11 DOWN, 1 TO GO!
No. 6 Lynx get by Rams, reach Class 3A state title game
CEDAR FALLS –It’s not a Rudy story, head coach Bob Howard made that immediately and perfectly clear. How about Remember The Titans? Now that’s more like it.
Pick a movie, pick a cliche, pick anything you want. The simple truth is this — the Webster City football team will play for a Class 3A state championship. Let that sink in for a minute and then celebrate. It’s certainly deserved.
Is it crazy? Actually, it’s crazy that the players don’t find it so crazy.
“This is just awesome,” WCHS head coach Bob Howard said after his sixth-ranked Lynx stuffed 10th-ranked Glenwood time and time again and held on for a 6-3 victory in a state semifinal clash last night inside the UNI-Dome. “This is just a tremendous team that we have.”
Almost the forgotten team in District 2 when the season began, all WCHS (11-1) has done is win. Last night’s triumph was the Lynx ninth in a row and it sent them to the state final for the first time in school history. They’ll be back on Sheriff Field next Thursday night.
“This is just surreal, but I wouldn’t want to do this with any other group of guys,” WCHS senior defensive end Cole Briese said. “Game after game, we’ve just gone hard and we’ve never let down.”
Senior spinback Drew Fielder scored the game’s only touchdown on a 6-yard run up the gut with just 1:23 remaining in the first half. Little did he know that it would be the difference between a celebration and the end of the season.
“It was good to put points on the scoreboard, but I honestly didn’t think that would be the winner,” Fielder, who finished with 62 yards rushing on 22 carries said. “But Glenwood is a really good team. They never gave up, but neither did we.”
Glenwood (9-3) scored its only points on a 44-yard field goal off the right foot of Seth Little less than three minutes into the game. The Rams took the opening possession and quickly moved into WCHS territory courtesy of a 50-yard sprint by running back Cole Loeffelbein.
But after that drive? Glenwood barely sniffed midfield.
As it has been all season, the WCHS defense was dominant over the final 45 minutes of play. Glenwood finished with just 163 yards of total offense and just 111 after its opening drive of the game.
“That first drive, they had that one big run, but other than that we held up pretty well,” WCHS sophomore middle linebacker Caleb Olson said after accumulating 61⁄2 tackles. “They didn’t get much after that.”
Howard called last week’s defensive effort in a 21-19 quarterfinal victory over Boone the best defensive performance he’s seen from a Lynx team in his 10 years at the helm. And just six days later, he was forced to modify that.
“That was the best performance I’d seen, but now this is,” he said. “It was just a great defensive effort.”
Howard put the game in the hands of his defense in the final minutes. With WCHS staring at a fourth-and-3 from the Glenwood 38, he opted to punt rather than go for the first down that would have essentially put the game on ice.
Glenwood took over at its own 20 with 1:41 remaining. The Rams picked up one first down, but then four consecutive incomplete passes sent the Lynx sideline into a frenzy.
“I thought about going for it for about one second,” Howard said. “But, no, we were never going to go for that. The defense was playing so well.”
James Cherry, the Lynx junior nose tackle, owned the trenches alongside defensive tackle Cooper Lawson. They limited Loeffelbein to 91 yards rushing, just 41 coming after his long dash early on. Glenwood finished with 141 of its yards on the ground.
“It was hard to adjust to their speed, but after that first run we were able to adjust,” Cherry, who made five tackles, two of them for loss, said. “Both defenses were playing well and we knew we’d have to make a stop late in the game.”
WCHS finished with 230 yards of total offense, 205 of those coming on the ground. Tailback Robert Frederiksen was limited to 90 yards on 25 totes, the first time he’s been held under 100 yards this season. Wingback Payton Kannuan added 62 yards rushing, including several key runs on the Lynx only touchdown drive.
Fielder completed just 2 of 5 passes for 15 yards.
WCHS had multiple opportunities to punch the ball into the end zone, but Glenwood’s defense had the answers. The Lynx started on the Rams side of the field three times in the opening half and twice turned the ball over on downs. A third-quarter drive reached the Glenwood 4-yard line and WCHS had a first-and-goal opportunity. But the Rams refused to give an inch and eventually took over on downs at their own 10.
“It was a physical game and it was a dog fight, but that’s what we always expect,” Lawson said. “We left some points off the board, but we got the (win) and that’s all that matters.”
Defensive end Riley Mishler led the Lynx defense with eight tackles, including one in the backfield. Zane Williams finished with 71⁄2 and had one potentially game-saving pass deflection on Glenwood’s final possession of the game.
Reaching the state championship round is unexpected and cause for celebration. But Fielder says the feeling of euphoria won’t last for long.
“We’ll celebrate it for one day,” he said. “(Friday) we’ll get back to work because we’re not done yet.”