RUN, ZANE, RUN
Williams torches Gilbert for 302 yards, Lynx roll
WEBSTER CITY — Zane Williams in a track uniform is fast. Zane Williams in football pads and a helmet is even faster, at least it looks that way.
Once the Webster City senior tailback hits the open field and reaches his top speed, forget about it. The only thing that’s stopping him is the whistle from the referee once he reaches the end zone.
Williams showed off his jets on more than a handful of plays Friday night at Lynx Field, as he scored four touchdowns on plays ranging from 37 to 80 yards in fifth-ranked (Class 3A) Webster City’s 42-20 victory over Gilbert in the District 2 opener for both teams.
Even without a single carry in the fourth quarter, Williams became just the fourth WCHS running back to eclipse 300 yards rushing in a single game. His final tally of 302 on 24 carries — a tidy 12.6 yards per tote — put him alongside former Lynx greats Gavin Dinsdale (369 yards in 2014), Jared Smith (352 yards in 1996) and Kevin Kennedy (305 yards in 1970).
“The holes were there all night long and I was running hard,” Williams, who sprinkled in a 68-yard touchdown catch from Dylan Steen to put his final offensive total at 370 yards, said. “(James) Cherry was lead blocking for me most of the night and he did a great job.”
It was all about speed, as three of Williams’ long excursions went down the sideline as he left Gilbert defenders choking on his fumes.
“He’s fast and when he gets to the sideline he’s hard to catch,” WCHS head coach Bob Howard said of Williams. “He probably isn’t slower in pads because of how strong he is. Some kids are just as fast in pads and they look faster because other kids slow down in pads.”
It was one big play after another throughout the game for WCHS (3-0, 1-0), which moved to 22-1 in its last 23 regular season games. It started on the second play of the game when Steen stepped in front of a Matt Barragy pass and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown. What followed were scoring plays of 68, 80, 46, 65 and 37 yards to the house before the third quarter was extinguished.
“That’s fine with us,” Steen, who intercepted Barragy three times in all, said of the big plays. “It means we did our assignments right and got off the field quick.”
There’s a “yeah, but” to that though.
The Lynx quick-strike mentality meant their defense was forced to work that much harder. Gilbert (0-3, 0-1) owned a more than 14-minute time of possession advantage and ran 84 plays to just 48 for WCHS, including a 48-16 edge in the second half.
In the fourth quarter, the WCHS offense was on the field for just 1:47.
“We just can’t always rely on big plays,” Williams said. “We’ve still got to be able to get three or four yards a play, too.”
WCHS finished with 504 yards of total offense. Steen did plenty of damage, too. In addition to his pick-six, he also ran through a hole as wide as Texas for a touchdown and completed 2 of 5 passes for 84 yards and the score to Williams in the second quarter that put the Lynx in front 14-6.
But Gilbert’s offense got its licks in as well. Barragy completed 20 of 38 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown, and undersized tailback Ajay Reed moved piles on his way to 92 yards on the ground. The Tigers put up 201 yards rushing, which was more than a little concerning to Howard.
“It was a double-edged sword,” he said. “We played pretty well offensively with great big huge plays, but we didn’t play real well defensively. We didn’t get any sacks from our defensive ends, we didn’t get any pressure … and having a 150- or 160-pound tailback (Reed) finishing runs going forward, that’s a little bit concerning. We’ve got to tackle better.”
It didn’t help that Cooper Lawson, an all-state offensive lineman who is almost as good on the defensive line as a run stuffer, only played one way. A tweaked knee during a Week 2 win over Clear Lake kept him out defensively.
“He’s got a minor knee injury. He had a loose patella tendon,” Howard said. “But he’s getting better every day and he was able to play every snap on offense.”
Both of Gilbert’s first-half scoring drives were clock chewers that went for more than 80 yards. Barragy connected with Keegan Sturdy on a fourth-down 5-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter and later in the period took it in himself from the 1 to close the Tigers’ deficit to 14-13.
The answer came quickly though. On the very next play from scrimmage, Williams got outside the tackles, hit the sideline and was gone for the 80-yard sprint to make it 21-13 at the half.
WCHS poured it on over the first 7:20 of the third quarter. A 46-yard stroll to the end zone by Steen was followed by the 65- and 37-yard touchdown runs from Williams on the next two possessions to push the Lynx advantage to 42-13.
Cherry, who isn’t exactly slow for an offensive guard, showed Williams the way on both long runs.
“I’ve really got to get going off the line if I want to beat Zane out there because he’s really fast,” Cherry said. “I can hit the block that would have tackled him and then he can out run the rest.”
Landon Howard, who accumulated 187 yards of offense for the Tigers — 105 receiving and 82 rushing — added a 3-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter.
Lynx linebackers Caleb Olson and Luke Rohmiller both registered 10 tackles. Olson had a sack and another tackle for loss. Harrison Hayes also had a sack.
Max Hackbarth and Williams, who play the other two linebacker positions, finished with 81⁄2 and 61⁄2 tackles, respectively.
Williams had one tackle for loss, as did Kooper Jondal.
Gilbert 0 13 0 7–20
Webster City 7 14 21 0–42
WC — Dylan Steen 52 interception return (Nathan Ferrell kick), 11:04.
GIL — Keegan Sturdy 5 pass from Matt Barragy (kick failed), 11:54.
WC — Zane Williams 68 pass from Steen (Ferrell kick), 4:49.
GIL — Barragy 1 run (Matthew Koenig kick), 3:04.
WC — Williams 80 run (Ferrell kick), 2:52.
WC — Steen 46 run (Ferrell kick), 10:30.
WC — Williams 65 run (Ferrell kick), 8:33.
WC — Williams 37 run (Ferrell kick), 4:40.
GIL — Landon Howard 3 run (Koenig kick), 9:54.