Steen eyes a baker’s dozen against Algona
Chess match between all-state free safety and Bulldog QB?Grein one to watch as Lynx look to pull upset
Tanner Schminke — that one helped Webster City fend off Boone and stamp a trip to the UNI-Dome for the Class 3A state semifinals two years ago.
Matt Barragy — that was a fun night last season; redemption in its sweetest form. Twelve months after getting torched, the tables were turned. Not once. Not twice. But three times.
Damon Clapper — WCHS didn’t win that night against Dallas Center-Grimes, but the Mustangs’ quarterback didn’t walk away unscathed either.
Mason Hulse — Boone goes down again, the Lynx head to the playoffs again.
There are eight other quarterbacks on Dylan Steen’s list. They’ve dropped back to pass, thought there was an opening and let the ball fly, only to feel the sting of an interception by one of the state’s best at creating turnovers.
And now Steen has another talented signal caller in his sights.
The chess match between Steen, a senior free safety for WCHS, and Algona quarterback Matt Grein should be entertaining this evening when the two teams meet in Algona at 7 p.m.
Steen has 17 career interceptions on his resume, which currently has him tied for 11th all-time in the state’s 11-player history. One more pick pushes him into the top 10 and the record of 24, held by Blake Bayer of Albia, isn’t a pipe dream.
But Steen and the entire WCHS defense will have their hands full with Grein, an agile and big-armed senior that has Algona (3-0) ranked sixth (Class 2A) and unbeaten. Through three games, Grein has completed 63 percent of his passes for 546 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s yet to throw an interception.
Is tonight the night? WCHS head coach Bob Howard sure hopes so.
“They throw deep down the middle a lot and hopefully (Steen) can get his hands on some,” Howard said. “Delaying receivers and rushing the passer are big parts of it, too. Hopefully we can get some pressure on him.”
Steen has one interception in each of the last two games and at least one against nine different opponents over the last two-plus seasons.
Grein and the Bulldog offense have rolled so far this season. A wing-T scheme out of the pistol, they’ve averaged 36 points and have outscored their foes by an average of 22 points. Sometimes in a double-wing set, they use misdirection to open up running lanes and create high percentage opportunities for Grein down the field.
“They’ve got good athletes and they are going to be sky high,” Howard said. “We need to be prepared at the start of the game to handle all of the hype.”
Running back Jacob Durant is Algona’s leading option on the ground. He averages 6.1 yards per carry and has scored three touchdowns.
WCHS (2-1) was burned for more than 300 yards through the air against an athletic and speedy Waterloo East team a week ago. But the Lynx were able to slow down the Trojans on the ground, something they hope to again accomplish tonight.
“They’re run first and that’s what we always want to slow down,” Howard said. “Durant is a good tailback, so they present a lot of issues.”
While Steen’s defensive presence will be key, Howard says his production on offense will be just as important. At spinback, he’s thrown for 213 yards and a pair of scores, but has been limited to just 137 yards rushing in three games.
“I’m more concerned that we get his running game going,” Howard said. “But that’s also what teams have been trying to take away and it’s why we’ve been successful with the (wingback) counter.”
Tailback Trace Kepler (325 yards) and wingback Drake Doolittle (203 yards) lead the WCHS ground game and they’ve combined to score six touchdowns.
Howard is also hoping for another positive step from the Lynx offensive line, which was improved against Waterloo East. And it starts with consistency for four quarters.
“Our first two or three series last week were exactly how we wanted to play, but then we were inconsistent after that,” Howard said. “This is the fourth game and that stuff has got to be history.”
This will be the first meeting between the two North Central Conference rivals since 2015 when WCHS won 42-13. The Lynx have won the last seven games in the series.