WEBSTER CITY - Numbers are fun to talk about and debate, but they can also be quite deceiving.
Take the Charles City football team, for example. The numbers would lead you to believe that this is a team that can be picked off without much of a fight. The Comets (0-2) have been blanked twice so far this season and will step onto the grass at Lynx Field tonight riding a 16-game losing streak.
Charles City, which is 1-19 since the start of the 2011 season, hasn't won in almost two years (it was Sept. 16, 2011, to be exact, when it knocked off Independence 28-14).
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Webster City senior middle linebacker Nelson Ball (facing) talks to head coach Bob Howard (back turned) and assistant coach Marty McKinney during the Lynx Week 1 13-0 victory over Ballard. Ball has 18 tackles through two games entering tonight’s Class 3A District 3 opener against Charles City at 7:30 p.m.
But 10th-ranked Webster City (2-0) isn't about to let its guard down as it gets set for the Class 3A District 3 opener at 7:30 p.m.
"If you don't know what their record is they don't look bad at all," WCHS head coach Bob Howard said after viewing the Comets on film. "I think they're a pretty good 0-2 team."
Charles City's seemingly never-ending stretch of futility almost came to an end the last time these two teams butted helmets. WCHS was forced to rally late in the fourth quarter for a 28-21 victory last season.
Defense has clearly been the strength of both programs so far this fall. WCHS is one of the state's leaders in points allowed - the Lynx have surrendered just six in back-to-back wins over Ballard and Gilbert - and Charles City didn't exactly make it easy against two formidable opponents. The Comets dropped a 19-0 decision to New Hampton in Week 1 and then fell to Waukon 28-0 last Friday.
Waukon is ranked No. 1 in 2A by the Associated Press, while New Hampton sits just outside the 2A top 10.
"They play good defense and they did move the ball against Waukon, they just never finished," Howard said. "I think their strength is their defense. They've got a pretty physical defensive front, so that's going to be a challenge for us and it's something we've been working really hard on."
Ballard and Gilbert both loaded up the box with nine and 10 players to stop the Lynx rushing attack and that's not likely to change until they can show consistent success in the passing game.
WCHS spinback Trey Tesdahl has completed 8-of-18 passes for 140 yards and three touchdowns, but too many times he's been forced out of the pocket after his protection has broken down.
"We're going to have to protect the passer and hit some passes to back them up a little bit," Howard said. "If they're able to play 10 or 11 guys up, we're going to have a heck of a time."
The Lynx usually potent running game ranks second to last in District 3, ahead of only Charles City. But senior tailback Connor Larson is No. 2 individually with 215 yards and a pair of scores; he averages six yards per carry, although that's helped by the fact that he broke off a 70-yard touchdown run against Ballard.
Howard says continued work on run and pass blocking in practice should pay dividends this week and in future games.
"Usually the strength of our teams has been the offensive line, so we're working on it," he said. "It's been a combination of inexperience and the heat hasn't helped at all because our practices have been so short. But the kids' attitudes are good and they're taking the constructive criticism well ... they're trying to get after it."
Charles City's offense has struggled even more, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry out of the I-formation. Quarterback Levi Miller has completed just 26 percent of his passes for 24 total yards and a pair of interceptions.
But Howard says the Comets did show signs of offensive growth against Waukon until there were breakdowns.
"The shoot themselves in the foot quite often," he said. "They haven't thrown real well because they haven't had time, so hopefully we can keep the pressure on them.
"If we're physical enough to handle them at the point of attack then we should be OK. And we play pretty good defense."