WHAT A GAME
No. 6 Lynx gamble late, prevail in thriller over SB-Luton
WEBSTER CITY — A riverboat gambler he’s not, but for one moment in time Friday night, Webster City head football coach Bob Howard pushed his chips into the center of the table and declared his team was all in.
Howard’s players did the rest.
Tied at 21 with Sergeant Bluff-Luton and facing a fourth-and-3 from its own 27 — its own 27! — with 3:13 remaining in the Class 3A state playoffs Round of 16 contest, Howard ditched the idea of punting and went for it. WCHS converted and then proceeded to stroll the remainder of the way down the field for the winning touchdown — a 4-yard Trey Mathis run — with one minute remaining.
WCHS 28, SB-L 21. Wow. And on to the state quarterfinals the sixth-ranked Lynx march.
“That was a really good high school football game,” Howard, who collected career victory No. 350, said. “Honestly, Sergeant Bluff didn’t lose. We beat them, and that was our goal.”
Why did Howard elect to put all of his team’s eggs into that one fourth-down basket? SB-L (6-3), as dynamic an offensive team as WCHS has faced this season, had reeled off consecutive fourth-quarter touchdowns to knot the game and had all of the momentum. There was just no way Howard was going to give the ball back to Warriors’ talented quarterback Tyler Smith and his array of weapons with 3 minutes remaining and a chance to win the game.
And the play call couldn’t have been more perfect.
Mathis took a direct snap and then quickly pitched the ball to spinback Chase Rattenborg, who sprinted out to the right and fired a laser to wide receiver Tyler Olson for a 13-yard gain and the first down.
“We’d been running what we call ‘hammer,’ which is a big overload formation with Mathis hitting off tackle,” Howard said. “We ran the boot off it and that was a huge play because they had so much momentum.”
A 13-yard gain on a reverse to wingback CJ Hisler was followed by a 32-yard completion from Rattenborg to tight end JJ Moore — his first reception of the season — that set WCHS up at the Warrior 5. Two plays later, Mathis got across the goal line.
“That was definitely stressful, but when Mathis made it across the goal line, it was a picture-perfect play,” Rattenborg said after the best passing game of his career — 7 of 10 completions for 113 yards. “To be in a game like that is crazy.”
WCHS (9-0) pulled out all of the stops offensively. Reverses, wide receiver passes, throws that hadn’t been practiced more than a time or two all season — you name it and the Lynx ran it. Olson made a pair of highlight reel catches on fourth-and-long in the first half to set up a 1-yard Mathis TD run, and he also winged a 22-yard strike — his first pass attempt since the eighth grade — to Jack Van Diest to the 1 that led to another Mathis score to make it 21-7 late in the third quarter.
“I was ready for that and I was just hoping that (SB-L) didn’t notice I took my glove off,” Olson said.
“We don’t run that play a ton, but I knew Tyler could get it to me,” Van Diest said. “I was just hoping I didn’t drop it because I don’t get a ton of passes.”
WCHS finished with 323 yards of offense, 188 coming on the ground. Five different players — Olson, Hisler, Moore, Mathis and Van Diest — caught at least one pass, the first time that’s happened for the Lynx since October of 2018. The Warriors’ defense was punishing, and it limited Mathis to 90 yards on 28 carries. Hisler finished with 65 yards on 13 totes, and Rattenborg accumulated 33 yards on 14 carries, one of which resulted in a 1-yard TD run for the opening score of the contest early in the second period.
The lack of a consistent running game heaped more pressure on Rattenborg’s shoulders and he answered the challenge, particularly on the game-winning drive. On third-and-10, just prior to the fourth-down conversion, Rattenborg rolled to his right and avoided a sack by shoveling the ball to Mathis just as he was hit. Mathis moved it 7 yards up the field to set up the fourth-and-short.
“When crunch time comes, you have to come out and play your best football,” Rattenborg said. “Going into that last drive, we still had 5 minutes left on the clock and that’s a whole lot of football, especially with our offense. We put trust in our line and receivers and skill players, and when you come together as a team you can do a lot with that.”
Even after the go-ahead score, SB-L still had time to travel down the field. Smith hit a pair of big passes to get the Warriors to the Lynx 24 with 6 seconds remaining. But his final throw — a sprint to the left and heave toward the goal line — was picked off by a soaring Hisler at the 5, and the celebration ensued.
“I was a bit nervous down there, but it was awesome,” WCHS defensive end Kyzer Stanley, who made three tackles, including a sack, said. “There was so much anxiety with it, but the adrenaline was pumping the whole game. It never stopped.”
