WILD, WILD EAST
Doolittle, Kepler gain 268 yards in Lynx shootout win over Trojans
BY TROY BANNING
WEBSTER CITY — News flash: Drake Doolittle isn’t a big kid. He just plays one on the football field.
The Webster City senior has a smile on his face when he says he weighs 135 pounds. A few seconds later he relents and admits it’s actually 133. The truth truth? It’s probably closer to 130.
He put those 130 or so pounds to good use Friday night in the form of a battering ram running style in Webster City’s offensive shootout 45-36 victory over Waterloo East at Lynx Field.
Doolittle rushed for a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns against an East defense that noticeable issues keeping up with the single wing scheme. The Trojans (0-3), losers of nine consecutive games, overloaded on the strong side and that allowed Doolittle to exploit them going the other way on the counter.
His first carry went 56 yards — just six fewer than his previous career-high in a game — to the house. He averaged
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10.4 yards per tote.
“There were huge holes,” Doolittle said. “I’ve got (offensive tackle) Austin (Lampman) leading up in front of me and I’ve got (tight end) Henry (Hoversten), you can run behind those guys all night. With our offense, we have so many plays and different directions that you can’t line up right on every play.”
Consider WCHS head coach Bob Howard impressed.
“It’s the best ballgame he’s had and that’s saying something,” Howard said. “He was the most consistent of our offense players and we hardly ever give a wingback that many carries (14), but that was the play that was there.”
Tailback Trace Kepler did plenty of damage as well. He churned out 122 yards and scored three touchdowns, part of the Lynx 324 yards of ground offense. Dylan Steen picked up 54 more yards and also threw for 75 and a score.
“When we have a huge game like this running the ball, that gets the ball rolling,” Doolittle said.
WCHS (2-1), which notched the 599th win in the history of its program, needed every yard and every point it could muster because East had its own arsenal of weapons.
Trojans’ quarterback Dylan Reyes rushed for four touchdowns and threw for 321 yards and a TD. East out-gained WCHS by a single yard, 400-399, but also turned the ball over twice on two Reyes interceptions. The Lynx held the ball for almost 15 more minutes and that eventually wore down the Trojan defense, proven by the seven injury timeouts they took in the second half.
“I’m happy we won, but we’ve got so much room for improvement,” Howard said after he picked up career victory No. 332, which moved him into a tie with Pekin’s Tom Stone for eighth on Iowa’s all-time wins list. “They’ve got some nice athletes and they got the ball to them, but giving up 36 points, that isn’t good.”
The two teams combined for five touchdowns and 36 points in the first quarter. Doolittle’s second score on a 12-yard run and Steen’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Carson Struchen just a few plays after the spinback converted on a fourth-and-8 with a 12-yard strike to Malachi Montes allowed WCHS to move in front, 21-15.
Kepler reached the end zone for the first time on a 3-yard rumble late in the second quarter to give the Lynx a 29-22 lead at the intermission.
Reyes notched three touchdowns in the initial 24 minutes on sprints of 1, 3 and 25 yards. But WCHS limited the dual-threat signal caller to just 39 yards rushing in all and sacked him twice. The passes he torched the Lynx for weren’t ideal, but Howard says his defense took care of priority No. 1.
“We did a nice job on limiting his runs,” he said. “We blew one (the 25-yard TD), but other than that we contained him pretty well and rushed him pretty well. What I was most worried about was his running.”
WCHS pushed its margin to 36-22 midway through the third quarter on another 3-yard touchdown by Kepler, but East answered with back-to-back scores to knot it at 36 with 11:12 remaining. Reyes connected with Tyrell Newman on a 70-yard bomb down the right sideline to bring it back to even.
Newman had just two catches in the game, but they covered 144 yards of real estate.
But the Lynx had the answer, just like they did after a fumble on the game’s opening kickoff led to an East end zone celebration. A 66-yard drive that ate more than 4 minutes off the clock culminated with Kepler’s third 3-yard touchdown.
The WCHS defense stood up on the ensuing drive and sophomore linebacker Trey Mathis made a pivotal play on third-and-long. With the Lynx pursuing to the left, Reyes whipped around and threw a backside screen, but with no help behind Mathis made the hit and forced a punt.
