17-Year Hiccup: Lions capitalize on short fields, mistakes to beat Lynx
CLEAR LAKE – When in doubt, air it out.
That’s not a philosophy that Clear Lake head football coach Fred Wieck abides by too often – he prefers to run, run and then run some more – but that’s precisely what worked for his fifth-ranked Lions in their 22-7 victory over No. 8 Webster City during a Saturday morning matinee of Class 3A District 3 rivals.
Junior quarterback Brock Adams showed no fear by completing 7 of 12 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown in leading the unbeaten Lions (6-0, 3-0) to their 15th consecutive victory over the Lynx (5-1, 3-1) in the last 17 years.
But it was how Adams went about his business that made all the difference.
Four of his completions came on third and long, including a 9-yard touchdown on a screen pass to Carter Hand in the final minute of the first half that put Clear Lake in the driver’s seat, 15-0. Earlier in the drive, on fourth and inches, Adams set up WCHS for a flea flicker and he delivered by finding Tamarik Lee on a 27-yard hook-up that put the Lions inside the WCHS 10.
“Brock throws a nice ball and we use it when we have to,” Wieck said after guiding his team to sole ownership of the district lead. “We saved (the flea flicker) until I thought it was time and I figured they’d be expecting the run on that play.”
The upset-minded Lynx were tormented by a slew of mistakes; turnovers, special teams gaffs, lousy field position and an offense stuck in neutral for much of the day all put them behind the 8-ball with no chance of recovery.
“You’ve got to be able to keep the ball away from them a little bit and we couldn’t do that,” WCHS head coach Bob Howard said. “But that’s a dang good football team. They’ve got some athletes over there.”
WCHS turned the ball over four times, leading to 15 Clear Lake points, and rolled up just 172 yards of offense. The Lions’ menacing linebackers, led by all-stater Pete Swenson in the middle, lived in the backfield and limited the Lynx to just 120 yards rushing.
Connor Larson, the Lynx senior tailback who entered the clash as the district’s leading rusher, was limited to 60 yards on 24 totes. WCHS had seven runs that went for no gain or a loss and eight more that picked up just one yard.
“We had a good (defensive) scheme and our kids do a nice job,” Wieck said. “We’ve got some good skilled athletes this year and we’ve got some good linebackers. Anytime you have good linebackers that makes it tough on the other team.”
The Lynx didn’t do themselves any favors either, particularly when it came to field position. Twice in the first half they let punts sail over their heads, resulting in drives that began inside their own 10. Their average starting position was their 24; six drives started inside the 20.
WCHS went 3-and-out on five of seven first-half possessions and six times in all.
The ultimate price was paid in the second quarter when punter Drew Fielder had the snap sail over his head at the 6 and all he could do was fall on top of the ball in the end zone for a safety.
“In games like this (field position) is everything,” Howard said. “We’ve been winning the field position stuff and (Saturday) we lost it.”
Conversely, Clear Lake started four drives in WCHS territory. It would have been five had Chandler Diercks not fumbled a punt return after taking the ball down to the WCHS 18 in the second quarter.
Diercks already had a little goodwill though after picking off a Trey Tesdahl pass late in the first quarter and returning it to the WCHS 1. Hand bulldozed his way into the end zone on the next play to give the Lions a 6-0 lead and they never relinquished the advantage.
Hand added a 2-yard touchdown burst with 47 ticks left in the third quarter that extended the Lions’ cushion to 22-0.
WCHS avoided the shutout and showed some offensive life with a 14-play, 72-yard drive that chewed up more than 5 minutes early in the fourth quarter. Wingback Alex Oswald ran over defenders as he made his way down to the 1 and Larson plowed into the end zone on the next play.
“We needed that drive because we wanted to show some improvement in the game and I think we did that,” Howard said.
Oswald rushed for 40 yards and also completed a pass to Ben Mossman for seven yards. Tesdahl completed 4 of 8 passes for 45 yards.
Clear Lake’s offense didn’t exactly run over the Lynx either; quite the opposite, in fact.
WCHS limited the Lions’ vaunted triple-option running attack to 120 yards, 46 of which came on a breakaway by Alex Gonzalez on the final drive of the game.
But time and time again Adams had the answer through the air.
“We played very well on defense and the kids were focused and read their keys,” Howard said. “But they were able to convert a couple of nice plays on deep slants.”
Nose tackle Dylan Fielder was around the ball all day and finished with seven solo tackles. He body-slammed Adams for a sack on the game’s opening drive and he also recovered a fumble. Middle linebacker Nelson Ball plugged the middle of the field and made five solo stops.
“The defensive line played well and we got better in the second half,” Ball said. “We made a few mistakes we’ve got to fix, but we just have to translate that to next week.”
“I thought Ball and Fielder both had unbelievable games,” Howard said.
There won’t be any time for WCHS to lick its wounds though as it prepares to host Waverly-Shell Rock (4-2, 2-1) on Friday.
“We’re kind of already past this game and now it’s on to Waverly,” Ball said.
Notebook: The game was moved to Saturday after being postponed Friday night because of the weather. The two teams waited in the locker rooms for approximately 4 hours before the game was officially postponed at 9:10 p.m. Kickoff was scheduled for 6:30 p.m.