WEBSTER CITY - Unless something unexpected happens over the final three weeks of the regular season, Webster City will march on to the state playoffs for a sixth consecutive season.
A decade ago reaching the postseason would have been good enough to incite a weekend-long celebration. But the times have changed.
Just getting there certainly isn't what the Lynx are dreaming of heading into tonight's Class 3A District 3 showdown with Waverly-Shell Rock at 7:30 p.m.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
It takes two Clear Lake defenders to bring down Webster City fullback Dylan Fielder following a short pass reception last Saturday morning in Clear Lake. The Lynx will try to rebound from their first loss tonight when they host Waverly-Shell Rock at 7:30 p.m.
"We want to play at home, so we are definitely playing for second in the district and we control our own fate," WCHS head coach Bob Howard said.
The Lynx (5-1, 3-1) know the district title is probably out of the equation after last week's 22-7 loss to fourth-ranked Clear Lake - a setback that booted WCHS out of the AP Top 10 for the first time in nearly a month. But the runner-up spot and the chance to host a first-round playoff game later this month are nice consolation prizes.
Waverly-Shell Rock (4-2, 2-1) wants the same things though.
"Right now we're playing to have a one-loss season, but they're good," Howard said of the Go-Hawks. "They were ranked at the start of the year and they'll be much bigger than we are."
W-SR's lone district loss was also to Clear Lake, and the Go-Hawks - a perfect 3-0 on the road this season - are coming off a momentum-building 20-19 victory over Humboldt last week.
The Go-Hawks also pushed second-ranked and defending state champion Decorah to the limit before falling 17-14 in Week 1.
In other words, WCHS will be in a dog fight tonight at Lynx Field.
"This is a huge game and I thought it was going to be before the season started," Howard said.
Go-Hawks' junior quarterback Jake Velky is one of the district's best dual-threat players and he'll challenge a WCHS defense that did nothing to damage its sterling reputation in the loss to Clear Lake. Velky has thrown for 691 yards and eight touchdowns without an interception, and he's also rushed for 255 yards and two more scores.
Velky was the driving force behind W-SR's win over Humboldt; he completed 15 of 26 passes for 274 yards and two TDs.
Velky was also under center a season ago when the Go-Hawks trumped WCHS, 24-8.
"They've got very good receivers and a good quarterback who is very athletic," Howard said. "They're in a lot of spread stuff and that's dangerous because of (Velky's) scrambling."
WCHS will be helped by the return of starting free safety Tyler Lockwood, who watched in street clothes last week while nursing a rib injury he sustained in the first half against Algona on Sept. 27. Lockwood is also the Lynx leading punt returner and a wide receiver.
"We're anxious to get him back," Howard said. "When you take your free safety off the field it makes a difference, so hopefully having him back will get us back to where we were."
Howard's offense was handcuffed by the Lions and limited to fewer than 200 yards of total offense. The Lynx will face another tough defensive front tonight; the Go-Hawks allow just 14 points per game and limited three opponents to single digits.