HUXLEY - Staring at a goose egg on his side of the scoreboard isn't a common occurrence for Bob Howard, and the veteran football coach doesn't like it one bit on those rare instances when it does happen.
Friday night was one of those rarities.
Webster City was blanked for just the second time in Howard's five-plus seasons in charge at Rich Strouse Field, as Ballard (1-0) put the brakes on two Lynx drives in the red zone and came up with just enough big plays to roll to a 27-0 victory in the season opener for both teams.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Webster City senior defensive tackle Chris Goodrich (99) drags down Ballard quarterback Caleb Schafbuch for the sack in the second half on Friday in Huxley, one of three sacks for the Lynx on the night. The Bombers mustered just 80 total rushing yards, yet won convincingly, 27-0.
The only other time a Howard-led Lynx squad was shutout was back on Oct. 8, 2010 - a 35-0 loss to Clear Lake.
"I haven't been shutout very dang often, and that's probably the toughest thing to take because I figured we'd get loose at least once or twice," Howard said after WCHS saw its two-year run of Week 1 wins came to a halt. "We've got a lot of work to do on offense, but I don't think we're as bad as we looked because that's as good a defense as we'll see for probably five weeks. They were a little bit better on defense than I thought they would be, and I thought they would be good."
Ballard's defensive front five owned the line of scrimmage, using its speed and athleticism to swarm the Lynx ball carriers time and time again. WCHS was stuffed for no gain or negative yardage on 16 of its 43 run plays, and the visitors chewed up only 123 total yards on the ground - an average of just 2.9 yards per carry.
The Lynx (0-1) were forced into five three-and-out series, including on all three of their fourth-quarter possessions.
"They were fast and we couldn't sustain blocks very well," Howard said. "I think there's a decent offensive line there, but right now we're going to challenge them big time. Some of these guys have waited three years to play and they better act like they're excited to play, otherwise they're going to watch."
Junior tailback Connor Larson - making his first start as the Lynx primary ball carrier - led the WCHS rushing attack with 66 gritty yards on 18 carries. Most of his total came after contact, as he sometimes bulled ahead with two and three Bombers hanging on his back.
"Connor is going to be a dang good tailback." Howard said. "That was a heck of a first game to try to break in."
Junior spinback Alex Oswald picked up 39 yards on 15 totes, and junior wingback Trey Tesdahl churned out 18 yards on 10 attempts.
Surprisingly though, Ballard outgained WCHS by only 5 yards, 172-167. The Bombers managed just 80 yards rushing on 30 carries, and that included a 31-yard touchdown sprint on a quarterback keeper by Caleb Schafbuch that put Ballard in front, 7-0, with 4:48 remaining in the first quarter. Schafbuch was sacked three times by Alex Lomeli, Dylan Fielder and Chris Goodrich.
"The defensive front played dang well," Howard said. "They broke the quarterback run and that's my fault because we hadn't practiced against that."
Schafbuch did find success through the air, completing 8-of-12 passes for 92 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown strike to Dillon Hansen with 3:48 left in the second quarter that put the Bombers in front 14-0 at the half.
Lynx sophomore defensive back Cal Zahn was in position to make the interception on the touchdown toss, but the ball skirted through his fingers and landed in Hansen's lap near the sideline. Hansen trotted the remaining five yards into the end zone.
"Cal Zahn was right in position on that play, but this is his first game and crap happens," Howard said. "He didn't play defensive back last year, so he was playing a new position and things like that are going to happen."
WCHS had several golden opportunities to get on the scoreboard in the opening 24 minutes, but Ballard made the defensive stops at opportune times.
The Bombers stuffed Larson on a fourth-and-4 run at the Ballard 33-yard line on the Lynx opening drive of the game. Early in the second quarter, WCHS drove down to the Ballard 19, but a fourth-down pass by Oswald into the end zone was batted down.
Following the Bombers' second score, WCHS pushed all the way down to the Ballard 7 as time ticked down on the first half. Oswald again lofted a pass into the end zone, this time in the direction of senior tight end Boone Myers as time expired, but again the Bomber secondary swatted the ball to the ground.
Oswald completed 4-of-12 passes for 44 yards in his first start. He was intercepted once.
The dagger came early in the third quarter when, on third-and-long, WCHS fumbled the ball in the backfield at its own 30. Ballard defensive tackle Kordell Lettow scooped it up and went unencumbered to the house for a 20-0 Bomber cushion.
"It was the perfect storm of stuff going wrong," Howard said. "It's hard to keep your composure when it's your first (game) and things aren't going well."
Ballard tailback Jacob Bernholtz tacked on a 1-yard touchdown run later in the third quarter to push the margin to 27. He picked up 48 yards on 21 carries - tops in the Bomber backfield.
Tesdahl and Myers both had four tackles in the loss - part of a defensive unit that limited Ballard to no gain or negative yardage on 15 occasions. Oswald and Gus Gasca were both in on 3.5 stops.
WCHS will make its home debut on Friday when it welcomes Gilbert (1-0) to Lynx Field for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The Tigers knocked off Collins-Maxwell-Baxter, 34-32, in their opener.