GILBERT – There was plenty of pomp and circumstance for every home fan to enjoy Friday night at the unveiling of Gilbert’s new luxurious $3.2 million football stadium.
The Iowa State University marching band made appearances prior to kickoff and at halftime. A massive fireworks display lit up the sky and echoed for miles following the final horn. Kids poured out of the bleachers and onto the flashy field turf to throw frisbees and dance to the music blaring over the state-of-the-art sound system to cap off the night.
Oh yeah, a little football was played, too.
Gilbert, a Class 2A state quarterfinalist a season ago before making the jump up to 3A this fall, fed off its massive and excited crowd and gave the spectators plenty to celebrate with a 38-6 thumping of Webster City in the season opener.
It was the Tigers first-ever victory over the Lynx in five tries and it was never close. Gilbert scored touchdowns on its first four possession, booted a 32-yard field goal on its sixth and punctuated the blowout with another TD on the seventh series.
And as the final seconds ticked off, the Tiger players gave head coach Scott Auderer an icy memory in the form of a Gatorade bath.
“To come out and play like this in front of the home fans, I know it meant a lot to (the players),” Auderer said. “These kids can hang and play with anybody in 3A.”
WCHS was breaking in an entirely new set of skill players and only a handful of starters returned off last season’s 8-2 squad. The inexperience was evident on both sides of the ball.
The Lynx were limited to just 155 yards of total offense, 90 coming on a 14-play drive that ate 7:39 off the clock in the fourth quarter after both teams had removed the majority of their starters from the game. Landon Daniels capped the march down the field with an 9-yard touchdown run up the gut and WCHS avoided its first shutout loss since Week 1 of the 2012 season.
Head coach Bob Howard’s offense went three-and-out five times, including all three of its possessions in the third quarter. But the problems were everywhere, not just on offense.
“They out-played us, out-coached us and they were obviously in better condition,” Howard said. “Practicing has been a real challenge and we knew we couldn’t simulate their receivers and skill kids.
“There are several reasons (for the loss), but no good excuses.”
Gilbert senior quarterback Jared Gescheidler finally got the better of the Lynx in his third attempt. The veteran rushed for 79 yards on 12 totes, including a 33-yard sprint through a slew of arm tackles to the end zone on the game’s opening drive. He also plunged across the goal line from three yards out late in the second quarter to send the Tigers into the intermission ahead 28-0.
“He’s obviously good,” Howard said of Gescheidler. “He’s a three-year starter and we knew he’d be tough.”
Gescheidler was even more effective through the air. Taking advantage of one-on-one coverage on the perimeter, he completed 12 of 20 passes for 174 yards. Dax Hatfield and Wyatt Rhoads – the son of ISU head football coach Paul Rhoads – combined to make eight catches that covered 140 yards.
Hatfield torched WCHS early on with quick slant routes. He caught three balls that moved the chains 35 yards down the field before Gescheidler broke free on the opening drive.
“Jared is one of the best all-around players in the state, I’ll just say that now … we go where he goes,” Auderer said. “They really respected Jared as a runner, so they kept everybody in the box and played us man-to-man on the outside. I don’t think many teams can stay with us man-to-man on the outside.”
Howard said youth and butterflies in the secondary played a factor in Gescheidler’s pitch-and-catch performance.
“As soon as they completed a couple passes, instead of staying with fundamentals we backed up and gave them more room,” Howard said. “But the most glaring thing defensively was our poor tackling.”
It would have been worse had senior linebacker Rylee Lawson not been on the field. Plantar fasciitis kept the all-district player on the sideline throughout the preseason and he only returned to the practice field last Monday. Still, the Lynx defensive leader made 10 1/2 tackles, including seven solo stops.
Cole Drzycimski and Cody Dvorak rushed for 45 yards and 37 yards, respectively, and both scored touchdowns for the Tigers. Drzycimski took it in from 10 yards out with 16 ticks left in the first quarter and Dvorak reached the end zone on a 12-yard scamper on the first play following a blocked punt with 3:42 remaining in the third quarter. Dvorak’s score pushed Gilbert’s cushion to 38-0 and enforced the continuous clock rule.
Ryan Blum added a 5-yard ground TD in the second quarter for the Tigers.
The Lynx running game never got in gear while it was still a contest. Gilbert owned the line of scrimmage and kept the WCHS gains to minimal yardage.
Gavin Dinsdale, the Lynx junior tailback making his first career start in the backfield, ran into one brick wall after another; he finished with just 34 yards on eight totes. Wingback Domenic Khaleet added 27 yards, while spinback Collin Oswald and reserve tailback Sean Vogelbacher both finished with 24 yards.
“We could have had Adrian Peterson back there and it wouldn’t have made a whole lot of difference because we weren’t making any impact on their second level players at all,” Howard said. “I was very disappointed in our offensive line. I thought we played very poorly up front and that’s something we should be able to control.”
Quarterback Avery Fuhs finished 4 of 7 from the pocket for 35 yards.
The schedule only gets tougher this week, as WCHS faces a road trip to Clear Lake on Friday to meet a Lions team that has won 15 consecutive games in the series.
Down in 2A this season, Clear Lake – a 44-7 winner over 4A Mason City on Friday – is ranked No. 1 in the state by the Associated Press.
“This is definitely out of the frying pan and into the fire,” Howard said. “The old coaches cliche is your most improvement is between the first and second weeks. Well, it better be or it will be a real short night (on Friday) because it will be 35 points at halftime.”