ANOTHER BIG TEST
LYNX, NIGHTHAWKS MEET WITH TRIP TO DOME ON THE LINE
WEBSTER CITY — No. 6-ranked Webster City played its best game of the season against Sergeant Bluff-Luton seven days ago, and it needed to in order to survive and advance in the Class 3A state playoffs.
And now the Lynx will have to match, or maybe even exceed last week’s performance if they want to continue on their postseason journey.
There are no cupcakes left to devour. From here on out, only the best of the best will survive.
Unbeaten WCHS (9-0) will play its fourth consecutive home game this evening when it welcomes Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley (7-2) to Lynx Field for a 7 p.m. kickoff in the state quarterfinals. The winner will advance to the semifinals inside the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls next week.
WCHS reached this stage by winning a 28-21 thriller of Sergeant Bluff-Luton in the Round of 16. BHRV had an easier time of things last week with a 42-7 pasting of Spencer, a team it also beat in the regular season. WCHS owns a regular season win over Spencer as well.
But go ahead and forget about previous opponents. That both teams knocked off Spencer is irrelevant. So is the fact that SB-L handed BHRV a 42-35 loss in Week 3 of the regular season.
It’s all about match-ups and performing when the lights turn on now. WCHS head coach Bob Howard is hopeful his team will be able to do it again.
“We didn’t beat ourselves last week, I think that was a big deal,” he said. “I don’t think either team made mistakes in that game. Unfortunately, most games are lost and not won, so that’s what made that a great game last week.
“(BHRV and SB-L) are similar, so I think it’s going to be a similar type game.”
The Nighthawks, who will travel nearly 180 miles for the tussle, feature one of the more balanced offenses in the class and they have multiple schemes at their disposal. They can go to the spread and allow quarterback Caleb Kats to push the ball down the field, or they can lean on tailback Kody Noble to carry the load.
Noble ranks third in 3A with 1,310 yards rushing and he’s reached the end zone 17 times. Kats has thrown for 1,385 yards and 13 TDs, but he’s also been intercepted eight times.
So, yeah, pretty similar to SB-L, which leaned on talented sophomore signal caller Tyler Smith and hard-running tailback Kaden Helt. Both had their moments last week, but for the most part the WCHS defense minimized damage throughout the contest, and the unit will have to do so once again this evening.
“They run spread, they run power, they run a lot of formations and a lot of different stuff almost every game,” Howard said of the Nighthawks. “(Noble) runs hard and he’s a good football player. They use him in a lot of different ways.”
WCHS is allowing just 12.44 points per game, the sixth stingiest unit in the class. Quick at all 11 positions, the Lynx can get pressure with ends Jamin Stuhr and Kyzer Stanley — they’ve combined for 61⁄2 sacks and 101⁄2 tackles for loss — as well as blitzing linebacker Skyler Scott, who has dropped opponents behind the line of scrimmage eight times. Middle linebacker Trey Mathis doesn’t miss many tackles either; he leads the team with 541⁄2.
Just like last week, WCHS hopes its best defense will be its offense. The Lynx owned a nearly 11-minute time of possession advantage on SB-L, something they hope to accomplish again.
Mathis will again be the focal point, both for WCHS and likely for the Nighthawk defense. He has rushed for 1,268 yards and 17 scores this fall. Chase Rattenborg (744 yards, 10 TDs) and CJ Hisler (516 yards, 5 TDs) will also have to be accounted for by BHRV.
The Lynx also proved last week that, yes, they can throw the ball when needed. Rattenborg accumulated a career-high 113 yards through the air, and on the season he’s completing 53 percent of his passes with five TDs and no interceptions.
As always though, it starts up front for WCHS with offensive linemen Beau Klaver, Truman Klein, Trey Shannon, Neven Stark and Ben Auderer. Tight end JJ Moore is an effective blocker as well.
“Controlling the line of scrimmage is always our main goal,” Howard said. “So that will be key.”
Whoever wins will face a semifinal date against an opponent yet to be determined. The Iowa High School Athletic Association will announce the semifinal pairings on Saturday.
Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley (7-2) at Webster City (9-0)
What: Class 3A State Quarterfinals
Where: Lynx Field, Webster City
Time: 7 p.m.