No. 2 DC-G shuts out shorthanded, No. 6 Lynx
Williams, the leading rusher in 3A, out indefinitely due to medical condition
GRIMES — Dylan Steen had a pained expression on his face as he half-limped, half-walked away from the Webster City team huddle late Friday night.
The junior spinback had just spent 48 minutes of game time being used as a tackling dummy and it showed with every step he took.
“They’re the best team we’ve faced and we’ll use this as a learning experience,” Steen said after sixth-ranked WCHS dropped its first game of the season, 20-0, to second-ranked Dallas Center-Grimes in a battle of Class 3A District 2 unbeatens.
The Lynx (5-1, 3-1) had their 11-game regular season winning streak halted and it was the team’s first shutout loss since a 27-0 setback against Ballard during Week 1 of the 2012 season.
What was already going to be a monumental task was made even tougher by the fact that senior tailback Zane Williams watched from the sideline in street clothes. Williams entered Week 6 as the leading rusher in 3A with 1,113 yards, and he was also one of the Lynx leaders on defense.
Williams declined to speak about his medical condition. WCHS head coach Bob Howard could only confirm that it will keep him sidelined through at least Week 8. There is a possibility he could return for the regular season finale against Boone, but there are no guarantees.
Williams’ absence was obviously felt, but Howard says the feeling of being punched in the gut would have been there regardless of the outcome.
“We sure aren’t making any excuses. Football is football and you’ve got to play with who you’ve got,” Howard said. “I feel bad for Zane Williams, that’s who I feel bad for because that is one of our kids that has spent 31⁄2 years getting ready for this. He was obviously behind hugely rewarded for how hard he worked.”
Already thin in the backfield, the problems were exacerbated with 1:55 remaining in the first half when Trace Kepler, the Lynx starting wingback who moved over to play tailback in Williams’ absence, went down with a right knee injury. He watched the remainder of the game on the bench with a bag of ice wrapped around his knee.
That shoved the spotlight onto Carter Bedford, the No. 3 tailback who had just five varsity carries under his belt prior to Friday. He picked up 47 yards on 14 carries against a DC-G defense that had allowed just 121 total rushing yards entering the contest.
“He’s never played and he had one day of practice, so he did a great job for no more than he’s played,” Howard said of Bedford.
Steen fell into the Mustangs’ crosshairs and the result was minus-3 yards rushing. He did complete 5 of 11 passes for 37 yards, but was unable to engineer a drive that threatened the end zone. WCHS did make it into DC-G territory five times.
“We drove the ball, we just didn’t finish,” WCHS senior offensive guard Cooper Lawson said. “We’ve just got to make more plays.”
Howard was just glad that Steen was able to walk away.
“I was almost tempted to punt as soon as we got the ball because I didn’t want to lose Dylan Steen,” Howard said. “We are out of backs … we just don’t have any depth.”
WCHS finished with just 138 yards of total offense and committed four turnovers. DC-G (6-0, 4-0) capitalized on those mistakes and turned three of the turnovers into touchdowns.
“That’s what it is in big games,” Howard said. “You can’t have penalties (WCHS was flagged five times for 51 yards) and you can’t put the ball on the ground. But other than that, I thought offensively we moved the ball pretty dang well for trying not to pass.”
Steen’s first of two interceptions gave the Mustangs the ball near midfield with 8:36 remaining in the first quarter. It took them just 1:01 to score courtesy of a 14-yard sweep around the left end by tailback Tanner Epple.
Disaster struck midway through the second quarter after WCHS was pinned inside its own 10-yard line by a punt. A fumbled hand-off between Steen and Kepler was recovered by DC-G at the 5 and two plays later Epple plowed in from the 3 to give the Mustangs a 13-0 lead going into the break.
“You make those mistakes, they will be amplified,” Steen said. “That fumble I had on the 5-yard line, you can’t have those kinds of plays.”
On his first carry of the third quarter, Bedford found a running lane around the right end and was in the open field, but the ball was poked way from behind for another fumble that DC-G landed on.
Just two plays later it was Epple again who found paydirt, as he galloped past the defense for a 36-yard touchdown.
Epple rushed for 131 yards on 17 carries, part of an 188-yard ground output from the Mustangs. Quarterback Damon Clapper accounted for 116 yards — 75 passing on 7 of 15 throws and 41 rushing.
The WCHS defense more than held its own though. Back at free safety, Steen picked off Clapper twice and Lawson, at defensive tackle, ended the third quarter by batting a Clapper pass into the air and intercepting it.
But Lawson wanted nothing to do with so-called moral victories.
“It was 20-0 so, no, I’m not happy at all,” he said. “I think we need to use it (as motivation) and I think we will use it. I just have to lead.”
Steen now sits on a 3A-leading seven interceptions. It was his second multiple-INT game this fall.
Caleb Olson, the Lynx middle linebacker, had a team-high 10 tackles, nine of them solo stops. Fellow linebacker Luke Rohmiller accrued 71⁄2 tackles; he had the team’s lone tackle for loss.
Kepler churned out 38 yards rushing on 11 carries before he was forced to the sideline for good. His status for this week’s road game at Perry is unknown.
Drake Doolittle, who was inserted into the lineup at wingback, added 19 yards rushing on nine carries.
It was the second shutout of the season for the Mustangs, who have allowed just 33 points in six outings. Trent Carpenter had game highs for solo tackles (11) and total tackles (14).
Webster City 0 0 0 0– 0
DC-Grimes 6 7 7 0–20
DCG — Tanner Epple 14 run (kick failed), 7:35.
DCG — Epple 3 run (Austin James kick), 6:19.
DCG — Epple 36 run (James kick), 10:52.