IT’S ALL NOISE: Message boards, social media not always easy on athletes

WEBSTER CITY – Noise, noise and more noise.

In today’s social media world, that’s what all athletes – yes, preps included – have to deal with 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Some of the chatter is positive, which isn’t always necessarily a good thing, and some of it makes your skin crawl.

Message boards are dominated by nameless, faceless characters that don’t always have the kids’ “best interests” at heart. Twitter and Facebook profiles can be created under fake names as well, oftentimes for the sole purpose of tearing down rather than building up.

Coaches deal with it. Athletes deal with it. And it’s not going away anytime soon.

“In my opinion it’s really hard and it’s getting harder and harder,” WCHS head football coach Bob Howard said as he prepares his team for tonight’s 7:30 p.m. homecoming battle against long time rival Iowa Falls-Alden at Lynx Field. “About the only two hours of the day we can affect (the kids) are the two hours of practice and it didn’t used to be that way.

“The positive makes you weak where you can let your guard down or an inflated sense of how good you are and the negative puts doubt out there. It can make kids press or try too hard.”

It used to be that all coaches and athletes had to worry about were the newspaper sports scribes and their various rankings. Webster City (3-0, 1-0 Class 3A District 3) is currently ranked in three major polls; the Lynx are No. 8 according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, No. 9 by the Des Moines Register, and tied for 10th in the Associated Press rankings.

But Howard isn’t buying it. Not yet anyway.

“Nope,” Howard answered when asked if he would rank his own team. “As inconsistent as we’ve been on offense, nope, I wouldn’t do it. But I don’t know how much the kids pay attention to it anyway. We don’t talk about it.”

The number – even a varied one – will certainly put a target on the Lynx back tonight against the Cadets (1-2, 0-1) when the two programs meet for the 91st time since the first encounter in 1904. WCHS was 53-27-4 all-time against Iowa Falls and is 5-2 against combined Iowa Falls-Alden.

IF-A has dropped two straight games, including last week’s 44-22 loss to No. 8-ranked (AP) Humboldt, but Howard says the Cadets are a dangerous team.

“They’re good on offense,” he said. “They have a big, fairly physical line and a couple of big backs. They move the ball on offense, so we’re definitely concerned about that.”

The Cadets rank second in the district in total offense, keyed by a potent rushing attack that includes three backs that average better than six yards per carry. Senior Damon Dennis leads the group with 247 yards and four touchdowns.

Sophomore quarterback Ross Norem has thrown for 327 yards; senior PJ Norem is his favorite target with seven catches for 148 yards.

WCHS surrendered just six points in its first two games before allowing 26 in an overtime victory over Charles City last week.

The Lynx hover near the bottom of the district standings in offense – sixth to be exact. But little by little, the group has shown growth over the early stretch of the season and Howard thinks that improvement will continue.

“I thought we played better last week against an underrated team (in Charles City),” he said. “We practiced well on Tuesday and Wednesday and we’re seeing the pad level coming down (from the offensive linemen) and they’re being more and more consistent. But it hasn’t just been the line; we’ve run the wrong pass routes and our backs haven’t protected well either.”

The offense still centers around senior all-district running back Connor Larson, who sits No. 2 on the district’s hierarchy with 307 yards and five touchdowns. But as defenses have constantly flooded the line of scrimmage with defenders, senior wide receiver Ben Mossman has torched opponents for 196 yards and three scores through the air to lead the district.

So will IF-A fall back into a more standard defense to protect against the run and pass? Howard doubts it.

“Teams that we face usually always (protect against the run),” he said. “I would assume that’s what they would do, too.”

After tonight, WCHS will face a tough two-game road stretch that includes visits to Algona in Week 5 and No. 6 (AP) Clear Lake in Week 6.