WEBSTER CITY – Midterm exams began one week ago, but the toughest test to date for the Webster City football team will come tonight.
Last week’s dominant 35-7 rout of Ballard was no doubt satisfying, but the Lynx quickly moved on to preparation for Class 3A District 2 co-leader Dallas Center-Grimes (4-1, 3-0), which will invade Lynx Field just prior to tonight’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
Webster City (4-1, 2-1) was at its best against the Bombers, there’s no doubt about that. Running, blocking, tackling; the Lynx thrived in pretty much every phase of the game.
But the time to enjoy that win over a Bombers’ team that WCHS head coach Bob Howard tabbed as the preseason favorite in the district has long since past. Besides, Dallas Center-Grimes has beaten Ballard, too.
“We’ve been bringing (the kids) back to Earth all week, and (Wednesday night) was the best practice we’ve had all year,” Howard said. “It was a great performance (against Ballard), but it’s done and now we’re going to play a team that also beat Ballard.”
The Mustangs handed Ballard its first loss of the season, 16-14, during Week 4 on a late touchdown. DC-G did it without starting quarterback Damon Clapper, but he returned from injury a week ago and Howard expects him to be at full strength tonight.
“I think he is a big difference maker, a big playmaker,” Howard said of Clapper, who has completed 24 of 55 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns this season. “They didn’t use him a whole lot in the running game (last week) against Perry, but I expect him to run the ball more against us. They run zone read stuff with him and straight quarterback runs, too.”
Throw in speedster tailback Nathan Brown and the Mustangs pose a dangerous threat to a WCHS defense that ranks 12th in 3A in points allowed per game at 14.2. The Lynx will receive lifts from returning defensive end Cole Briese and linebacker Caleb Olson; Briese watched in street clothes a week ago, while Olson played sparingly while recovering from a knee injury.
“Caleb has looked good this week,” Howard said.
Brown ranks second in the district in rushing yards with 642 and he’s reached the end zone eight times.
“He runs hard if there’s a crack, he’ll hit it,” Howard said of Brown. “He doesn’t have huge numbers, but if Clapper takes some of the attention then that will increase how dangerous Brown is.”
Who does Brown trail on the district rushing hierarchy? That would be WCHS senior Robert Frederiksen. And the size of the gap? A whopping 250 yards, and Frederiksen has played in one fewer game.
The Lynx will put their No. 1-ranked (3A) ground game up against a stingy Mustang defense that has allowed just one player to rush for 100 yards this season. DC-G sits right behind WCHS in scoring defense, allowing just 14.6 points per game.
Howard concedes that DC-G has a talented defense and the Lynx will have their work cut out for them. But the Mustangs haven’t faced a running team that can compare to WCHS either.
“On tape they looked very good defensively against the people they’ve played and they’re good against the run,” Howard said. “It’s going to be a good challenge and that’s certainly how we’ve prepared all week.”
DC-G will try to become the first opponent to slow Frederiksen down. The 210-pound senior is second in 3A in rushing yards (892) and he averages 223 yards per game. As a team, WCHS piles up 393.2 yards an outing.
Where the Mustangs will have an advantage is with depth. The size of their roster allows them to have mostly one-way players and over the course of 48 minutes in the trenches that certainly can alter the outcome.
“We don’t play very many kids both ways, to be honest, but practice is a challenge because we don’t have a lot of kids to run the scout team,” Howard said. “So in practice is where (that depth) is significant, but you only get to play 11 at a time.”
A victory tonight would be significant for the Lynx playoff chances, while a loss would make it a serious challenge to reach the postseason next month. In other words, the stakes are just as high as they were last week and WCHS rose to the occasion.