Sense of pride
Lynx go the distance with mighty Pella
CEDAR FALLS — As reality began to set in late Thursday night, a sweaty, exhausted and heartbroken Drew Fielder did everything he could to keep his emotions in check inside a tiny classroom not 100 yards away from where he played football for the final time.
His mouth emitted words his body didn’t necessarily believe.
“I’m not disappointed at all. I’m proud of the way we played and I’m just glad I got a chance to play with these guys,” Fielder, a Webster City senior, managed to say after taking a deep breath. “I have no regrets about this season.”
To get so close to Utopia, only to have the door slammed shut is no doubt excruciating.
Cast as a team with little to no chance by so many prior to kickoff, sixth-ranked and heavy underdog Webster City gave top-ranked Pella everything it wanted and then some during the Class 3A state championship game inside the UNI-Dome. That the Dutch ultimately walked away with a 28-18 victory for their third consecutive 3A title wasn’t a surprise to most, but it didn’t make the pain any more manageable inside the Lynx locker room.
“We tried our hardest and played our hearts out,” WCHS senior tailback Robert Frederiksen said after rumbling for a game-high 188 yards and one touchdown on 33 carries. “Even though we lost, I think we proved a lot of people wrong.”
Pella (13-0) improved its state-best winning streak to 41 games, its last loss coming more than three years ago. The Dutch are 52-1 since the start of the 2013 season.
“They’re a great football team,” WCHS head coach Bob Howard said of the Dutch. “I’m sure everybody (inside the UNI-Dome) except (the WCHS) parents doubted that we were going to keep it that close. The thing is, we weren’t here trying to keep it close. We were trying to win the football game.”
In the end, the difference was simple — Pella had Nick Finney doing his best Superman imitation and WCHS (11-2) did not.
Finney, Pella’s do-everything senior quarterback, accounted for 331 yards of total offense and three of the team’s four touchdowns. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 263 yards and a pair of scores, and also rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Elusive all night, Finney sidestepped tackles on nearly every play and routinely found 6-foot-5 wide receiver Donovan Holterhaus in an open spot. Holterhaus reeled in a 3A title game record 11 catches for 187 yards and he reached the end zone twice.
“Finney’s tough,” Fielder said. “He’s got a lot of great wide receivers to throw to, his line is good and he scrambles really well.”
Finney was at his most valuable after WCHS had clawed back to within three points, 21-18, on a Payton Kannuan 24-yard sprint to the house with 9:14 remaining. On Pella’s ensuing drive, Finney took off and ran twice for 19 yards and connected with Holterhaus on a pair of passes that covered 43 yards, the final 29 on a perfectly-thrown strike across the middle that gave the Dutch a 10-point lead with 6:22 to go.
WCHS finished with 302 yards of total offense against the top-rated defense in 3A, 250 of them on the ground. Frederiksen was a bear to contain, as he ripped off 13 runs of seven yards or more, highlighted by a 17-yard gallop to the outside that he finished by diving into the end zone for a touchdown that closed Pella’s edge to 14-10 with 4:10 remaining in the third quarter. It followed Finney’s only mistake of the night — a screen pass he immediately wanted back that Lynx defensive end Cole Briese intercepted at the Dutch 20.
Pella had the answer though after Frederiksen’s trip to the end zone and proceeded to go 71 yards, capped by a Finney 2-yard run, to push back in front by two scores, 21-10. The back breaker for WCHS was a fourth-and-23 from the Lynx 29 that the Dutch converted by way of a 27-yard strike from Finney to Julian Viersen out of the backfield.
Pella led 14-3 at the intermission courtesy of an 18-yard hook-up between Finney and Holterhaus with 40 seconds remaining in the second period.
On the previous possession, WCHS lined up to go for it on fourth-and-2 from Pella’s 49, but a false start penalty backed the Lynx up five yards and forced them to punt with 2:50 left.
WCHS got on the board first with a 67-yard clock-eating drive that culminated with a 30-yard field goal by Fielder at the 5:02 mark of the first quarter.
Pella retaliated quickly and maneuvered down the field for the go-ahead score — a 10-yard scamper by Avery Van Zee just 2 minutes, 6 seconds later.
Van Zee produced 66 yards rushing on just seven carries. Ryan Van Wyk, another 6-5 target for Finney on the perimeter, caught two passes that covered 43 yards.
Fielder managed to rush for just 10 yards, but the senior spinback completed 3 of 3 passes for 44 yards. Jordan Tanner had a pair of receptions for 17 yards, while Kannuan (29 yards) and Hunter Hayes (six yards) both had one catch.
“They had a really good defense, but once we got some confidence we started putting our heads down, got to work and started moving the ball,” WCHS senior tackle Nathan Reed said.
Linebacker James Van Diest led the WCHS defense with 8 1/2 tackles, including a sack. Fellow linebacker Caleb Olson made 6 1/2 stops, and defensive end Riley Mishler registered six tackles, including a sack and another tackle for loss.
WCHS was in the championship game for the first time in school history after a truly remarkable season that included a District 2 title and nine consecutive victories prior to Thursday’s setback.
“It was a historic season and one the kids are always going to remember,” Howard said.
“Offensively, I really thought we played well. We just couldn’t get a stop, but it’s not like anybody else stopped (Pella) either.”