Gilbert halts Lynx regular season win streak at 13

GILBERT – There are no do overs, not in life and certainly not on the football field. If there were – if Webster City could have one sequence, just one, to replay – then the odds are good the goose egg in the loss column would still stand.

One call. One pass. One interception. One return that went from one sideline to the other. The reality is that it did happen and it was the trigger to what turned out to be the Lynx first regular season loss in almost 23 months courtesy of Class 3A District 2 rival Gilbert, 31-25, at rain-soaked Tiger Stadium Friday night.

On the final play of the first half, with WCHS in command 22-14 and some 60 yards away from the end zone, the Lynx opted to take a shot rather than sit on the lead. But the wayward pass from spinback Drew Fielder landed in the hands of Tigers’ linebacker Cody Dvorak near the WCHS sideline, and a sprint across the field and down the other sideline translated into a 62-yard return for a touchdown that turned the tide – particularly with momentum – for good.

“It was a very poor coach’s call. We should have gone into halftime with (an eight-point lead) … that cost us the ballgame as far as I’m concerned,” WCHS head coach Bob Howard said after his team saw its 13-game regular season winning streak end.

The pick-six was part of a 16-point surge for Gilbert (1-0 District 2, 3-0 overall), which trailed 22-7 after a safety with 5:43 remaining in the second quarter. The Tigers outscored WCHS (0-1, 2-1) 24-3 over the final 29:43 of the contest.

“What we’ll take from this is we can’t relax even if we have the momentum,” Fielder, who rushed for 66 yards, said. “We’ll all just have to go back to practice and learn from this.”

The final play of the first half was pivotal, there’s no doubt about that, but it was far from the Lynx only problem.

A defensive unit that missed only a small handful of tackles in the opening two weeks of the season had trouble containing Gilbert all night. Tigers’ quarterback Steven Lawrence had his way with the Lynx, as he contributed 288 yards of total offense – 165 passing on 8 of 17 completions and 123 on the ground – that included a 70-yard touchdown run on a keeper down the sideline in the first quarter. A bevy of WCHS defenders had a chance to stop him, and yet none could.

“They were shifty, I’ll give that to them, but defensively we missed tackles,” WCHS sophomore middle linebacker Caleb Olson said after he registered a game-high nine solo stops.

Tigers’ wide receiver Ajay Reed caused his own headaches with quick stops and cuts as defenders flew right by him. He caught four passes from Lawrence that covered 115 yards and he also rushed for 64 yards on three reverse calls that caught WCHS napping. His final carry, on a reverse around the right end, resulted in the game-winning 16-yard touchdown run with 2:09 remaining.

“We practiced (the reverse) all week, but we didn’t practice it against anybody that fast,” Howard said. “With athletes like Lawrence and Reed, you can’t make those kinds of mistakes because they’re going to make plays anyway.”

The Lynx problems weren’t just defensively though. Despite another massive output from senior tailback Robert Frederiksen – 268 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries – WCHS was its own worst enemy at times, particularly in the second half.

Trailing for the first time, 23-22, late in the third quarter, WCHS marched 70 yards down the field behind its power running game to the Tigers’ 10-yard line where it had first-and-goal midway through the fourth quarter.

And then a procedure penalty backed the Lynx up five yards. Two plays later another flag came out for a false start – goodbye potential touchdown. Fielder managed to split the uprights on a 32-yard field goal, but it left WCHS in the precarious position of trying to protect a two-point lead, 25-23, with 6:46 remaining.

“I was disappointed with the mistakes we made,” Howard said. “If we wouldn’t have had penalties we would have been fine, but we did. The field goal was nice, but we left them way too much time on the clock.”

The Lynx final possession was also marred by one crucial mistake. They moved down to the Gilbert 27 and had third-and-1 with 1:20 remaining, but a false start pushed the ball back once again and two incomplete passes later Gilbert took over and was able to eat the remaining time off the clock.

WCHS finished with 419 yards of total offense, but for the second consecutive week it failed to complete a pass. Frederiksen’s assault included touchdown runs of 45 and 84 yards in the first half. His long journey down the field put the Lynx in front 20-7 with 7:13 left in the second quarter, and less than two minutes later defensive tackle Cooper Lawson stuck Cody Dvorak in the end zone for a safety and the biggest lead of the night.

Payton Kannuan, the Lynx senior tailback, churned out 85 yards on just nine totes, highlighted by a 44-yard jaunt on a counter early in the second quarter that concluded in the end zone. Kannuan got to the outside and flew by three Gilbert defenders and then hit a spin move at the 5-yard line to leave two more Tigers diving at air.

Following the explosive end to the first half, Gilbert kept WCHS sitting on its hands in the third quarter by holding onto the ball for more than 10 minutes. The Tigers packed on 430 yards of total offense and did it without committing a turnover.

Lynx defensive end Riley Mishler had a strong performance with six tackles and the Zanes – Williams (five) and Carter (four) – combined for nine more stops.

There’s no denying the importance of the outcome considering the strength of District 2 and the fact that only two teams will qualify for the playoffs next month. WCHS is by no means out of contention, but its room for error that got much smaller.

“It’s a big district game … it’s going to be really tough now and it means we’ll have to win out,” Howard said. “Can we? Yeah. Are the odds high right now? No, not with the way we played (Friday night).”

WCHS will return home this Friday to take on winless Greene County (0-1, 0-3) for homecoming.