WEBSTER CITY – The joy came in the form of a quick clap and fist pump from head coach Bob Howard. The belief showed itself as Robert Frederiksen held up the index finger on his right hand for an applauding crowd to see. And the celebration could be heard from a block away as a group that came together to form the very definition of a team sprinted off the field.
District champions. Again.
Who believed? They did.
With its backs against the wall ever since a Week 3 loss to Gilbert, seventh-ranked Webster City completed its improbable comeback to the top of the standings to claim the Class 3A District 2 title with a 21-14 slugfest victory over ninth-ranked Boone at Lynx Field Friday night.
WCHS (8-1, 6-1) won its first district crown in 21 years a season ago, but this wasn’t supposed to happen again, not with a team short on experience and high on question marks prior to the start of the season.
And that made it all the more sweet.
“Who would have thought we’d be playing for a district title?” WCHS senior spinback Drew Fielder said after he passed and rushed for a touchdown. “Everyone doubted us, but we worked hard as a team and just came through.”
Howard, in his 10th year at the helm of the program, owns three state titles and a page full of district championships from his years at Sigourney-Keota. But these last few months with this team will always hold a special spot in his memory, he said.
“It’s a special team for (the players) and it’s hard to put it into words,” Howard said. “I’ve had 40 seasons and I’ve had some pretty good seasons. This will be right there with any of them for my respect and admiration and pride I have for these kids, particularly these seniors who have stuck with it. We’ve got a lot of different kids that have played big roles in this, but you’re never any better than your seniors.”
The victory propelled WCHS into the state playoffs for the ninth consecutive season. The Lynx will host sixth-ranked Norwalk (8-1) at Lynx Field this Friday night at 7 p.m.
Boone (7-2, 6-1), which brought a seven-game winning streak into the contest, gave WCHS everything it wanted and then some. The Toreadors’ fast, physical defense limited the Lynx to a season-low 246 yards rushing. Frederiksen, the Lynx senior tailback, compiled his eighth straight 100-yard rushing performance; he finished with 116 yards on 39 tough carries.
Frederiksen scored the game-winning touchdown on a 4-yard rumble around the right end with 5:37 remaining in the fourth quarter. It capped a 16-play, 74-yard drive in which he lugged the ball 13 times.
“That felt great and once I got in the end zone, I felt like I had the district championship hooked,” Frederiksen said. “It feels like we accomplished something people said we couldn’t do.”
Frederiksen was the work horse on the clock-eating drive, but rarely utilized blocking back Hunter Hayes was the secret weapon. With Boone focusing all of its attention on Frederiksen, Fielder and wingback Payton Kannuan, it was Hayes who took the ball out of the hands of center Chris Seeley and darted upfield for a 32-yard gain that gave WCHS a first-and-goal situation inside the Boone 10.
“We haven’t really run that play, but I was ready for it,” Hayes said. “I was actually supposed to go to the right, but that was blocked, so I went left and just found an opening.”
Call it a trick play if you want. Whatever it was, it worked.
“My biggest fear on that was it was going to get blown dead because two of the officials were looking in the middle and they couldn’t find the ball while Hayes was going down the field,” Howard said.
Boone took the ensuing possession inside WCHS territory, but a fourth-and-10 pass from Toreadors’ quarterback Tanner Schminke fell to the turf with 3:56 remaining. The Lynx were able to pick up three first downs, highlighted by a big gain by Fielder on third-and-10 from the 50, and chew up the rest of the clock.
WCHS held possession for more than 31 minutes, including 10:09 of the 12-minute fourth quarter.
Kannuan ran for 52 yards and completed a 42-yard pass to Zane Carter that set up a 2-yard plunge into the end zone by Fielder to give the Lynx a 14-7 lead with 4:07 remaining in the first half. Carter was also on the receiving end of a 13-yard touchdown toss from Fielder on a fourth-and-6 call with 9:59 left in the second period.
Schminke, one of the top signal callers in 3A, passed for 240 yards and a touchdown – an 85-yard bomb to Johnathan Herrick midway through the second quarter – and he also rushed for 38 yards and a score – a 12-yard sprint that drew the Toreadors even at 14 with 17 seconds to go in the third quarter.
But the Lynx defense more than held its own and limited Schminke to just 10 completions on 28 throws. They also sacked him three times – Caleb Olson, Cole Briese and Riley Mishler got the credit – and accumulated five more tackles for loss.
“Schminke is a great player. He’s hard to tackle and he’s a good scrambler,” Olson, who recorded a team-high six tackles at middle linebacker, said. “But we played very well defensively.”
Howard heaped plenty of praise on his secondary – Carter, Kannuan, Dylan Steen, Zane Williams and Jordan Tanner – for maintaining its composure on such a big stage against an elite quarterback.
“To have an all new secondary this year and play the way they’ve played is outstanding,” he said. “This was just a tremendous team victory.”
Williams, who also played linebacker, made five tackles in the victory.
Boone, which already had a playoff berth locked up prior to kickoff, finished with just 46 yards on the ground. The Toreadors will open up the postseason at third-ranked Creston/Orient-Macksburg (8-1) on Friday.
WCHS out-gained Boone 301-286 and owned a 14-10 advantage in first downs.