LB?Caleb Olson putting cap on legendary career
WEBSTER CITY — He was once a defensive question mark who quickly became a centerpiece.
And now? Just call him one of the best middle linebackers to ever put on a Webster City football uniform.
Friday will mark the 31st consecutive start for senior and two-time all-state performer Caleb Olson and, barring injury, that number will reach 32 before he hands in his pads for the final time. It will be emotional. It will be bittersweet. But it should also be a celebration.
“He’ll definitely be one of the top linebackers we’ve had since I’ve been here,” WCHS head coach Bob Howard said of Olson in the lead-up to Friday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Dallas Center-Grimes. “He’s got a lot of physical ability.”
Quiet and at times unassuming, Olson has been a tackling savant for the Lynx ever since he stepped into the spotlight as a sophomore in 2016. Back then he was the unknown on a senior-laden team. Could he step in and be a force rather than a hindrance at such a young age?
A 31-25 loss in Week 3 at Gilbert was a learning experience and, as it turned out, the turning point. He grew up that night and soared week after week, all the way to the Class 3A state championship game.
“Early in that season he was on a big learning curve, probably highlighted by that Gilbert game,” Howard said. “We had a sophomore middle linebacker and a sophomore free safety (Dylan Steen) and it looked like it. But by the time we got to the playoffs they weren’t playing like sophomores anymore. Had he not played the way he did we probably couldn’t have beaten Boone (in the state quarterfinals) and made it to the dome.”
Olson finished his sophomore season with 78 tackles, 63 of them solo.
He was even better a season ago when he claimed a second consecutive all-state accolade. There were 831⁄2 more tackles, including 73 solo stops. He was bigger and faster. The game slowed down and, at times, he took over defensively.
It’s been an adjustment for him as a senior. It hasn’t been as easy without Cooper Lawson and James Cherry in front of him on the defensive line, and his job only got more difficult when his heir apparent, sophomore Trey Mathis, was lost for the season with a broken hand against Algona in Week 4.
“If Trey hadn’t broken his hand, we would have had two of the better linebackers Webster City has had playing together since I’ve been here,” Howard said. “Trey was getting to play next to a really good linebacker and we could do some of the stuff with Trey that we did when Caleb was a sophomore. We could blitz Trey more and have him take more chances because we had someone there if he made a mistake.”
WCHS was forced to alter its defense in Mathis’s absence, which left Olson alone in the middle. It hasn’t been easy and Olson’s numbers aren’t as gaudy as they were each of the last two seasons, but that doesn’t mean his performance has dropped off.
If anything, he’s better than he’s ever been.
Olson enters Friday’s tussle against DC-G with 491⁄2 tackles on the season and 211 in his career (176 solo). And more importantly, WCHS is 22-8 with him in the lineup. With the Lynx out of the playoff picture and statewide spotlight, he might not receive a third consecutive all-state honor, but it certainly won’t diminish all that he’s accomplished.
“I think he’s had a great year, but of course the stats aren’t going to look like it,” Howard said. “I think he’s better this year than he was last year because he’s playing without Lawson and Cherry. When I watched the tape, he did an unbelievable job against Humboldt (last week) because they tried to pop one up the middle and couldn’t.”
DC-G (1-6, 1-2), like WCHS (3-4, 1-2), hasn’t had the season it envisioned back in early August. The Mustangs lone win was in comeback fashion, 14-13 over Perry, on Sept. 21. They rank fifth in Class 3A District 2 in total offense, in front of only Perry, and haven’t scored more than 14 points in a game this season.
“They’re a real hungry team that has absolutely nothing to lose, which ought to be the way Webster City is playing too,” Howard said. “We’re playing for a winning season, which I think is a big deal.”
Despite its own offensive issues in recent weeks, highlighted by last week’s shutout loss to Humboldt, WCHS still leads the district in total offense with 2,043 yards. The Lynx 1,573 yards rushing are 712 more than any other team in the district.
Steen, the Lynx spinback, and wingback Drake Doolittle rank first and second in the district in rushing. Steen has amassed 521 yards, while Doolittle enters the contest with 495.
A look at the career of Webster City senior middle linebacker Caleb Olson.
Sophomore Season (2016)
•78 total tackles.
•63 solo tackles (No. 10 in 3A).
•4 tackles for loss.
•INA Class 3A all-state 2nd team.
Junior Season (2017)
•831⁄2 total tackles.
•70 solo tackles (No. 2 in 3A).
•61⁄2 tackles for loss.
•INA Class 3A all-state 2nd team.
Senior Season (2018 – through Week 7)
•491⁄2 total tackles.
•40 solo tackles (T-16 in 3A).
•41⁄2 tackles for loss.
Career (30 games played)
•211 total tackles.
•176 solo tackles.
•15 tackles for loss.