DOME SWEET DOME
WEBSTER CITY – The team that was never supposed to make the playoffs and never supposed to win once it got there added another defiant chapter for all of the naysayers to read Friday night.
Doubt Webster City no more. This isn’t just a solid or even good team. This is a state semifinal team. Something the program hasn’t been able to say for 30 years.
A 48-minute brawl in the trenches turned on a few key plays and sixth-ranked Webster City withstood a frantic fourth-quarter charge by Boone to claim the Class 3A state playoffs quarterfinal bout, 21-19, in front of an overflowing crowd at Lynx Field.
The outcome was in doubt until the clock hit zeroes, as Boone quarterback Tanner Schminke’s final desperation heave was batted down by Lynx cornerback Jordan Tanner near the WCHS 30-yard line. It set off a rousing celebration on the Lynx sideline and sent the team to a Thursday evening semifinal date against 10th-ranked Glenwood (9-2) inside the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
“It’s really crazy, but it’s great,” WCHS nose tackle James Cherry said after registering four solo tackles, including a sack of Schminke, and a tackle for loss. “Boone is a tough team, so to make it to the dome, it’s just unreal.”
It was the Lynx (10-1) eighth straight victory and second over Boone (8-3) in a span of 14 days. WCHS has now won 16 straight games at home and is 21-2 since the start of the 2015 season.
“It was a heck of a football game and Boone is a very good football team,” WCHS head coach Bob Howard said after he locked up an 11th trip to the state semifinals in his career. “A semifinal with any team is a big deal … I think it’s time now that (the players) understand they earned this. It wasn’t luck, it wasn’t an easy schedule. We’re a good football team.”
WCHS was certainly good defensively on Friday. Schminke, an all-state signal caller, threw for 197 yards and two second-half touchdowns, but he also tossed 24 incompletions and two interceptions, and was sacked four times.
Zane Carter, a senior cornerback for WCHS, turned a Schminke pass into a pick-six midway through the third quarter to give the Lynx a 14-0 advantage. He was at the right place at the right time to come down with a batted ball, and he took it 23 yards to the house.
“It just landed in my arms, and then Payton (Kannuan) made a good block and it was a clear path to the end zone,” Carter said. “We’ve made some big improvements (in the secondary) from the beginning of the year. We’ve just kept working and we’ve found out we’re pretty good.”
Free safety Dylan Steen also picked off a Schminke pass, his third interception in the last two games. And the WCHS defensive front four – ends Riley Mishler and Cole Briese and interior guys Cherry and Cooper Lawson – put Schminke on the turf time after time.
Boone finished with 278 yards of offense, but had to punt seven times and turned the ball over on downs once inside the WCHS 30.
“That’s as good as we’ve played on defense since I’ve been here,” Howard said. “It was an outstanding performance by the defense.”
Cherry’s five total tackles led the way. Briese, Mishler and middle linebacker Caleb Olson all finished with 4 1/2. Mishler sacked Schminke twice; Olson and James Van Diest also came together for a sack.
WCHS needed a stingy effort, as Boone’s ball-hawking defense was equally dominant. The Toreadors didn’t give up a first down until the second quarter, yielded just seven in the game and held the Lynx to a season-low 166 yards rushing. WCHS finished with 244 total yards, also a season-low.
“Boone is a really great team,” WCHS spinback and linebacker Drew Fielder, who scored the game’s first touchdown on a 3-yard run up the gut early in the second quarter, said after amassing 39 yards rushing and 37 passing. “Their defense is really good.”
Lynx tailback Robert Frederiksen posted his 10th 100-yard game in as many outings. He finished with 106, 40 of them coming on a burst over the left side that gave WCHS a 21-13 advantage with 4:59 remaining.
Boone confidently marched down the field and pulled to within two points on a Schminke keeper from the 1-yard line with 2:51 to go. Needing a two-point conversion to knot the game at 21, Schminke rolled out to the right and spotted Mason Hulse two steps in the end zone. But the pass was low and fell to the turf as Hulse and Kannuan, who was defending on the play, dove for the ball.
Carter recovered the ensuing onside kick and WCHS milked the clock until just 43 ticks remained before punting. Fielder hit a beauty that went out of bounds at the Toreadors’ 4 and Boone only reached its own 32 before the final heave down the field.
“That was physical, but that’s the way we play,” Lawson said. “We smacked them in the mouth and they smacked us in the mouth, but we made a couple more plays. Boone had a great season, but, unfortunately, one of us had to lose.”
Schminke kept his team’s hopes for a berth in the final four alive with a pair of second-half touchdown passes. He hit Jon Herrick with a bullet over the middle on a fourth-and-goal play from the 10 to pull the Toreadors within 14-7 late in the third quarter.
On Boone’s next possession early in the fourth, Schminke hit Kade Morain in stride over the middle and Morain maneuvered around five WCHS defenders on his way down the field for a 67-yard touchdown. But the Toreadors missed the extra point, leaving WCHS in the lead, 14-13.
Frederiksen also completed a pair of passes, highlighted by a short strike to Kannuan that resulted in a 38-yard gain down to the Boone 26 on the Lynx first scoring drive. Fielder also connected with Hunter Hayes on a fourth-down call that positioned the ball at the Toreadors’ 5-yard line. Fielder scored two plays later.
“It was a pretty difficult game, but we just played our hardest and came out on top,” Frederiksen, who now has 1,692 yards rushing, the second-most in 3A, said. “It’s just unbelievable. We’re going to the UNI-Dome.”
Kannuan added 69 yards of offense – 21 on the ground and 48 on a pair of receptions. Frederiksen, Fielder and Tanner all had catches as well.
The Lynx first trip to the semifinals since 1986 comes following a 2015 season in which they were stopped by Sergeant Bluff-Luton in the quarterfinals. Fielder says there’s now only one thing left to do.
“State semifinals, who would have known?” he said. “But now we’re there, so let’s go win it.”