“We practiced making sure that when the running back goes to that side for a pass, I’ve got to make sure I make that play and don’t miss my tackle,” Mathis, who made a game-high 11 tackles, said.
East gut-punched itself moments later. Lined up near its own 20, the ball sailed over the head of Reyes, also the team’s punter, into the end zone for a safety to make it a two-score game with 5:31 to go.
The Trojans had one more chance to draw closer in the final minute, but Lynx cornerback Tyler Olson stepped in front of a Reyes pass near the WCHS sideline for an interception.
And just like that, WCHS could breathe.
“That was not really a Webster City kind of game,” Steen said. “But it was really important to get the win and we played well.”
Steen picked off Reyes near the end of the first half. It was the 17th career interception for the WCHS senior and it moved him into a tie for 11th place on the state’s all-time 11-player leaderboard. He needs just one more to crack the top 10, and the state record of 24 isn’t out of his reach with six regular season games remaining.
“That’s really neat, but that’s not what I’m thinking about right now,” Steen, who also made 51⁄2 tackles, said when asked about the career total. “At this point I’m just wanting the team to get better and I want to make an impact for the team.”
Montes made 51⁄2 stops as well, while Lampman and Carsen Johnson collected the sacks. But Johnson, a key on the line on both sides of the ball, went down with an apparent leg injury late in the game and had to be helped off the field.
Waterloo East 15 7 7 7 — 36
Webster City 21 8 7 9 — 45
WE — Dylan Reyes 1 run (Dakota Albright kick), 10:23.
WC — Drake Doolittle 56 run (Nathan Ferrell kick), 9:24.
WE — Reyes 3 run (Tavious Jenkins pass from Reyes), 7:49.
WC — Doolittle 12 run (run failed), 4:52.
WC — Carson Struchen 13 pass from Dylan Steen (Steen run), 1:32.
WE — Reyes 26 run (Albright kick), 5:57.
WC — Trace Kepler 3 run (Kepler run), 1:46.
WC — Kepler 3 run (Ferrell kick), 6:03.
WE — Reyes 2 run (Albright kick), 4:03.
WE — Tyrell Newman 70 pass from Reyes (Albright kick), 11:12.
WC — Kepler 3 run (Ferrell kick), 7:04.
WC — Safety, 5:31.
First downs 11 22
Rushing 3 18
Passing 8 3
Penalty 0 1
Rushes-yards 26-79 61-324
Passing yards 321 75
Comp-Att-INT 12-27-2 5-12-0
Return yards 134 137
Sacked-yards lost 2-14 1-11
Punts-Ave 4-28 4-25
Fumbles-lost 1-0 5-1
Penalties-yards 9-89 1-5
Time of Possession 16:32 31:28
WEBSTER CITY LYNX
Player Att Yds TD
Drake Doolittle 14 146 2
Trace Kepler 29 122 3
Dylan Steen 17 54 0
Garrett Whitmore 1 5 0
Player Com Att Yds TD
Dylan Steen 5 11 75 1
Player Rec Yds TD
Carson Struchen 2 46 1
Malachi Montes 1 12 0
Drake Doolittle 1 9 0
Trace Kepler 1 8 0
Player So Ast Tot
Trey Mathis 10 2 11
Dylan Steen 5 1 51⁄2
Malachi Montes 5 1 51⁄2
Drake Doolittle 2 3 31⁄2
Caleb Olson 2 2 3
Hunter Collicott 2 0 2
Austin Lampman 2 0 2
Tyler Olson 2 0 2
Carsen Johnson 1 0 1
Brayden Berg 1 0 1
WATERLOO EAST TROJANS
Player Att Yds TD
Kendall Robinson 13 62 0
Dylan Reyes 11 39 4
Ahkil Muhammad 1 2 0
Aidan Ernst 1 -2 0
Player Com Att Yds TD
Dylan Reyes 12 27 321 1
Player Rec Yds TD
Tyrell Newman 2 144 1
Aidan Ernst 3 85 0
Kendall Robinson 3 36 0
Ahkil Muhammad 2 29 0
Griffen Bender 1 14 0
Scott Bickel 1 13 0