BIG D, ENOUGH 0: Lynx ride defense, late outburst past Bombers

WEBSTER CITY – Swimming in sweat, middle linebackers Rylee Lawson and Nelson Ball were too spent to show much emotion as they galloped off the field for the final time with 54 ticks left on the clock Friday night at Lynx Field.

But as the steam poured off their heads on the sideline, the two bumped shoulder pads in a quick and nonverbal show of appreciation for the other.

They knew they had done their jobs … and then some.

The anchors of the Webster City defense combined for 13 solo tackles and 12 assisted stops in the Lynx season-opening 13-0 victory over Ballard in front of an enthusiastic crowd. It was Webster City’s first shutout since a 35-0 blanking of Waverly-Shell Rock way back on Oct. 2, 2009 – a span of 35 games.

It was a bit of sweet redemption, too, considering the Bombers sent WCHS home empty-handed, 27-0, in Week 1 a season ago.

“I think we, as a defense, really pride ourselves on the shutout because that doesn’t happen very often,” Lawson, who sacked Ballard quarterback Coy Baker twice for a loss of 20 yards, said. “This is a big win for us and it gives us a lot of momentum.”

The speedy and authoritative defense forced Ballard into eight punts. The Bombers had three three-and-out series and one four-play series before turning it over on downs in the second half.

Ballard, which unsuccessfully tried to bully the Lynx with a power I-formation running game, managed just 199 yards of total offense. Tailback Jacob Nethers rushed for 138 yards, but he needed 28 carries to get there and 49 of his yards came on one run late in the first half.

“There’s potential there to be a pretty good defense,” WCHS head coach Bob Howard said after picking up career victory No. 288. “(Lawson and Ball) are good linebackers and keeping them healthy is a really big deal.”

The front four of the Lynx defense played a pivotal role in stymying the Bombers as well. Defensive tackle Gus Gasca lived in the backfield and made three solo tackles, while ends Cooper Jaycox and Gavin Dinsdale forced Ballard to try to make headway between the tackles.

Nethers’ 49-yard breakaway came in the final 30 seconds of the first half and he appeared destined for the end zone until Ball tracked him down and cut him off, and nose tackle Dylan Fielder drug him down from behind.

The Bombers went nowhere on back-to-back plays and then missed a 32-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the half to keep the contest scoreless going into the intermission.

“We overcame a lot of adversity and, to me, the biggest thing we overcame was when we missed three tackles and they broke that long run,” Howard said. “Last year the kid would have scored, but the kids buckled up and held them, and that was a big deal.”

The stingy defense was necessary, as WCHS had its own offensive problems until finally finding paydirt on a 34-yard touchdown pass from spinback Trey Tesdahl to wide receiver Tyler Lockwood with 5:04 left in regulation that put the Lynx ahead to stay.

With Ballard concentrating on containing split end Ben Mossman – he caught four balls that covered 49 yards on the night – on the outside, Lockwood found a crease over the middle and Tesdahl hit him in stride at the Ballard 20. Lockwood did the rest, dragging a Ballard defender with him the remainder of the way to the house.

“I was real proud of the line for sticking in there and giving Trey a chance, and Trey had a beautiful pass. I didn’t have to work for it at all,” Lockwood said. “Ben really got the defense to focus on him and it just left me open.”

The touchdown pass was actually a mid-game addition to the playbook.

“We drew the play that Lockwood caught at halftime,” Howard said. “The way things worked out, that’s about as good as it could have gone.”

Ballard worked its way down the field on the ensuing possession and reached the WCHS 20 before the Lynx dug in. Lawson’s second sack on a blitz on third-and-10 shoved the Bombers back to a fourth-and-20 from the 30, and Baker’s desperation heave towards the corner of the end zone on the next play was well out of reach.

“That was a blitz call and what made that happen was the line,” Lawson said of the sack. “They took on the blockers and I was able to get through scot-free.”

With just 1:37 remaining, WCHS was content to chew up clock, but senior tailback Connor Larson had other ideas.

Bottled up all night, the returning 1,000-yard back found a gap off right tackle and took the first play from scrimmage 70 yards down the sideline and to the end zone to give the Lynx a two-touchdown advantage.

Game. Set. Match.

“We had a lot of improvement between the first and second half,” Howard said. “We were able to run Connor more in the second half, and they’re always a good defensive team, so that was a good test.

“I know where we need to improve and as our offensive line gets better and better, we’re going to get better and better.”

WCHS finished with 266 yards of offense, highlighted by Larson’s 107-yard evening – his eighth career 100-yard game – on 15 totes. Running both the spread option and the single wing, Tesdahl accounted for 144 yards – 83 passing on 5-of-10 completions and 61 on the ground on 19 carries.

Tesdahl threw a pair of interceptions and the Lynx also coughed up two fumbles, one coming inside the Ballard 30 early in the fourth period.

“We’ve said all along that the defense is ahead of the offense,” Howard said. “The offense made strides in the second half, but we’ve got a long way to go.

“(Tesdahl) is going to make some mistakes. Trey’s thing is he wants to make big plays and he’ll get better. The bigger the game, the bigger he’s going to play.”

Mason Jensen made one of the picks and recovered one of the fumbles for Ballard.

WCHS will hit the road on Friday to take on Gilbert (1-0) at 7:30 p.m. The Tigers, 44-27 winners over Collins-Maxwell-Baxter on Friday, are ranked No. 8 (Class 2A) by The Des Moines Register.

WCHS has beaten Gilbert in each of the past three seasons, including 55-13 a season ago.

The Lynx will begin District 3 (3A) play a week later, but right now Gilbert is all they care about.

“Right now we’re just looking at Gilbert,” Lawson said. “That’s where our focus is at.”