Lynx eager for district challenge vs. No. 4 Dodgers
WEBSTER CITY — There were no rah-rah speeches given inside the Webster City locker room in the day’s leading up to tonight’s Class 4A District 1 football opener. As head coach Bob Howard sees it, if his players can’t get self-motivated for this challenge, then there are no words he could speak that would change things.
“This is a huge challenge and (the players) know what the deal is,” Howard said. “We shouldn’t have to rely on fire up speeches.”
Fourth-ranked Fort Dodge (4-0) will bring a perfect record with it on the short 20-minute bus ride to take on WCHS (2-2) at 7 p.m., as both teams look to open the district slate with a step in the right direction.
As much as some fans would like to establish a rivalry between the programs, the fact is they haven’t met in 56 years and only twice over the past 78 years. Fort Dodge holds a 19-2-1 all-time advantage, while WCHS has been able to hold whatever bragging rights there are since the last meeting went its way in 1965, 21-6.
The proximity and the battles from almost a century ago have no bearing on tonight’s tussle. The Lynx motivation comes from the chance to topple the district favorite and assert themselves as the team to beat over the final four weeks of the regular season.
But that will be easier said than done because, quite frankly, Fort Dodge is unbeaten for a reason.
“They certainly should be the favorites and they’re essentially twice as big as we are,” Howard said. “We’re 2-2, so we ought to be the underdog every week. Plus, they’ve got a lot of nice skill kids and a lot of one-way players.”
This will be the Lynx third highly-ranked opponent in the opening five weeks. So far, they haven’t fared well with losses to No. 4 (3A) Humboldt, 35-7, and No. 6 (4A) Waverly-Shell Rock, 31-14.
However, WCHS is coming off its most complete performance of the season seven days ago when it drubbed Mason City, 36-3 — the same Mohawk team Fort Dodge got by in Week 1, 28-13.
The Dodgers also own wins over Ames (42-21), Waterloo West (36-6) and Marshalltown (22-21).
“Against the teams they’ve played, they’ve looked pretty good,” Howard said.
Fort Dodge quarterback Conor Carver has thrown for 798 yards and six touchdowns through four games, and he has a pair of dynamic receivers in Javion Jondle (23 catches, 288 yards) and Bradley Vodraska (19 catches, 267 yards and 4 TDs). But Howard sees running back Jon Presswood (104 carries, 540 yards and 5 TDs) as the bigger threat.
“The bigger scare for me is Presswood who carried the ball 37 times against Marshalltown (last week), so we need to be able to stop the run first,” Howard said. “Jondle is a very good receiver on the outside, but our first challenge is limiting their running game.”
Closing down the running lanes and forcing Fort Dodge to methodically move down the field rather than hit long passes will be paramount. The WCHS defense has been up to the task, particularly over the past three halves when it’s allowed just one touchdown and 10 total points. Devon Stoakes has a team-high 21 tackles, while Skyler Scott and Jaxon Cherry have both made 17 stops. The Lynx secondary has five interceptions and will look to add to its total against Carver, who has been picked off six times this fall.
Fort Dodge could have its own issues defensively, particularly if it’s not well-prepared to face Howard’s single-wing scheme, and in recent years it’s been an issue for larger schools that have dropped down to take on the Lynx. In five meetings against Mason City and Waterloo East since 2018, WCHS has rushed for 1,822 yards — an average of 364.4 per game — and it won all five.
Could the Dodgers have similar problems against the unique offense? Howard says what happens at the line of scrimmage will determine the results.
“It depends on whether you’re physically superior up front,” he said. “If you’re Waverly-Shell Rock, those guys hadn’t played us in high school, but they were physically superior up front. Now, if things are equal, then I think being different makes a difference.”
WCHS averages 232 yards per game on the ground this season and has four capable ball carriers in wingback CJ Hisler (339 yards, 3 TDs), tailbacks Jaxon Cherry (192 yards, 4 TDs) and Connor Hanson (166 yards, 2 TDs), and spinback Ty McKinney (160 yards). McKinney also completes better than 50 percent of his passes and has four TD tosses without an interception.
No. 4 Ft. Dodge (4-0) at Webster City (2-2)
Where: Lynx Field.
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: Take it all the way back to 1965, a 21-6 WCHS victory.
Notes: It’s the start of district play. The first- and second-place teams in the final standings will qualify for the playoffs … Fort Dodge holds a 19-2-1 advantage in the series that dates back to 1896. In addition to 1965, WCHS also won in 1942, 14-6.