Lynx shy away from external motivations against Ballard

WEBSTER CITY – Bob Howard doesn’t believe in external motivation; he never has and he probably never will.

So forgive him if he doesn’t buy into the hype surrounding his Webster City football team’s Class 3A District 2 test against Ballard at the Bombers’ house – Rich Strouse Field – in Huxley tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Is it a big game? Absolutely.

It’s two formerly ranked teams looking to stay relevant in the race for one of the district’s two playoff berths. One loss, as both teams possess, is manageable. Two will likely be one too many.

But is the showdown any bigger than the other eight games on the schedule? Fans may say yes, but Howard isn’t about to go there.

“I tell the kids the same thing that I always tell them and that’s every game is a big game,” Howard said. “We don’t do a whole lot of motivational stuff because we do that year round. If the playoffs is your only goal, then all the training and everything isn’t worth a whole lot.”

It’s not like these two programs are unfamiliar with one another. They last met in the first round of the 2014 state playoffs, a game the fourth-seeded Lynx won in a perceived upset over the top-seeded Bombers, 27-14. That match-up was also in Huxley and just happened to be Howard’s 300th career victory.

Conventional wisdom says Ballard is likely to remember that disappointment, and yet Howard is quick to downplay that motivational tactic as well.

“Two years ago was a playoff game and maybe it’s fresh in their minds, but I would guess they’re worried about this Webster City team,” he said. “They’ve certainly beat us before, too.”

So what could motivate both teams tonight? The answer is easy – a fourth win.

WCHS (3-1, 1-1) is coming off a 49-6 rout of Greene County, while Ballard (3-1, 1-1) suffered its lone blemish at the hands of Dallas Center-Grimes, 16-14, in a game that went down to the wire last week.

The Bombers are talented, there’s no doubt about it, Howard says. But he also thinks highly of his own team, which leaves him expecting a tight contest where big plays or a handful of mistakes could tip the scales in favor of one over the other.

“If we play our best football we’re pretty tough to beat, but we’ve got two or three other teams in the district that can say the same thing,” Howard said. “If we go down there and play our best game of the year and don’t come out on top, that’s the way it is. But we want them to have to beat us.”

Ballard’s big and talented group of defensive linemen and linebackers will be out to see if they can contain 3A’s top rushing attack from WCHS, which has gained 1,645 yards – the Lynx average 411 yards per game and 8.7 yards per carry – through four games. Leading that charge is senior tailback Robert Frederiksen (690 yards), who averages 230 yards per game and 10 yards per tote, as well as senior wingback Payton Kannuan (395 yards), who rips off 11.6 yards on average.

The skill position players may get the headlines, but the Lynx ground machine begins with the guys up front, offensive linemen Cooper Lawson, Ashton High, Zac Lucero, Chris Seeley and Nathan Reed.

“They’re big up front and they’re always talented, and their linebackers are very active,” Howard said of the Bombers. “So blocking the second level will be a big deal, as it is every week.

“I don’t know if this is the best defense we’ve played, but they’re certainly right there with Gilbert.”

The WCHS defense will have its hands full as well with a balanced Ballard offense that has beat teams on the ground and through the air. Quarterback Max Stoltz has accrued 792 yards of total offense – 497 on throws and 295 with his feet – while completing 67 percent of his passes. Tailback Hunter Wright (522 yards) ranks behind only Frederiksen on the district’s rushing leaderboard.

“They run the ball more than they throw it, but they throw it well,” Howard said. “They have a very talented dual-threat quarterback and a good running back.”