THE CULTURE SHIFT
BOB HOWARD CAME TO WEBSTER CITY 13 YEARS AGO DETERMINED TO RESURRECT THE FOOTBALL PROGRAM. HE’S SUCCEEDED.
BY TROY BANNING
WEBSTER CITY — Confidence in his coaching abilities has never been a problem for Bob Howard. Leading young men onto a football field isn’t only what he does, it’s who he is.
So when he left the Class 2A juggernaut that he had built 27 seasons at Sigourney-Keota for a rebuilding project at 3A Webster City in 2007, he believed he could turn things around.
WCHS had just two winning seasons in the decade prior to Howard’s arrival. Now in his 14th year at the helm, Howard has 11 winning seasons with the Lynx, including three district titles and a trip to the state championship game in 2016.
It’s safe to say he’s correct to believe in his own abilities.
“I’ve always kind of expected to win or to have success because I really don’t do anything else,” Howard said. “That sounds stupid, but we expected to have success if we could get kids to buy in, and I’m very pleased with how the kids bought in and how hard they’ve worked. If I didn’t think we could do this, I wouldn’t have come to Webster City.”
WCHS (6-0, 4-0 District 2) wrapped up that third district title under Howard with a 54-13 pasting of Gilbert last week. It can complete the second undefeated regular season under the Hall of Fame head coach this evening against winless Boone (0-6, 0-4) on Homecoming at 7:30 p.m.
Howard, who is sixth all-time in the state of Iowa with 347 career victories, says the chance to reshape the football culture at WCHS was something that appealed to him when he was approached about the position in 2007. He arrived at Sigourney in 1980, just one year after the Savages won the 2A state crown. So while he certainly expanded its program — he added state championship rings in 1995, 2001 and 2005 — he was never asked to rebuild it.
“It was daunting when I came here because I hadn’t really done it before,” Howard said. “Now, there was a culture here, but it was 20 years old. So that was part of the fun, to see if we could get kids to buy into the weight training and mental classes and all the stuff we did.”
Howard’s current team has followed his lead and reaped the rewards. Currently ranked No. 7 by the Associated Press, WCHS is in line to receive a first-round bye for the postseason that will get started on Oct. 16.
Howard credits his current senior class — a smaller group of just nine players — for setting the work ethic and expectations that have flowed down to the underclassmen.
“Last fall there were several nights where quite a few of this year’s seniors were in the locker room for an hour after practice just talking about culture and how we wanted things to be this year,” Howard said. “So these seniors have done a great job. In the spring (during the COVID-19 school shutdown) they organized small groups of kids to work out. When we got back in the weight room just after the 4th of July, we had kids breaking records and we hadn’t been in the weight room for 31⁄2 months.”
Those lofty expectations include not only an unbeaten regular season — the Lynx first since 20015 — but also momentum entering the postseason. In other words, WCHS doesn’t intend to let its foot off the gas against Boone this evening.
“We’re 0-0,” Howard said. “It’s hugely important that we play well because we don’t want to back into the playoffs. We’ve played better each of the last three weeks and we want to play our best game (tonight). That’s cliche, but you want to improve every week.”
On paper, tonight’s contest looks like a mismatch. Boone didn’t score until Week 4 and has been outscored 174-36 on the season. The Toreadors have just 1,048 yards of total offense, which is only 63 yards more than what WCHS all-state tailback Trey Mathis (985 yards) has accumulated on the ground.
WCHS counters with the No. 2 rushing attack in 3A — a whopping 2,069 yards, more than double that of any other team in the district.
But Howard says it’s imperative that his players not believe the hype, or lack of hype surrounding Boone.
“They read and see what the predictions are and all that stuff, but Boone has been improving,” Howard said.
Boone relies on quarterback Morgan Smith for the majority of its offense. Smith has completed 44 of 92 passes for 455 yards, but he’s also been intercepted nine times.
The Toreadors switched to a run-heavy package in last week’s 39-6 loss to Ballard that Howard says was somewhat successful. The Toreadors don’t have an individual with 100 ground yards on the season.
“They went double tight with three backs and moved the ball,” Howard said. “When they ran, they completely changed their offense, so you kind of know when it’s coming. But you don’t want them to be able to sneak in a running play for a first down.”
The Lynx defense is allowing just eight points per game and ranks No. 5 in 3A. And offensively, WCHS boasts three of the top four rushing leaders in District 2. Coming off a school-record seven-touchdown performance against Gilbert, Mathis has virtually locked up his second straight district rushing title. Spinback Chase Rattenborg (534 yards) ranks third, and right behind him in fourth is wingback CJ Hisler (405 yards).
Boone at Webster City
Where: Lynx Field.
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Records: Boone 0-6, 0-4 District 2; Webster City 6-0, 4-0 District 2.
Last year: Webster City beat the Toreadors, 34-0.