RAREFIED AIR: Lynx blank Bulldogs, already register 3rd shutout

ALGONA – Forget about crawling around in diapers. Nobody in uniform was even a thought in their parents’ minds the last time a Webster City defense was this dominant.

Algona was just the latest victim to feel the wrath, blank you very much.

Limiting the Bulldogs to a pittance rushing the ball – 43 yards to be exact – and just 174 yards of total offense, 10th-ranked Webster City notched its third shutout of the season, 36-0, on a breezy but beautiful Friday night. It’s the first time a Lynx team has registered three goose eggs and back-to-back shutouts in the regular season in 24 years, and it’s been 25 years since WCHS did it three times in the first five weeks of the season.

It’s truly rarefied air.

“It’s fun shutting people out,” WCHS defensive back Joey Root said after recording 6 1/2 tackles and intercepting a Weston Shaw pass in the Class 3A District 3 tussle. “Other teams that we’re going to face know that we’ve got a good defense.”

Algona (1-4, 0-3) – playing in front of a large, but silent crowd on homecoming – was forced to go to the air for its yards. Primarily working out of the pistol, Shaw completed 11 of 24 passes for 121 yards, but the Bulldogs never moved the ball past the Lynx 30-yard line and they were forced to punt six times.

“It was another dang good defensive game,” WCHS head coach Bob Howard, who secured career victory No. 292 to move into a tie for 12th with the late Ed Thomas of Aplington-Parkersburg on the state’s all-time leaderboard, said. “We haven’t had a lot of shutouts since I’ve been up here, so that’s a neat deal and we’re really going to need them going forward.”

Linebacker Rylee Lawson notched a team-high eight tackles. Dylan Fielder and Cooper Jaycox both sacked Shaw.

The defense could have afforded to slack off, as the Lynx offense clicked from the first series and never relented to the tune of 451 yards of total offense, 381 coming on the ground. They owned a better than nine-minute time of possession advantage in the first half in running out to a 22-0 lead and kept the Bulldog defense on the field for more than 29 minutes in all.

Tailback Connor Larson earned his ice bath after lugging the ball 33 times for 222 yards and three touchdowns. It was his second consecutive 200-yard effort – he put up 226 yards in a Week 4 34-0 thumping of Iowa Falls-Alden – and pushed his season output to 755.

Algona looked like it used Larson as a human trampoline during the decisive first half, as defenders bounced off him time and time again. He picked up 133 of his yards – many of them coming after contact – on 22 totes in the game’s first 24 minutes.

“I’m going to ice, that’s for sure,” Larson said. “The line did great, but I took some hits out there.”

Wingback Alex Oswald accounted for 66 ground yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, and spinback Trey Tesdahl churned out 59 yards – 52 coming on a highlight-reel cutback run in the second half that set up a score – on 11 rushes. Tesdahl also completed 3 of 5 passes for 70 yards, including a 47-yard bomb to Ben Mossman over the middle early in the game.

Oswald was the beneficiary of Algona having to concentrate much of its manpower on Larson.

“He’s just a beast,” Oswald said of Larson. “He runs hard and he doesn’t stop. I don’t know how many yards he picks up after contact and that’s all will and determination.”

Larson found gaping holes to run through on the game’s opening drive, including on the fifth play that went 25 yards to the end zone to give WCHS the lead for good less than two minutes in.

“They deferred because they thought they would stop us, so that (first drive) was a big deal,” Howard said. “All of the guys up front – Cam Gordon, Clay Fortune, Victor Jergens and Tanner Tempel – played really well.

“I had no clue we were going to do this, to be perfectly honest. I was expecting a low-scoring game – 14-7 or something like that – because they’ve been very physical on film. We hadn’t seen anybody move the ball on them consistently.”

Oswald said the confidence of the offensive linemen went through the roof during and following the opening drive.

“That was such a huge drive, especially for the offensive line,” he said. “Coming out (Friday night) and hammering the way they did, it was great for them. They were all screaming and really into it.”

Oswald and Larson finished off long, time-consuming drives in the second quarter with punishing runs into the end zone. Oswald capped an 11-play, 4-minute excursion on a 3-yard untouched run with 4:18 remaining, and Larson dove across the goal line from 2 yards out to make it 22-0 with just 30 ticks left in the half.

The touchdown just before the intermission was set up by a nice punt return by Tyler Lockwood that put WCHS at the Algona 33. But Lockwood – a receiver and starting defensive back – injured his ribs on the play and did not return.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Lynx turned the contest into a blowout with two more touchdowns over the final 4:27. Larson’s final carry of the game netted him 10 yards for his third TD.

Lynx defensive end Gavin Dinsdale recovered a fumble at the Algona 34 on the first play of the ensuing possession, and back-up wingback Dominic Khaleet got the pay-off on a 26-yard scamper around the left end.

The lopsided score actually could have, and probably should have, been worse had the Lynx not stymied themselves. They turned the ball over twice on downs inside the red zone and two other times on fumbles on Algona’s side of the field.

The Lynx will now jump into the role of underdogs for Friday’s district showdown at fifth-ranked Clear Lake (5-0, 2-0), which handed No. 6 Humboldt (4-1, 2-1) its first loss of the season, 35-25, in Week 5. Howard isn’t about to publicly state a prediction, but he says the showing against Algona can only help.

“I feel a lot better about next week than I did 12 hours ago,” he said minutes after Friday’s win. “It will be a good challenge for the kids and hopefully it’s a fun week.”