Lynx survive slugfest with Boone, playoffs streak intact

Exhausted Webster City teammates Hunter Hayes (44) and Caleb Olson (23) embrace moments after the Lynx finished off Boone, 27-14, in the regular season finale Friday night in Boone. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

BOONE — The call was a little gutsy and oh-so brilliant. And it caught everyone by surprise.

Third-and-11, 63 yards away from the end zone, clinging to a 21-14 lead and 2:05 remaining. The conservative option would have been to run the ball, chew up as much clock as possible, punt it away and put the game in the capable hands of the defense.

Conservative can take a hike.

Faced with that scenario coming out of a timeout, Webster City head coach Bob Howard went with the call of his son and assistant coach, Clint Howard, in the twilight against Boone on Friday. It was a reverse pass and it was executed to perfection.

Jordan Tanner took the pitch on the reverse and then lofted a pass to a wide open Trace Kepler, who hauled it in and went untouched to the end zone to put the game on ice, as the ninth-ranked (Class 3A) Lynx spoiled Boone’s upset bid, 27-14.

WCHS free safety Dylan Steen (left) climbs the ladder to deflect a pass away from Boone wide receiver John Herrick during the second half on Friday. Steen upped his state-leading interception total to 10 with two more, one he returned for a touchdown, in the Lynx 27-14 victory over the Toreadors. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

The victory clinched a 10th consecutive trip to the state playoffs and a marquee first-round match-up. WCHS (8-1) will make the trip south to take on No. 5 and three-time defending state champion Pella (8-1) on Friday. It will be a rematch of last season’s state final that went the way of the Dutch, 28-18.

WCHS was in a dog fight just to get back to the postseason and it was fingernail-biting time up until the moment that Tanner hooked up with Kepler. It was a play of redemption for Tanner, who had thrown late and was intercepted by Boone (6-3) on the same call late in the first half.

“I wasn’t really surprised that we called it,” Tanner said. “I under threw it the first time when Trace was wide open, so I was really happy to get another chance.”

Bob Howard said he trusted the decision made by his son.

“Clint called it … it was a fairly safe play because if (Tanner) would have gotten sacked, we were going to punt anyway and time would have run off,” Howard said after his team beat the Toreadors for the third time in 13 months and seventh straight time over the last decade. “The biggest danger was an incompletion. But that was kind of the clincher.”

On a reverse pass late in the fourth quarter, Jordan Tanner wings a 63-yard touchdown to Trace Kepler to put the Lynx 27-14 victory over Boone on ice on Friday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

The fourth-quarter trickery fit perfectly into a game narrative that was loaded with the strange and unusual.

The two teams combined for nine turnovers, eight of them on interceptions. Boone quarterback Mason Hulse entered with 21 touchdowns against just two picks on the season. He proceeded to chuck the ball to WCHS six times, including a much-needed pick-6 by Dylan Steen late in the first half that knotted it at 14.

Hulse was plenty impressive though. The senior do-everything quarterback for the Toreadors completed 16 of 33 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns. He would have surpassed 400 yards had a throw on the run out of his own end zone that turned into a 90-yard touchdown not been called back for offensive pass interference. The first of Steen’s two interceptions and 22-yard return to the house occurred on the very next play.

“That was a pretty big play,” Steen, who leads the state (all classes) in INT’s with 10, said. “Our line got great pressure on (Hulse) and he just threw it up.”

The weird and wacky also included a 99-yard touchdown drive that took just 1:05 for Boone early in the second quarter; a 78-yard drive by WCHS that took 8:23 off the clock, but resulted in no points after it had a first-and-goal situation at the 2 and was stuffed on four consecutive runs in the second quarter; and a first-and-42 situation for the Toreadors after a block in the back well behind the line of scrimmage in the third quarter.

Trace Kepler (26) and Cooper Lawson (51) celebrate Kepler’s 63-yard touchdown reception during the fourth quarter on Friday in Boone. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“It was pretty crazy,” WCHS tailback Zane Williams said.

Speaking of Williams, the senior returned from a three-game absence to rush for a game-high 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 39 tough carries. He also intercepted Hulse twice at the goal line, the second coming with less than 30 seconds remaining.

Williams capped a 38-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run between the tackles that tied the game at 7 late in the first quarter. He put WCHS up by a touchdown, 21-14, with 7:14 remaining on a 3-yard plunge that capped a 10-play, 76-yard excursion that included eight totes and 59 yards of real estate covered by the tailback.

“The guys came together (on that drive),” WCHS senior lineman Cooper Lawson said. “They’re tough on defense and they play us pretty well.”

Boone limited WCHS to 153 yards rushing on 52 carries by loading all 11 defenders within five yards of the line of scrimmage. The Lynx were forced to try to make plays through the air, but with mixed results. Steen, the Lynx spinback, completed 5 of 10 passes for 77 yards and WCHS tallied 140 total passing yards.

Webster City senior James Cherry (60) flexes after going through the handshake line following the Lynx playoffs-clinching 27-14 victory over Boone Friday night in Boone. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“They’ve got good athletes, they’re big and they’ve seen us enough that they’re going to force us to throw and live with it if we hit them,” Howard said. “We had two or three chances in the first half where we just didn’t execute.”

The momentum turned in the Lynx favor in the third period thanks to a stingy defensive effort. With the wind at its back, Boone had possessions that started at the WCHS 44, 36 and 40. Each time the Lynx found a way to stymie Hulse and his stable of receivers. Tanner, all of 6-foot, batted a fourth-down pass away from 6-7 John Herrick at the goal line on the first drive, Williams’ first pick came on the second series, and out on an island against Herrick again, Tanner ended the third opportunity with another swatted-down ball.

“I thought the third quarter was the most important defensive quarter since I’ve been here because the offense didn’t move the ball a dang bit and we handed them field position,” Howard, in his 11th season at WCHS, said.

WCHS limited Boone to just 48 yards rushing, 42 by Hulse. Linebacker Caleb Olson made a team-high 71⁄2 tackles and intercepted Hulse once, and Lawson was dominant at defensive tackle with 61⁄2 tackles, including three sacks and another tackle for loss.

Herrick finished with 145 yards receiving and teammate Tyler Casotti had 100, including an 83-yard touchdown reception.

Malachi Montes also had an interception for WCHS.

Webster City 7 7 0 13–27

Boone 7 7 0 0–14

First Quarter

BOO — Johnathan Imerman 25 pass from Mason Hulse (Jackson Smith kick), 7:55.

WC — Zane Williams 4 run (Nathan Ferrell kick), 1:24.

Second Quarter

BOO — Casotti 83 pass from Hulse (Smith kick), 10:55.

WC — Dylan Steen 22 INT return (Ferrell kick), 1:29.

Fourth Quarter

WC — Williams 3 run (Ferrell kick), 7:14.

WC — Trace Kepler 63 pass from Jordan Tanner (kick failed), 1:54.