D-ominant: Lynx bottle up Ross, collect 4th shutout of season
WEBSTER CITY – Nine teams across the state gave up 76 or more points during Week 8 of the regular season.
Webster City hasn’t yielded that many points all season.
And, no, that’s not a misprint. Do the math yourself to verify.
Humboldt learned the hard way just how menacing the Lynx defense can be on Friday, as the Wildcats were overwhelmed at the line of scrimmage and had very little to offer in Webster City’s 14-0 victory at Lynx Field.
WCHS notched its fourth shutout – a feat not accomplished in the regular season since 1984 when the Lynx collected five – and it lowered the team’s defensive stinginess to just 9.4 points per game.
“That was a great defensive effort. That was awesome,” WCHS head coach Bob Howard said after his squad locked up a postseason berth and the No. 2 seed in the district. “The tackling was very good, scheme-wise (the players) were where they were supposed to be and there just wasn’t much (Humboldt) could do.”
Brady Ross, Humboldt’s junior tailback who trotted onto the field with 1,119 yards and an impressive 7 yards per carry average, was the victim of gang-tackling all night. He picked up just four yards on nine carries in the first half and went nowhere on three runs after the break.
Humboldt (5-3, 2-3) – losers of three of its last four games – finished with just 28 ground yards on 26 attempts and basically opted to abandon the running game midway through the second quarter.
Defensive tackle Gus Gasca sacked Wildcats’ quarterback Jaxon Heinz twice, but his signature moment came early in the third quarter when Humboldt rolled the dice and went for it on fourth-and-one from its own 46-yard line. Gasca shucked an offensive lineman aside, met Ross in the backfield and tossed him for a two-yard loss.
“Our defensive line played their butts off,” WCHS senior linebacker Nelson Ball said after accumulating a team-high five tackles. “That’s the best game they’ve played.”
Ross’ longest carry of the contest went for 6 yards. He was limited to one yard or no gain five times and was thrown for a loss four times.
Howard hoped his defense could limit Ross to fewer than 100 yards – something that only South Central Calhoun accomplished when it held the bruiser to 97 in Week 2.
But four yards? No, Howard didn’t see that coming.
“He’s not a one-man team, but containing him is certainly the place to start,” Howard said. “I thought Gasca had a fantastic game, (Dylan) Fielder on both sides and (Gavin) Dinsdale against the run was tougher than tough. And of course the two linebackers (Ball and Rylee Lawson), they’re good.”
Working out of the shotgun most of the second half, Heinz finished 15 of 25 passing for 106 yards. But he was also sacked four times; Fielder got to him once and Dinsdale and Cooper Jaycox sandwiched him on the final play of the third quarter.
Fielder, Gasca and Joey Root all made four tackles.
“(Ross) is a great running back and we just knew we had to tackle, so we did it,” Fielder said. “It’s a team game and all of us had a great game.”
WCHS out-gained Humboldt 275-134, keyed by another workhorse performance from its own standout tailback Connor Larson. He took over the district rushing lead from Ross after lugging the ball 34 times for 170 yards and a touchdown.
Larson now has 1,184 yards on the season and 2,319 in his career, which places him seventh on the program’s all-time hierarchy.
“We just kept running (Larson) and that’s what we have to do,” Howard said. “We only play him one way, so we’ve got to use him.”
Larson was the key component in the Lynx 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the closing moments of the first half that staked them to a 7-0 lead. He chewed up 64 yards on six carries, including the 2-yard rumble across the goal line with just 18 ticks remaining.
But tight end Doug Stoakes made perhaps the biggest contribution to the drive one play earlier when, on fourth-and-11 from the Wildcats’ 21, he made a lunging catch on an Alex Oswald pass at the 2 and held on while taking a big shot from Humboldt’s Christian Birdsell.
“The line protected Ozzie great and Ozzie checked down from (wide receiver) Ben (Mossman) and found me open,” Stoakes said. “I knew the guy was coming, too.”
Oswald – starting in place of injured spinback Trey Tesdahl – completed 3 of 8 passes for 31 yards, and he also rushed for 35 tough yards up the middle.
It remained 7-0 until midway through the fourth quarter when the Lynx again methodically marched down the field. Fielder capped the 81-yard drive when he broke free around the left end and went 27 yards down the sideline to push the margin to two scores with 5:36 to go.
Humboldt aided the drive with a costly 15-yard face mask penalty that put WCHS in scoring position.
“I was just trying to get the first down, but then I saw the end zone so I just kept running,” Fielder, who carried the ball twice for 29 yards, said.
WCHS wore down the Humboldt defense by possessing the ball for more than 10 minutes in the third quarter and 18:16 in the second half alone. The Lynx finished with a better than 13 1/2-minute time of possession advantage.
“If you keep pounding on the rock long enough, sooner or later it will crack and you’ll be able to get something,” Howard said. “Having those 80-yard drives was a big deal and Dylan’s run was pretty cool because he’s never run that before.”
WCHS will attempt to finish off an 8-1 regular season for only the second time since 1994 this Friday when it takes on Storm Lake (2-6) on the road in non-district play. And then it will be back to Lynx Field for a first-round playoff game on Wednesday, Oct. 30.
WCHS is 5-0 at home this season and 12-2 over the past three seasons.
“I’m old-fashioned. Playoffs are playoffs, but to be in the top two are the playoffs to me because that’s the way it used to be,” Howard said. “So it’s a big deal because these seniors have worked for four years for this. I’m really happy for them.”