STANDING O: Lynx control clock, rush for 444 yards in victory
STORM LAKE – Connor Larson isn’t used to watching from the sideline. Doing so on a late October night in Northwest Iowa didn’t exactly add to his enthusiasm.
“It was cold,” he said. “It was all right I guess, but I would have rather played.”
Larson, Webster City’s senior tailback and the Class 3A District 3 rushing champion, got his licks in early and then went on hiatus for the final 26 minutes and change on Friday. By then he’d done more than enough.
Bouncing off tacklers on every carry and piling up a massive amount of yards after contact, Larson rushed for 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns in less than a half of work to help the Lynx dismantle non-district foe Storm Lake, 42-0, on the final night of the regular season.
Larson averaged 8.3 yards per tote and rumbled into the end zone on runs of 2 and 13 yards in helping stake WCHS to a 35-0 halftime lead. At times he ran with an invisible chip on his shoulder as he remembered last season’s disappointing 44-29 loss to the Tornadoes.
“We all had a bad taste in our mouth after last year and we didn’t want that to happen again,” he said after WCHS wrapped up its third 8-1 regular season in the last four years.
Larson’s big night pushed him into fifth on the Lynx career rushing leaderboard with 2,501 yards. He has 1,336 this season.
But he says the career achievements aren’t on his mind at the moment.
“Right now it’s just about the team and how we do in the playoffs,” Larson said. “But they will obviously mean something to me later on.”
Breezy and bone-chilling conditions did nothing to slow down the Lynx offense, which amassed all 444 of its yards on the ground. WCHS piled up 302 of those yards in the opening half and continued to pound on the over-matched Storm Lake defense during a second half that featured a running clock.
“The biggest thing was getting the win and getting to 8-1,” WCHS senior spinback Alex Oswald said after chewing up 94 yards and scoring a pair of touchdowns on second-quarter jaunts of 15 and 7 yards. “(Friday night) was a preview of what our strengths are.”
WCHS used 10 running backs in all. Starting wingback Nelson Ball covered 53 yards and found the end zone on a 12-yard counter around the left end late in the first quarter. His back-up Domenic Khaleet ripped off 42 yards in the second half, and Larson’s understudy, freshman Drew Fielder, contributed 48 yards and a third-quarter 6-yard touchdown run.
Drew Fielder’s score capped a 19-play, 80-yard drive that ate nearly 10 minutes off the clock at the start of the second half.
The rookie was denied a TD at the Tornadoes’ half-yard line as time expired in the first half. WCHS also opted to take a knee rather than try to score again inside the Storm Lake 10 in the final minute of regulation.
The ball control ploy translated into an 80-27 advantage in plays run, a 24-4 edge in first downs and a massive 25-minute, 52-second time of possession cushion (36:56 to 11:04).
The offensive dominance made it easier on the defense to produce its fifth shutout of the season. As the front seven lived in the backfield, Storm Lake (2-7) didn’t pick up a single rushing yard on 12 carries and the Tornadoes finished with just 89 yards of total offense.
WCHS also forced four turnovers. Sophomore free safety Jordan Moen – making just his second start in place of injured veterans Tyler Lockwood and Trey Tesdahl – picked off Tornadoes’ quarterback Mitch Martin on back-to-back first-quarter possessions to set up touchdowns, Ball recovered a fumble after Oswald stripped Martin, and later in the first half Ball came out of a big pile with the ball on a kickoff.
Storm Lake had just two second-half possessions. Both resulted in three plays, zero yards and a punt.
“We just had to find ways to get to (Martin) back there and it worked,” Dylan Fielder, the Lynx senior nose tackle, said after pancaking Martin multiple times, once for a sack. He finished with a team-high four solo tackles.
Linebacker Brandon Patten sacked Martin twice and defensive end Gavin Dinsdale added one sack.
This is only the eighth time in the 117-year history of Lynx football that a team has notched five shutouts. Only three teams – in 1984 (six), 1939 (six) and 1936 (eight) – have produced more.
“Five shutouts is pretty remarkable and I just love playing defense with these guys,” Dylan Fielder said. “I knew our caliber of defense was going to be pretty good this year, but I didn’t know it was going to be like this.”
It didn’t hurt that Storm Lake went away from the running game early on and maybe rightfully so. WCHS, which has surrendered just 8.3 points per game this season, is holding teams to just 89.1 yards on the ground per outing.
“Getting another shutout shows that we’re on the right track,” Oswald said.
The Lynx didn’t take even a moment to celebrate Friday’s win; they were already looking forward to Wednesday’s Class 3A first-round playoff date with Grinnell (6-3). It will be a rematch of a 2012 first-round battle won by the Tigers on their home field, 38-14.
But this time Grinnell will come to Webster City for the 7 p.m. kickoff.
“We’ve got the mentality that we’re going to go out there and take it to them,” Oswald said. “This year we want it more than anything.”