Lynx defense still keyed on Ross despite numbers

HUMBOLDT – Make no mistake, Brady Ross is one of the best football players in Class 3A and numbers aren’t going to change that fact.

Thought to be a lock for an all-state spot in the backfield prior to the start of the season, Ross, a Humboldt senior, hasn’t piled up the statistics of the past two years, and yet Webster City head coach Bob Howard says he’s still the guy the Lynx must stop tonight when the Class 3A District 2 rivals collide at 7:30 p.m.

Ross chewed up 2,629 yards of ground real estate and scored 35 touchdowns in 2012 and 2013, ending both years in the 3A top 10 in rushing yards.

This fall it’s been a little tougher. An injury early in the season limited his carries and he wasn’t in uniform a week ago with the 10th-ranked Wildcats (5-1, 3-1) snuck by Greene County, 28-27. The burly tailback enters tonight with just 339 yards on the season, although he has scored nine touchdowns.

“He hardly ran the ball the first couple of weeks and that’s why his numbers aren’t what they have been,” WCHS head coach Bob Howard said. “But Ross is still Ross. I still think they’re going to run first with him, so you always have to start with defending the run.”

Ross’ running style is pretty cut and dry. He heads north and south, and if he gets a head of steam look out. Getting several defenders in his path near the line of scrimmage will be paramount for the Lynx.

“Any good running back out of the I-formation, they want to hit the hill going downhill and you’ve got to try to build a wall,” Howard said. “If he gets through the line you have a heck of a time tackling him.”

A strong aerial attack has also played into Ross’s decreased output. Sophomore quarterback Drew Thomas – the son of Wildcats’ head coach Greg Thomas – completes better than 60 percent of his passes and has thrown for 924 yards and 11 touchdowns. Austin Zylstra (19 catches, 328 yards and 4 TDs) and Jaxon Heinz (20 catches, 193 yards and 2 TDs) are his weapons on the perimeter and they have the ability to wreak havoc down the field.

“The real dangerous part and the strength of their offense is the talent they have at the skill positions,” Howard said. “They have two really tough wideouts who are really hard match-ups for anybody. And the quarterback has grown up getting ready to play that position. Putting pressure on him will be a really big deal.”

Humboldt averages 30.8 points per game – second in the district behind only leader and second-ranked Carroll (40.5 ppg).

Carroll handed Humboldt its only loss, 31-7, just a week after the Tigers won a shootout over the Lynx (2-4, 1-2), 49-35.

“The idea of holding them to one or two scores is a little tough,” Howard said. “But if we play our best game we’ll be right in there.”

Gavin Dinsdale has taken over the district’s leading role on the ground. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Lynx junior tailback owns a district-best 941 yards and 15 touchdowns; a strong game tonight will put him over 1,000 yards on the season.

Averaging 23 carries per game, Dinsdale has surpassed 100 yards in each of the past two games. He set the single-game school record against Carroll when he went off for an astonishing 369 yards.

Dinsdale’s production may be a surprise to some, but not his coach.

“He’s been about what we expected,” Howard said. “I thought he could be a good tailback and a good power runner with some speed. The better he gets at reading holes, the better he’ll be at the position.”

Dinsdale will run into a tough Humboldt defense led by – who else? – Ross, who will most likely play at the collegiate level at linebacker.

“That’s his position,” Howard said of Ross. He’s a load. He’s tough, but we’ve faced a couple tough linebackers already this season.”

Howard is hopeful his team can continue to improve in the passing game. Junior spinback Avery Fuhs had his best game of the season in a 42-7 rout of Iowa Falls-Alden last week.

WCHS knows it needs to finish the season strong over the last three weeks if it wants to make the playoffs. The Lynx currently sit in fifth place in the district, so an upset win tonight would send a significant boost into their bid.

Win or lose, Howard just wants to see his team play up to its capabilities.

“Playing well is a big deal,” he said. “If we can play our best football and Humboldt is good enough to beat you, then they beat you.

“We think we can play with Humboldt.”