OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa football team will try to improve to a winning record when they take on an old rival Friday at Schafer Stadium.
The Bulldogs will face a Mount Pleasant team that will be looking to get back on the right track after ending up on the wrong end of a 70-7 score last Friday against Marion.
Ottumwa and Mount Pleasant were familiar foes when the Bulldogs were still in the Southeast 7 Conference. The Bulldogs got the better of the Panthers when the two teams last met in 1995.
The two teams have squared off against each other 57 times with the Bulldogs coming out on top the majority of the time. Ottumwa’s all-time record against Mount Pleasant is 36-17-4.
Ottumwa’s fleet-footed running back Seth Griffiths will look to expand on his superb running performance at Keokuk last Friday. After a quiet first game against Valley, the Bulldog back scorched Keokuk’s defense for 175 yards and two touchdowns. His impressive showing was punctuated by a 77-yard touchdown run. Ottumwa has rushed for 209 yards on 51 carries in its first two games.
Since the Panthers failed to stop the run last week — Marion rushed for 350 yards against Mount Pleasant — coach Zach Pfantz said the boys will look to establish their running game. But the coach said the Bulldogs will blend their running game with some passing so they don’t get too one-dimensional.
Ottumwa has shown it has no qualms about putting the ball in the air. Wide receiver Kyle Keck has been the main beneficiary of Ottumwa’s air attack this season. Keck has pulled down 12 catches for 182 yards, including a big 34-yard touchdown reception in last Friday’s victory over Keokuk. Pfantz attributes much of Keck’s success to the hard work the Bulldog wide receiver put in this summer.
“He improved his speed, strength and quickness by the work he put in the offseason,” Pfantz said. “When you can consistently show up and work hard day in and day out, the results are going to start showing up.”
Carson Remick will spearhead Mount Pleasant’s defense. He led his team with 10 tackles last Friday. While the Panthers failed to establish a run game against Marion — they actually lost 24 yards on 20 carries — they did manage to elicit some offense from the air.
Dalton Conrad was Panther quarterback Connor Shull’s favorite target against the Indians last week. Of the five passes Shull completed, Conrad was the recipient of four of them. He averaged over 18 yards per catch, including a 59 yard touchdown reception.
Junior linebacker Chris Peden has been at the vanguard of Ottumwa’s defense this season; he leads the Bulldogs with 23 tackles overall.
“He’s a very intelligent football player,” Pfantz said. “He understands the schemes that we’re doing and what his assignment is.”
Following closely behind him are Ottumwa safeties Shawn Foster and Tyler Johns with 21 tackles each.
Foster, Bulldog free safety, led his team in tackles against Valley and intercepted two passes for 55 yards against the Chiefs.
“Shawn is not super big, but he is one of the toughest football players on this team,” Pfantz said. “He’s very aggressive and very instinctive.”
Aside from being a dangerous kickoff return threat, Johns, Ottumwa’s strong safety, paced Ottumwa with 12 tackles against the Chiefs and he also recorded one of the Bulldogs’ two sacks.
One of the lone bright spots for the Panthers last week was their kickoff return game. Alex O’Donnell averaged about 20 yards on three returns and Dalton Conrad returned four kickoff returns for 64 yards.
“They block the kick return well and they execute it well,” Pfantz said.
Of course, the Bulldogs are no slouches when it comes to special teams play. Ottumwa averages 24 yards per kickoff return. Johns had a breakout game against Keokuk returning two kickoffs for 78 yards, including one that went for 46 yards.
“That needs to be a point of emphasis for us to win the field position battle,” Pfantz said. “You do that not only with offense and defense but also with special teams. Hopefully, we can continue to flip the field throughout the season and on Friday.”
OTTUMWA VS. MOUNT PLEASANT
Time and Place: The non-district contest between Class 4A Ottumwa and Class 3A Mount Pleasant is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Schafer Stadium in Ottumwa.
Records: Ottumwa is 1-1 this season after dropping its home opener to top-ranked Valley 27-0 and beating Keokok 34-21 at Calvert Stadium in Keokuk on week two. Mount Pleasant’s season got off to an inauspicious start; the Panthers fell to Marion 70-7 at home.
Last meeting: Ottumwa got the better of Mount Pleasant when the two teams last met in 1995.
Key Fact: Ottumwa and the Panthers were familiar foes back when both teams were part of the Southeast 7 Conference. The two squads have met 57 times and the Bulldogs all-time record against Mount Pleasant is 36-17-4.
Ottumwa Probable Starting Lineup
QB — Alex Goodvin (6) Sr.
RB — Seth Griffiths (34) Sr.
FB — Alec Maas (19) Sr.
WR — Zach Bowling (9) Jr.
WR — Kyle Keck (11) Sr.
LG — Joey Lee (76) Jr.
RG — John Torres (52) Sr.
C — Kevin Childs (77) Sr.
LT — Lucas Lunsford (72) Jr.
RT — Josh Hudnut (65) Jr.
TE — Clayton Cudworth (84) Sr.
K — Justin Vonderhaar (56) So.
DE — Kyle Lundy (12) Jr.
DE — Logan McCarty (30) Sr.
DT — Jonah Wright (62) Sr.
DT — Conner Mier (20) Sr.
LB — Chris Peden (7) Jr.
LB — Titus Weller (35) Jr.
LB — Cole Eklund (46) Jr.
CB — Collin Schulz (2) Sr.
CB — Andrew Altfillisch (8) So.
FS — Shawn Foster (14) Sr.
SS — Tyler Johns (15) Sr.
P — Bryce Ward (88) Sr.