Tuesday, October 21, 2008

COMMENTARY: It’s about time the Lynx O-line got some love

By Troy Banning, DFJ Sports Editor
POSTED: October 20, 2008

Josh Evans. Cole Besaw. James Hartley. Stephan Cook. Ryan Vande Zande.

They are the big boys, covered in bruises and sweat and snot and spit with the occasional clump of dirt hanging off their facemasks. They get no love, not from you and not from me. Well, that's about to change.

Webster City's resurgence onto the football scene is no doubt remarkable considering it's a program that was just 9-27 over the past four seasons entering the 2008 campaign. Now the Lynx are back in the spotlight. They're taking their dancing cleats to the postseason for the first time in 12 years. And they'll do it at home in front of - are you listening community? what will hopefully be a packed house at Lynx Field later this month.

There are plenty of back slaps to go around. But before you can get to Webster City's backfield to offer your congratulations, first you've got to get around those big boys. They make up the offensive line. They make the machine go.

"I probably sound redundant because I say this every week, but the O-line just does an amazing job," John Hill, Webster City's poster-boy 1,000-yard rusher said following his latest highlight-reel performance - a 174-yard outburst in a 50-14 beating of Iowa Falls-Alden - Friday night. "They do a super job blocking and every week they just bust their butts."

They do more than bust their butts. They bust up the opposing defense.

Statistics never tell the entire story, but they don't lie either. So here's a bit of truth for you: Webster City leads Class 3A District 2 in total offense with more than 2,000 rushing yards and over 500 yards through the air. And while a good portion of the success must go to Hill and his backfield cohorts - tailback Ross Haren, spinback Brent Nelson and wingback Kevin Kannuan - a nice-sized chunk of it also has to be showered upon the offensive line.

Lynx head coach Bob Howard's single-wing offense is no doubt deceiving. But he's said time and time again that none of it would work without a powerful batch of men up front blowing defenders off the line and opening holes that lead to easy touchdowns.

"We lead the district in offense for a reason and it's because the line has been kicking some butt," Howard said bluntly following Friday's blowout. "I hope the line understands how big of a deal (Hill's 1,000-yard season) is for them because those guys have had some super games."

Evans and Besaw do their dirty work at the tackle positions. Vande Zande and Hartley are responsible for the interior from the guard spots. And Cook - the man in the middle at center - has what has got to be the sometimes confusing responsibility of snapping the ball to a variety of players in the shotgun at different angles.

"Stephan Cook has become a very good single-wing center," Howard said. "That ball is right there all the time and he's also blocking afterwards, and that's not easy to do."

And even though he's not an official member of the big boys club, starting tight end Karl Peterson needs to be given an honorary membership. In some offenses, ends are a big weapon in the passing game, and while it's true that Peterson gets to touch the ball from time to time - he's got 13 grabs for 245 yards and three touchdowns this season - it's also true that he would have a permanent spot standing on the sideline if he didn't know how to block and block well.

"Karl Peterson is one of the most underrated kids around," Howard said. "He isn't very heavy to do the blocking he does at tight end, but he does a great job."

The growth and growl of the Lynx line has never been more apparent than during the team's recent four-game winning streak. In wins over Hampton-Dumont, Waverly-Shell Rock, Charles City and Iowa Falls-Alden, the big boys paved the way to an eye-popping 1,341 yards in the trenches, an average of 335 an outing. That four-game output is more than the season rushing total of three District 2 teams entering Week 8.

So remember the names. Evans. Besaw. Hartley. Cook. Vande Zande. They may not make the boxscore and they may not get their pictures splashed across the pages of the newspaper in color every week, but they are a big reason - maybe the biggest reason - why Webster City will play a 10th game this season.

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