WEBSTER CITY – Everyone on the Dallas Center-Grimes side of the field knew what Webster City was going to do. The coaches, players, cheerleaders, managers, ball boys, fans; they all knew.
And still the Mustangs failed.
But they weren’t the first and they most certainly won’t be the last.
Eight- and nine-man defensive fronts, and blitzes coming from all angles were good enough to fend off Webster City’s menacing ground campaign for one half of football Friday night, but the final 24 minutes belonged to the Lynx as they rattled off 24 unanswered points and handed Dallas Center-Grimes just its second loss, 31-10, in Class 3A District 2 action.
The Mustangs (4-2, 3-1) entered the contest having allowed just one 100-yard rusher on the season. WCHS (5-1, 3-1) added three more to that list and pushed its 3A-leading rushing assault to 2,358 yards with 387 more.
In three games against teams – Gilbert, Ballard and Dallas Center-Grimes – with a combined 13-5 record, the Lynx have put up 1,127 yards on the ground, an average of 376 an outing.
“(Gilbert, Ballard and DC-G) are all good teams,” WCHS spinback Drew Fielder said after churning out 105 tough yards through the middle of the defense on Friday. “If we can put up good rushing numbers on them, it shows we can run on anyone.”
Wingback Payton Kannuan led the way for WCHS with 155 yards and two second-half touchdowns on 17 carries. The Mustangs limited tailback Robert Frederiksen to his lowest output of the season, but he still managed to churn out 122 yards and a pair of scores on 25 totes. Frederiksen surpassed 1,000 yards on the season, a feat achieved by at least one WCHS back now in each of the last seven seasons.
“The whole game we moved the ball some and in the second half we moved it really well,” WCHS head coach Bob Howard said. “The kids did a great job of listening at halftime and trusting their technique. Nathan Reed had a tremendous game at tackle leading Payton … they were going really hard trying to stop Robert and Ashton High did a great job of trapping inside on Fielder’s runs.”
It was the Lynx second consecutive dominant effort against a perceived district heavyweight. A week earlier they pancaked Ballard, 35-7, in what was their best effort of the season, but Howard says Friday’s performance was even better.
“We played better (against DC-G) because we had to,” Howard said. “They’re good and they have a really good run defense, so to beat them and to have three (backs) go over 100 yards and to rush for 387 yards, that’s a pretty good accomplishment for the line and the backs.”
The defense wasn’t too shabby either, limiting the Mustangs to just 69 yards on the ground despite a lethal one-two combination of tailback Nathan Brown and quarterback Damon Clapper, who was back to full strength for the first time since Week 2. Brown managed just 20 yards on 13 carries and Clapper collected only 12 ground yards after he was sacked three times, twice by Cole Briese and once by James Cherry.
Fielder, a last-minute replacement at linebacker for James Van Diest who was ill, had his helmet in on almost every play. He made 10 solo tackles, three of them for loss, and finished with 11 stops in all. Caleb Olson returned to full strength after missing most of the previous game with a knee injury and made five solo tackles, as did fellow linebacker Zane Williams.
Clapper had some success throwing the ball; he completed 14 of 25 passes for 174 yards and the Mustangs only touchdown – a 9-yard toss to Jacob Prohaska after DC-G recovered a fumble inside the Lynx 10-yard line early in the second quarter.
“The defense played real well and we get better each week,” Howard said. “Assistant coaches Andy Brim and Marty McKinney and Clint Howard and Chad Hisler and Kent Bahrenfuss have done a great job with the kids on their fundamentals. We missed a couple of tackles, but we missed them because (the Mustangs) were good.
“It’s hard to single anyone out because everyone played well.”
Briese tallied 4 1/2 tackles, while Jordan Tanner and Zane Carter both finished with 3 1/2. Carter also came up with an interception of Clapper.
Trailing 10-7 at halftime following a DC-G 30-yard field goal in the final seconds of the second quarter, WCHS dominated time of possession in the second half.
A reverse pass from Tanner to Williams that covered 29 yards set up a 37-yard field goal by Fielder to knot the game at 10 with 5:31 remaining in the third, but the Lynx were just getting started.
Kannuan took over from there, blowing by the blitzing Mustangs for a 39-yard touchdown sprint with 2:27 left in the third to put WCHS in front for good, 17-10. He put the finishing touches on the victory by galloping by and through DC-G’s defenders on a 21-yard run with 1:38 left in the contest.
“Kannuan just really went off in the second half,” Howard said. “We ran inside of their blitzes and were able to get back to the edge.”
Frederiksen found the end zone on a 3-yard plunge midway through the fourth quarter. His first touchdown came on a 10-yard jaunt with 3:07 left in the first quarter.
Fielder, who chewed up the majority of his yards after the break, said there was no secret formula for solving the usually stingy DC-G defense.
“In the first half they had one guy getting through on each play and we knew if we got that changed that we could run the ball and that’s what happened,” he said. “DC-G is a really good team.”
WCHS put itself right back into the thick of the playoff race with three weeks remaining in the regular season, but reaching the postseason for a ninth consecutive season isn’t a foregone conclusion, something Fielder says he and his teammates understand completely.
“We’re not in the playoffs yet,” Fielder said. “Even though we beat Ballard and DC-G and we have the tiebreaker points, that doesn’t mean anything if we overlook Perry or Iowa Falls or Boone.”