the Davenport Assumption game and we played pretty well that game,” he said. “If he plays before the season, maybe we’d have a really good season.”
CCA won the Davenport Assumption game 27-0, on their way to a 7-3 record on the season that included the first district championship in school history
“My wife said, ‘Why don’t we get Jake to play on the 50-yard line?’ And, at first I thought she was crazy,” Hughes said. “But then I got to thinking about it and went and talked to the administration about it, see what they’d say, and it’s just gone from there.”
McVey’s stage was set up on the sideline, well off the playing surface, but with enough space for the student body to gather in front. McVey even jumped off the stage and jammed among the students during the concert.
The event also marked the shake-down cruise of the Clippers’ new “Clipper,” a boat on a golf cart chassis outfitted with a T-shirt cannon and CCA Clippers sail. The CCA Foundation will sponsor a football toss during the home games as a fundraiser for scholarships. Participants will toss small footballs at a barrel inside the boat as it “sails” by.
Dan Steines of Big Country Seeds purchased the boat from the Peoria Pirates arena football team, had CCA graphics applied and donated it to the program.
Coach Hughes unveiled the vessel to the team at the end of the last day of football camp.
“I had them all facing (away from the equipment room and home stands), and had it pull out onto the field while they weren’t watching. I said, ‘Hey, I want to introduce you to your new mascot,’ they turned around and just flooded it. It was the coolest thing I ever saw.”
Also cool in Hughes’ eyes are the CCA parents.
“We have some of the best parents I’ve ever been around. This (event) has been a lot to pull off and we’ve had some unbelievable participation from the parents. Everything you see out here has been done by parent volunteers, and it just couldn’t have been done without them.”
Along with strong parental support, Hughes noted, the Clipper community has been supportive of the team and CCA’s athletic and extra-curricular programs in general. But when it comes to football, he said, there’s something special.
“I really love this time of year and the excitement that builds amongst the community leading into football season,” he said. “I thought it’d be just awesome to have an event that brought people out, just thinking about football and the fall sports and all the fall extra-curricular activities.”
The season opens with a scrimmage against Iowa City Regina at Clipper Field on Friday, Aug. 21, at 6 p.m. The Clippers host the Stormin’ Pointers of Center Point-Urbana for week one of the regular season on Friday, Aug. 28, with the freshmen kicking off at 5 p.m. and the varsity game following around 7:30 p.m.