Rivalry week for Lynx against IF-Alden

WEBSTER CITY – The pursuit of the playoffs will be pushed to the back burner tonight when North Central Conference rivals collide at Lynx Field at 7:30 p.m.

Do non-district games mean as much as district contests? No, not in the grand scheme of things when the postseason is the goal. But don’t tell WCHS head coach Bob Howard and his players there’s nothing at stake when they meet Iowa Falls-Alden at the line of scrimmage.

“Iowa Falls is Iowa Falls. It’s a rivalry,” Howard said.

Both teams will be looking to bounce back from setbacks seven days ago. WCHS (1-4), in particular, was left to seethe after it dropped a 17-14 decision to Greene County, thanks in large part to five turnovers and several other missed opportunities. IF-A (1-4) lost a shootout to Aplington-Parkersburg, 43-39, last week.

The offense may not have provided many highlights, but the WCHS defense was plenty stingy in the loss to the Rams. In fact, the unit has shown marked improvement over its last two outings.

Sure, the opposition has had something to do with the rising stock of the Lynx defense. The first three opponents – Gilbert, Clear Lake and Carroll – are all ranked and have a combined 14-1 record. The last two foes – Algona and Greene County – are 2-8.

Still, the numbers very rarely lie. WCHS allowed 368 yards per game in each of its first three losses. In the last two weeks the Lynx have allowed 339 total yards.

“Game experience against some very good offenses has helped improve the whole deal,” Howard said about his defense. “Being more settled at linebacker has helped and our secondary has played relatively better.”

The play up front has been arguably the biggest reason for the recent success. Defensive ends Gavin Dinsdale and Victor Jergens apply the pressure, and the insertion of Collin Oswald at nose tackle has made a difference at the point of attack.

“Our two ends are pretty good and (defensive tackle) Hunter Bryan has played well going both ways,” Howard said. “Collin Oswald has been a good move to put at nose. He’s strong and quick and uses his balance from being a wrestler really well.”

Veteran middle linebacker Rylee Lawson leads the team in tackles with 39.

The front seven will be put to the test against a Cadets’ offense that has shown balance so far this season. Running back Bo Williams is the work horse with 102 carries for 618 yards and seven touchdowns. Quarterback Ross Norem has completed 38 of 94 passes for 600 yards and seven more scores.

“Williams has some speed and he runs hard,” Howard said. “They’ve got a pretty good offense and they’ve been explosive against the teams they’ve played.”

Expect Dinsdale and Jergens to try to make life uncomfortable for Norem for a few hours.

“That’s where our defense starts, with those two guys at the ends,” Howard said. “Hopefully they’ll be able to put good pressure on (Norem).”

While the Lynx defense has thrived in recent weeks, the offense stumbled in last week’s loss after looking unstoppable the previous two weeks against fourth-ranked (Class 3A) Carroll and Algona.

WCHS moved the ball against Greene County and amassed 300 yards, but was its own worst enemy with the turnovers.

“It was very frustrating,” Howard said. “The kids weren’t happy on Monday and they shouldn’t be. But there wasn’t any pouting around … (Wednesday) night we had our best practice of the season. The ball hasn’t been on the ground once, so we’ll see if that translates over to (tonight).”

Dinsdale, the Lynx starting tailback and leading rusher with 711 yards and 11 touchdowns, will obviously receive the lion’s share of the attention from the IF-A defense. WCHS won’t go away from its off-tackle running game with the 220-pound junior, but don’t be surprised to see wingback Payton Kannuan receive more carries. He’s lugged the ball just 12 times, but averages 10.1 yards per attempt.

“We have to be able to run that (wingback counter) and Kannuan did have a couple of pretty good runs last week,” Howard said. “He’s going to be very good and we have to keep using him.”