WEBSTER CITY - Bob Howard provided the hint in the preseason when he mentioned - somewhat off the cuff - that his defense had the potential to be pretty special.
It's one thing to say the words. It's another to make it happen.
So far, the Webster City players are making their coach look smart.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
WCHS junior nose guard Dylan Fielder (left) forces Gilbert quarterback Jordan Knock out of the pocket during the first half last Friday at Lynx Field.
Through two games, the Lynx defense has allowed just 156 total rushing yards, and opponents Ballard and Gilbert combined to average a meager 2.9 yards per carry. Neither foe reached 200 yards of total offense.
WCHS (1-1) will be out to even improve upon those numbers tonight when it opens up Class 3A District 3 play at Charles City (0-2). Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Howard, in his sixth year in charge of the Lynx program, says the amped up defensive unit has reaped the rewards of a lot of hard work in the offseason.
"It's speed and quickness. The kids that are playing have all been highly invested in the strength and conditioning, and speed programs that we've put it," Howard said. "You can almost go player by player down the line and a lot of them have had that growth and development."
Howard points to junior starting defensive end Gus Gasca as a prime example of what has transpired.
"Look at Gus, last year he weighed 175 (pounds), and now he's at 215," he said. "Last year he was benching 220 and now he's putting up 320, and he's even faster now."
Gasca and fellow defensive linemen Boone Myers, Dylan Fielder, Chris Goodrich and Alex Lomeli - among others - have provided the pressure up front, and linebackers Nelson Ball and Rylee Lawson have cleaned up the messes. Ball and Lawson have combined for 14 solo tackles, and the unit as a whole has already racked up six sacks.
"When there's a hole it closes pretty quick because of the speed," Howard said. "Hopefully that's going to continue."
Charles City's offense has been unspectacular in losses to New Hampton (28-6) and Waukon (36-2). The Comets have generated just 164 yards in two games, 98 coming in the rushing department.
Waukon limited Charles City to a miniscule 52 yards last week.
But WCHS isn't about to think it can make the long bus trip and put it on cruise control. Howard simply doesn't operate that way.
"Obviously it's important to get off to a good step in the district," he said. "New Hampton and Waukon are both good football teams, and (Charles City) struggled against those teams offensively, but we don't want them to get healthy against us."
The Comets will look to score out of a pistol formation - similar to what Gilbert used with little effectiveness against the Lynx last week.
"They're close to Gilbert with the dive, the quarterback and pitch man," Howard said. "We played the option pretty well against Gilbert, so hopefully we'll continue to do that this week."
The WCHS offense roared to life last week with more than 400 yards of offense in the 55-13 win over Gilbert. Tailback Connor Larson and spinback Alex Oswald both reached 100 yards rushing, and back-up tailback Austin Myers piled up 74 in limited carries.
Howard says the addition of Myers to the backfield only adds to the team's weaponry, and it also allows for the potential of Larson contributing on defense at linebacker.
"Myers is a very good, natural running back. He cuts well, he reads well and he's fast," Howard said. "Connor isn't slow by any means, and he's going to try to run over you."
Wingback Trey Tesdahl has been held in check so far, but Howard thinks he's ready to have a breakout game.
"Trey is good and we sure want him to have eight to 10 carries per game," Howard said. "You've got to figure he's going to break two or three normally, but we just haven't had any room because our guys have been in the way, to be honest. But our offense is getting better every day, and hopefully we'll see some benefit from it (tonight)."