WEBSTER CITY - Third- and fourth-and-long are usually uh-oh moments for an offense and punters are always waiting in the wings.
Storm Lake found itself in six of those situations - with seven or more yards to go on third or fourth down - Friday night at Lynx Field, and yet the Tornadoes punted just twice.
In actuality, those uh-oh moments belonged to the Webster City defense.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Webster City wingback Austin Myers (12) gets wrapped up near the line of scrimmage as tackle Landon Johnson (77) keeps a Storm Lake defender locked up during the second half Friday night at Lynx Field. The Tornadoes cleared a path with a lethal passing game in a 45-29 win.
Storm Lake (4-5) converted on 9 of 11 third down and 3 of 3 fourth down plays, and the Tornadoes notched four touchdowns of 24 or more yards in a 45-29 thumping of Webster City (4-5) in non-district play on the final night of the regular season.
After a dazzling start to the season, the seismic spiral downward continued for the Lynx with their fourth straight loss. They fell below .500 for the first time since they were 0-1 and now crawl into the Class 3A state playoffs where they'll face third-ranked and unbeaten Grinnell (9-0) on Wednesday on the Tigers' home turf.
WCHS head coach Bob Howard was noticeably irritated following Friday's loss in which his team racked up five fumbles and four total turnovers. The Lynx also gave up 20 unanswered points over the final 14 minutes, 59 seconds of regulation after taking a 29-25 lead on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Trey Tesdahl to Boone Myers with 2:59 left in the third quarter.
Storm Lake 12 13 7 13-45
Webster City 7 7 15 0-29
SL - Luke Lenhart 24 pass from Nic Seaman (kick failed), 5:51.
WCHS - Connor Larson 4 run (Kirk Greenley kick), 2:29.
SL - Lenhart 53 pass from Seaman (pass failed), 0:02.
WCHS - Larson 59 run (Greenley kick), 11:48.
SL - Seaman 2 run (pass failed), 3:39.
SL - Aaron Krier 7 run (Jorge Sanchez kick), 2:26.
WCHS - Trey Tesdahl 30 run (Larson run), 8:30.
WCHS - Boone Myers 6 pass from Tesdahl (Greenley kick), 2:59.
SL - Ethan Kenkel 72 pass from Seaman (Sanchez kick), 1:06.
SL - Krier 68 pass from Seaman (kick failed), 7:46.
SL - Jack Hartnett 2 run (Sanchez kick), 2:43.
Rushing - SL: Aaron Krier 25-98, Chase Lange 4-14, Nic Seaman 7-4, Jack Hartnett 2-1, Christian Morales 1-0. WCHS: Connor Larson 21-157, Trey Tesdahl 11-80, Austin Myers 8-39, Nelson Ball 1-5.
Passing - SL: Seaman 15-25-1 350. WCHS: Tesdahl 6-14-2 83.
Receiving - SL: Luke Lenhart 4-119, Ethan Kenkel 3-95, Krier 1-68, Jay Grant 4-36, Cole Feltner 2-26, Hartnett 1-6. WCHS: Ben Mossman 3-44, Boone Myers 3-39.
Tackles - WCHS: Ball 13.5, Larson 5, Dylan Fielder 5, Mossman 4.5, Gus Gasca 4, A. Myers 3.5, Brandon Patten 3, Tyler Lockwood 3, B. Myers 2.5, Tesdahl 1, Chris Goodrich 1, Alex Lomeli 1, Cooper Jaycox 1, Alex Hinz 1, Doug Stoakes .5.
"I apologize to these seniors, I apologize to the town and I apologize to everybody because obviously I can't get (this team) ready to play," Howard said. "I have no clue how to get any excitement in there and that's the responsibility of the head coach. I'm the one that gets the hype, so if they aren't cutting it then it's my fault."
Storm Lake senior quarterback Nic Seaman decimated the Lynx secondary, completing 15 of 25 passes to six different targets for 350 yards and four long touchdowns. Luke Lenhart caught three balls for 119 yards and two scores, and Ethan Kenkel hauled in three catches for 95 yards and another score.
Both of Lenhart's touchdowns came in the opening quarter to help the Tornadoes build a 12-7 lead. He clutched onto a 24-yard fade pass in the corner of the end zone on fourth-and-10 on Storm Lake's first drive of the game, and later in the period he got open over the middle and took it 53 yards to the house.
"The kid (Seaman) is good and they threw the ball well," Howard said. "And now we get to go play the best passing team in the state on Wednesday."
Kenkel's 72-yard touchdown reception - on third-and-22 no less - came with 1:06 left in the third quarter to put the Tornadoes up for good, 32-29.
Seaman essentially put the game on ice with 7:46 remaining when, on third-and-10, he rolled to his right, turned and lofted a screen pass to tailback Aaron Krier on the other side of the field. Krier made two tacklers miss and then outran everybody else to the end zone for a 68-yard score.
"We were outmatched by their receivers and their quarterback," Howard said. "We weren't able to get any pressure on (Seaman), and when we did we flushed him without keeping contain, so he was able to scramble."
Krier added 98 yards rushing on 25 carries, and scored on a 7-yard scamper late in the first half to give Storm Lake a 25-14 edge at intermission. Seaman also had a 2-yard touchdown run in the opening half.
Storm Lake finished with 467 yards of total offense, compared to 364 for WCHS. The Lynx received 157 yards on the ground from tailback Connor Larson; he went off for 119 and two touchdowns on scampers of 4 and 59 yards in the first half.
Tesdahl gave WCHS momentum to start the third quarter with a 30-yard sprint to the end zone on a read option, and following an Austin Myers interception the junior spinback drove the Lynx back down the field and hit Boone Myers with a jump pass in the end zone on fourth-and-2 from the Tornadoes' 6 to push the Lynx in front.
"Austin Myers made a play with that interception and that got some fire in (the players)," Howard said.
Tesdahl accounted for 163 yards of offense; he rushed for 80 yards on 11 totes and completed 6 of 14 passes for 83 yards. He was intercepted twice.
Ben Mossman made three catches for 44 yards, and Boone Myers' three grabs covered 39 yards in the loss.
Middle linebacker Nelson Ball made 13 solo tackles for the Lynx defense.
Howard knows Wednesday's task is no easy chore, and it wouldn't be even if WCHS was riding a four-game winning streak instead of the opposite. Grinnell quarterback Eli Dunne has thrown for more than 2,000 yards this season.
"This is the epitome of a one (seed) versus a four (seed), and there's nothing we can change in five days," Howard said. "And they're going to be a lot better on offense and they're going to be a lot better on defense (than Storm Lake)."