FORT DODGE — Time and time again, the Webster City football squad presented their trademark rushing attack to Fort Dodge and dared the Dodgers to stop it.
Jaxon Cherry. CJ Hisler. Ty McKinney. Left. Right. Up the middle.
It didn’t matter. The Lynx were more than willing to impose their will on Fort Dodge here Friday night.
Slugging or sprinting their way through the mist and breeze, defending Class 4A, District 1 champion Webster City looked every bit like a title contender again by dominating the home team in a 62-23 rout.
Playing inside Dodger Stadium for the first time in over five decades, the Lynx brought a vintage old-school mentality to the matchup. Head coach Bob Howard’s ballclub ran the ball 65 times on 67 snaps from scrimmage, amassing an unofficial school record 678 yards on the ground.
The Lynx (3-2 overall, 1-0 in 4A-1) won for the third time in four weeks after being shut out in their season opener at No. 1 (3A) Humboldt. They were punishing on offense and relentless on defense against Fort Dodge (2-3, 0-1), accumulating 32 first downs while only allowing 11 and more than tripling the Dodgers in total yardage.
“Our offense has always been based on three to four running backs and being able to attack across the formation,” Howard. “Hisler and McKinney are both talented and experienced runners, explosive in their own right, so it makes it hard to key on Cherry.
“I don’t think the effort has changed (in recent weeks), but playing Humboldt for the first game and (No. 3/4A) Waverly-Shell Rock the third definitely accentuated the areas we needed to work on — particularly the new offensive line — and led to pointed practices and improvement from day to day.”
Webster City exploded in the middle quarters, scoring touchdowns on seven consecutive possessions. Cherry — the 210-pound junior stalwart — had 28 carries for 248 yards and six scores to lead the way. Hisler — a senior back — rushed 15 times for 218 yards, and McKinney — a senior quarterback — contributed 190 on 18 attempts.
“They’re very good,” Dodger head coach Nik Moser said. “Physical. Aggressive. Cherry is the real deal. And for as impressive as they were offensively, their defense fires to the ball with basically the same cast of characters. It’s just a really solid all-around football team…I think they’re better than they were a year ago (when the Lynx went 7-2 and captured the district title).
“This was a tough matchup and a tough night. The bottom line is Webster City took it to us.”
The Lynx’s three-headed monster either galloped or walloped their way down the field, depending on the circumstance; the offensive line was dominant, but Cherry, Hisler and McKinney also shed defenders with stellar speed or brute strength. Twenty Webster City rushes went for a run of 15 or more yards.
A week ago, the Lynx did a similar number on Mason City, with Cherry going for 247 yards and four scores in a 49-14 rout.
Howard credits his veteran skill position players, but also, an evolving offensive line filled with newcomers.
“We changed four of the five offensive line positions after the W-SR game,” Howard said. “They practiced well…still have a ways to go, but have gained confidence and attitude the past two weeks. Max Kumm has done a great job moving from center to our strong tackle and Dylan (Burnette-Bingham) was inserted at strong guard. While he’s not big, he brings speed and attitude and has been a big contributor.”
Dodger senior all-state quarterback Connor Carver threw for 200 yards, but it took him 39 attempts to get there. Carver hit junior Grant Williams for a pair of 41-yard TD strikes.
Fort Dodge had 11 carries for a net total of nine yards rushing.
“We had returning starters on defense and felt that should be a strength,” Howard said. “We aren’t big in the front, but they have good speed and strength, led by Connor (Hanson), a four-year starter.”
Webster City now heads to Le Mars for another road litmus test this Friday. The Bulldogs are off to a 4-1 start.
“We always try to focus on ‘ignoring the noise’ and focusing on the game at hand,” Howard said. “Our kids have done a great job of that the past few years … we know LeMars will be a tough trip, but I think our kids know how to prepare to be ready to play their best game yet on Friday.”