The WCHS secondary shined, particularly in the first half when it repeatedly knocked down deep balls by Smith, who finished 17 of 33 for 238 yards. Olson, an all-state free safety, shifted over to corner for the game and blanketed his side of the field. Ty McKinney took care of the other side.
“Our secondary played very well,” Howard said. “We got our hands on a lot of balls and contested a lot of balls, and when they did catch them, they were usually tackled right away.”
WCHS also took away the designed quarterback runs that Smith had success with all season. Warriors’ tailback Kaden Helt did rush for a game-high 97 yards, including a 6-yard TD run that evened the game at 21 with 5:15 remaining.
“We knew they were going to make a lot of plays because they’re a really good team,” Van Diest, who had four tackles, said. ‘We just couldn’t break. And CJ made a hell of a play there at the end.”
WCHS will play a third consecutive home game in the postseason on Friday when it hosts Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley (7-2), which thumped Spencer, 42-7, in the Round of 16. The winner will advance to the semifinals inside the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
WEBSTER CITY GRADES
Nothing came easy. Not one dang thing. But when Webster City needed to make a play against Sergeant Bluff-Luton on Friday, it did. And at the end of the day, what more can you ask for out of an offense? Spinback Chase Rattenborg had his best game passing, the offensive line gave him time to throw, and five different players caught at least one pass. WCHS had to empty its playbook, but plays the unit hadn’t even practiced worked flawlessly.
There’s no way to articulate just how big the Webster City secondary stepped up in the 28-21 win over Sergeant Bluff-Luton. The Warriors are loaded with offensive weapons and sophomore quarterback Tyler Smith, who threw for 238 yards, is already a star. He challenged the Lynx back line time and time again. And time and time again, the Lynx made the play. Moving Tyler Olson from free safety to cornerback was genius, and defensive ends Kyzer Stanley and Jamin Stuhr, as well as linebacker Skyler Scott, kept the heat on Smith all game. It wasn’t a perfect outing, but it was awfully close.
Special Teams: A-
Outside of a couple long returns on kicks by SB-L, the Lynx special teams were fantastic. Punter JJ Moore averaged 40 yards on five boots and several times flipped the field. Place kicker Ty McKinney was perfect on four PATs. They were weapons.
SB-Luton 0 7 0 14 — 21
Webster City 0 14 7 7 — 28
WC — Chase Rattenborg 1 run (Ty McKinney kick), 10:27.
WC — Trey Mathis 1 run (McKinney kick), 3:35.
SB-L — Ashton VerDoorn 16 pass from Tyler Smith (David Clausen kick), 0:05.
WC — Mathis 1 run (McKinney kick), 1:46.
SB-L — Jacob Imming 2 run (Clausen kick), 9:31.
SB-L — Kaden Helt 6 run (Clausen kick), 5:15.
WC — Mathis 4 run (McKinney kick), 1:00.
First downs 14 15
Rushing 3 9
Passing 11 6
Penalty 0 0
Rushes-yards 26-100 55-188
Passing yards 238 135
Comp-Att-INT 17-33-1 8-11-0
Return yards 132 67
Sacked-yards lost 2-11 0-0
Punts-Ave 5-33 5-40
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 1-19 0-0
Time of Possession 18:45 29:15
Webster City Lynx
Player Att Yds TD
Trey Mathis 28 90 3
CJ Hisler 13 65 0
Chase Rattenborg 14 33 1
Player Com Att Yds TD
C. Rattenborg 7 10 113 0
Tyler Olson 1 1 22 0
Player Rec Yds TD
Tyler Olson 3 45 0
JJ Moore 1 32 0
CJ Hisler 1 22 0
Jack Van Diest 1 22 0
Trey Mathis 2 14 0
Player So Ast Tot
Chase Rattenborg 7 0 7
Skyler Scott 6 2 7
Tyler Olson 5 0 5
Trey Mathis 4 2 5
Jack Van Diest 4 0 4
Jamin Stuhr 3 2 4
Kyzer Stanley 3 0 3
Devon Stoakes 2 2 3
Connor Hanson 2 2 3
Ty McKinney 1 0 1
Tyler Moothart 1 0 1
Truman Klein 1 0 1
Player Att Yds TD
Kaden Helt 14 97 1
Jacob Imming 2 6 1
Tyler Smith 10 -3 0
Player Com Att Yds TD
Tyler Smith 17 33 238 1
Player Rec Yds TD
Jacob Imming 4 91 0
Tyler Schenkelberg 6 81 0
Ashton VerDoorn 3 57 1
Vince Lally 1 12 0
Cole Conlon 1 4 0
Kaden Helt 2 -7 0