Thanks, Gilbert

Lynx loss to Gilbert in 2016 a blessing in disguise

Webster City linebacker Zane Williams (left) wraps up Clear Lake’s Nick Danielson (5) after a short gain on a pass last Friday at Lynx Field. Fifth-ranked (Class 3A) WCHS will open up district play at home against Gilbert this evening at 7:30 p.m. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — On a rainy night 12 months ago, the 2016 Webster City football team learned how to deal with adversity. It was a humbling experience that, ultimately, helped the Lynx grow up and become the team that eventually reached the Class 3A state championship game.

Gilbert 31, Webster City 25 — that was what first set Bob Howard’s team on the correct path last fall. It may sound strange, but it’s true. So should the Lynx thank Gilbert?

Maybe.

“That was a big game for us last year because we learned a lot in that game,” Howard said. “The kids that played in that game have grown up an awful lot.”

Fifth-ranked WCHS (2-0) hopes it can return the favor this evening when it hosts Gilbert (0-2) in the 3A District 2 opener for both teams at Lynx Field. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

WCHS senior guard James Cherry (60) throws a lead block on Clear Lake’s Luke Eggers (34) during last Friday’s 41-27 Lynx win. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WCHS is 21-1 over its last 22 regular season games. Prior to the disappointment at Gilbert, you need to go all the way back to Oct. 10, 2014, to find another loss and that came at the hands of Humboldt, 42-14.

But Howard says little has been said this week about the 2016 encounter with the Tigers. There’s no need.

“The kids that played know,” he said. “This game is pretty much the same as every other game … we worry about us. That extraneous motivation lasts about five minutes and then we’ve got to play.”

Taking a step in the right direction in the district is more important than settling old scores anyway. District 2 is shaping up to be one of the toughest in the state with the Lynx, second-ranked Dallas Center-Grimes and Boone all unbeaten through two weeks. Ballard is no slouch either.

“With only two (teams) going to the playoffs, every game is a big one,” Howard said. “But that’s the way it was last year, too. It was a meat grinder.”

WCHS cornerback Jordan Tanner (4) attempts to break up a pass intended for Clear Lake’s Zach Lester (2) last Friday. Lynx head coach Bob Howard expects Gilbert to take shots down the field when the two teams collide in the Class 3A District 2 opener this evening. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Whereas last season’s district opener was close to a toss-up, WCHS will be the decided favorite this evening. Gilbert’s defense has been shredded in losses to Roland-Story and Carlisle to the tune of 919 yards rushing allowed. The Tigers have surrendered five 100-yard individual rushing performances and two 200-yard outings.

That doesn’t bode well for Gilbert against the Lynx, who enter tonight ranked fourth in 3A in ground gains. WCHS has amassed 654 yards in wins over Humboldt and 10th-ranked (2A) Clear Lake. Tailback Zane Williams (296 yards) and spinback Dylan Steen (232 yards) both rank in the top 15 on the 3A individual leaderboard.

But which Lynx offense will show up? Will it be the unit that struggled for much of its Week 1 win over Humboldt and the first half of last week’s come-from-behind victory over Clear Lake? Or will it be the group that gouged the Lions for 331 yards and five touchdowns after the break last Friday?

Howard hopes his players learned from last week’s mistakes and are mentally ready at kickoff tonight.

“Kids don’t want to play crappy, I just don’t know why you have to have somebody yell at you,” he said. “The great teams don’t have to have somebody tell them they’re not playing well and tell them this isn’t acceptable. They know and they don’t play that way to begin with.

“The second half (last week) was pretty obvious; when they want to go, we can go. But it’s just been two games. If we’re going into game four or five and we’re still doing this, then it’s a big problem.”

WCHS has been more consistent on the defensive side of the ball, but it will be challenged by an athletic set of Gilbert skill players that can make plays. Senior Ajay Reed is a threat, something he showed a season ago when he accrued 180 yards rushing and receiving on just seven touches in the win over the Lynx.

“Ajay Reed is a playmaker,” Howard said. “He played flanker for them last year and he’s playing tailback some this year. If you give him a gap, an open crease, he’s gone.”

The Tigers also like to take plenty of shots down the field with quarterback Matt Barragy, who completed 11 of 29 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns last week against Carlisle. However, he was also intercepted three times.

Clear Lake exposed some flaws in the WCHS secondary last week and broke a couple big plays, one a 71-yard touchdown pass, and Howard says he’s sure Gilbert took notice.

“Given our first two games, I’m sure they’re going to throw deep on us, or try to,” Howard said.

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