One of state’s top RB’s returns for Lynx playoff push

WCHS tailback Zane Williams gets in the open field against Greene County earlier this year. After missing the last three games, Williams will return to the Lynx starting lineup against Boone in the regular season finale on Friday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — The days leading up to a game are always stressful for Webster City head football coach Bob Howard, but the football gods delivered to him a 6-foot-1, 185-pound present just in time for his team’s most important game of the season.

Welcome back, Zane Williams. You’ve been missed.

There was a cheerful tone in Howard’s voice when he confirmed on Wednesday that Williams will be in his familiar position at tailback tonight when the 10th-ranked Lynx attempt to secure their 10th consecutive trip to the Class 3A state playoffs against Boone.

“Zane is cleared to play … this should be a big boost of energy and juice for the team,” Howard said. “It is for me, so I hope it is for them.”

Williams was the state’s leading rusher through five weeks of the season, but a health-related problem forced him to the sideline. Just how good was he on the field? He missed three games and yet his 1,113 yards rushing still leads District 2 by 308 yards and ranks sixth in the class.

A burner when he hits the perimeter, Williams rushed for 302, 336 and 179 yards in the three games preceding his exit. He’s the only WCHS running back in program history with multiple 300-yard games.

And he can’t wait to rejoin his teammates.

“It’s been a long three weeks, but I’m really excited to play again,” Williams said. “Hopefully we can start where we left off before I was out.”

Howard says he doesn’t foresee any limitations put on Williams on offense, but he most likely won’t play on the defensive side of the ball. Williams has 281⁄2 tackles to his credit at linebacker.

The gifts just kept coming to Howard. Also returning this week will be junior wingback Trace Kepler, who suffered a knee injury in the first half against second-ranked Dallas Center-Grimes in Week 6. He’s missed the last two games.

WCHS (7-1, 5-1) went 2-1 without its two starters and received quality performances from Carter Bedford at Jordan Tanner at tailback. Bedford surpassed 100 yards in back-to-back games and Tanner put up 107 in just one half against Iowa Falls-Alden last week.

“Tanner and Bedford really did a great job,” Howard said.

WCHS will need to have its full arsenal against Boone (6-2, 4-2), a team that was ranked in the top 10 before losses to Ballard and DC-G in consecutive weeks.

The Lynx possess the No. 1-ranked rushing offense in 3A (2,803 yards), while the Toreadors have the No. 2-ranked passing offense (1,591 yards). Boone quarterback Mason Hulse has completed 104 passes and accounted for all of the team’s aerial yards while piling up 21 touchdowns against just two interceptions.

Hulse is also the Toreadors leading rusher with 606 yards. His 2,197 yards of total offense is tops among 3A players.

“He’s good,” Howard said of Hulse, who was injured at the end of last week’s loss to DC-G, but is expected to be in the Boone lineup tonight. “He can throw really well and he’s their prime running back as well. A lot of his rushing comes off scrambling, so you’ve got to be really careful.”

WCHS has won six straight games in the series and is 35-28-5 all-time against the Toreadors. The Lynx won both meetings a season ago, 21-14 in Week 9 and 21-19 two weeks later in the state quarterfinal round.

A seventh consecutive win would be monumental. Why? Because a loss likely would end the Lynx season. There is a slim chance WCHS could earn one of the two wildcard berths.

“If we win we’re in, that’s all I know and that’s all I’m worried about,” Howard said. “We don’t want to back into the playoffs anyway.”