Lynx smother ’Cats, run away for easy win

WEBSTER CITY – One cut through an open gap and he was gone, down the sideline past a wave of diving defenders who grasped nothing but air. And Zane Williams was just getting started Friday night.

Offense, defense, special teams – the versatile junior showed he could do it all and thrive.

By the time he walked off the Lynx Field turf smiling, Williams had amassed 272 all-purpose yards and scored four touchdowns, just one of the notable storylines in Webster City’s season-opening 53-14 pasting of longtime rival Humboldt.

“That felt awesome,” Williams said after rushing for 141 yards and two scores to go along with an 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 32-yard interception return to the house. “We performed better than we probably expected.”

Williams’ lightning quick kickoff gallop that went down the WCHS sideline ignited everything less than 2 minutes into the second quarter and it put the Lynx in command for good. It came less than 4 minutes after his only hiccup – a fumble as he tried to fight for extra yards that led to a Humboldt touchdown that tied the game at 7.

“(The fumble) motivated me for sure,” he said. “It was huge to shake it off and just get back out there.”

There was a lot to like on the Lynx sideline. Take away a couple gaffs on punt returns and WCHS did everything it wanted to and then some.

Not bad for a team with a bevy of new starters that had clown-sized shoes to fill following last year’s 11-1 campaign.

“I thought we got better (as the game went on) and the kids we needed to see, we got to see a lot of good stuff with them,” WCHS head coach Bob Howard said after he stockpiled the 312th victory of his career. “Zane had a great all-around game on both sides of the ball. He’s a good football player.”

WCHS chewed up 488 yards of total offense, 398 of those coming from the chains-moving ground game, and held Humboldt to 254 total yards, half of which came on two plays. The Lynx did it all while committing just two five-yard procedural penalties and they were never forced to punt.

“We expect to go out and do our best and that’s what dominating is,” WCHS all-state junior lineman Cooper Lawson said. “But we have a lot of stuff to work on, too, and that’s good.”

Payton Kannuan showed that last season’s 1,254 yards of production on the ground was no fluke, as the senior wingback scooted for a game-high 149 yards and a touchdown on just 11 touches – an average of 13.5 yards per carry. Yeah, that’s decent.

“Payton is Payton, except he’s faster and bigger than he was last year,” Howard said. “He’s a heck of a deal and a great talent to have.”

Sophomore Trace Kepler added 49 yards rushing and a pair of scores, and senior spinback Drew Fielder accounted for 130 more yards – 90 passing and 40 rushing. Fielder hooked up with Zane Carter on a 54-yard scoring strike midway through the first quarter to start the scoring frenzy that didn’t end until a running clock was instituted with 7:35 remaining.

“I think (the long touchdown pass) amped up the whole team,” Carter said about his first career TD. “We’re obviously going to run the ball, but our passing game is there, too, if we need it.”

As good as the WCHS offense performed, the defense may have been even better. With the front five tormenting Wildcats’ quarterback Drew Thomas all night, the Lynx forced seven 3-and-out series. Thomas completed just 10 of 33 passes for 134 yards; both of the Wildcats’ touchdowns came through the air.

“We had a really nice pass rush,” Howard said. “We only got to (Thomas) once, but he got hit a lot and couldn’t hang onto it for very long. This QB threw for 400 yards on us two years ago, so I don’t respect anybody more than I respect Drew.”

WCHS junior nose guard James Cherry lived inside Thomas’s face mask and several times blew up the play before the signal caller could even take a step. Cherry also had the game’s only sack.

“My job as nose guard is to pretty much blow up the A gap at all times and that’s just what I tried to do,” Cherry said. “I got a hit on (Thomas) early in the game and I figured why not do it all night.

“I always like playing defense, so I’m glad when we’re on the field. I like it when the offense scores real quick so we can get back out there and do it again.”

Oh, there was plenty of scoring.

Ahead 21-7 at the intermission, WCHS tacked on 26 third-quarter points, 20 of them coming in a span of 3:49 late in the period. Kepler’s first TD came on an 8-yard run over the right side and Williams’ pick-six occurred just 18 seconds later when he stepped in front of a slant in the middle of the field. Kannuan completed the outburst with a 15-yard TD scamper on a counter to make it 47-14.

Kepler put the icing on the blowout on an easy 9-yard run midway through the fourth. He happily followed Lawson through a hole and went into the end zone untouched.

Huge running lanes were a common theme, a big reason why WCHS averaged nearly eight yards per carry. Lawson and offensive line mates Nathan Reed, Ashton High, Zac Lucero and Chris Seeley were as good as advertised.

“Our line is fantastic,” Williams, who had rushing touchdowns of 1 and 5 yards in the second and third quarters, said. “There were open holes all night, a train could’ve fit through them.”

Lynx linebacker James Van Diest – one of the few starting holdovers from a season ago – made a team-high five tackles, including a one-on-one stick on a screen pass that produced a six-yard loss as Humboldt was attempting to move down the field just before halftime. Sophomore middle linebacker Caleb Olson also had five stops.

Riley Mishler, a senior defensive end, added 4 1/2 tackles.

WCHS will make its first road trip on Friday when it heads north to take on Clear Lake.