OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa football team will try to right its ship at Marshalltown (3-2) Friday in the Bulldogs’ first game in newly-minted Class 4A, Division 3.
If there is a silver lining to be gleaned from the Bulldogs’ 26-7 loss at Indianola last Friday, it’s the defense. After the Indians initial touchdown drives, Ottumwa’s defense was nearly flawless. The game’s final score doesn’t adequately describe how good Ottumwa’s defense was.
The picture becomes a little clearer when you take into account that the “Dark Side” was never off the field for any significant amount of time in the second half and the Indians started practically every one of their drives at around midfield or in Ottumwa territory. In addition, the Bulldogs held an offense known for its strong run game to only 89 yards on the ground.
The boys will have to duplicate that performance at Marshalltown Friday, except this time the “Dark Side” will face a team known for its passing attack.
The Bobcats’ offense rests on the strong arm of Blake Gimbel. Gimbel’s legendary, record-setting football career has won him national acclaim. He set the all-time passing record in Iowa in 2011, throwing for 3,979 yards in 11 games. In addition, he also set a state record for number of passing yards in a game when he passed for 567 yards against Sioux City East last season.
Gimbel is in the midst of another fine season — he has already thrown for almost 2,000 yards. He completed 29-of-48 passes, including two for touchdowns, for 390 yards in Marshalltown’s 37-27 victory on the road against a solid Ames team last Friday. Gimbel’s throwing exploits are supplemented by a talented stable of receivers, each averaging over 10 yards per catch.
“First and foremost, they want to throw the football,” Ottumwa coach Zach Pfantz said. “There will be four or five wide recievers on pretty much every snap.”
Gimbel’s most popular target against Ames was Brandon Pettigrew: He caught eight passes for 177 yards. Pettigrew has caught 33 passes for 440 yards this season, an average of over 13 yards per catch. Pettigrew, however, isn’t even Gimble first option on most possessions.
That honor is bestowed on Tad Steffensen, who has pulled down 52 catches for 667 yards. Another popular target for Gimbel is De’Quan McDowell, who has 42 receptions for 537 yards.
Gimbel’s talents are not solely confined to his arm. He’s also a run threat. Although he only gained 43 yards on 18 carries against Ames, three of those runs went for touchdowns.
Colton Fuller has been the cornerstone of the Bobcats’ running attack. He has rushed for 170 yards, including 12 touchdowns, on 38 carries. Connor Ruddick also has gotten his fair share of carries this season: He’s rushed for 138 yards on 19 carries.
Ottumwa’s defense will have to put constant pressure on Gimbel so he doesn’t have time to look for his talented cast of receivers downfield. Friday’s game certainly offers the “Dark Side” a significant challenge, but the Bulldogs’ defense has already proven it has the talent to compete with big-time offenses.
Chris Peden leads Ottumwa with 37 tackles and two sacks. He’s followed by Shawn Foster, who has 36 tackles and two interceptions, and Logan McCarty, who has 36 tackles and two sacks. Titus Weller has 35 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown and Tyler Johns also has 35 tackles.
Seth Griffiths continues to be at the epicenter of the Bulldogs’ offense. Since Ottumwa’s passing attack has been non-existent recently, the Bulldogs have leaned hard on Griffiths and he hasn’t let them down, rushing for more than 100 yards in three of the last four games. Ottumwa fullback Alec Maas also has provided some nice runs to supplement Griffiths performances. Aside from his running ability, Maas also has proven to be a effective receiver when the situation warrants it: He’s led the team in receiving yards in the last two games.
The snap continues to be a problem for Ottumwa this season despite attempts by the coaching staff to come up with a viable solution. Erratic snapping has hindered much of what Ottumwa has tried to do offensively, coach Zach Pfantz previously said. Pfantz, however, has hopes that a new face at center will put the kibosh on this problem. Jonah Wright, starting defensive tackle and team captain; will start at center for the first time this season tonight. And this isn’t the only place where Pfantz has decided to shake things up on offense. He said he’s also decided to start three new offensive lineman.
Ottumwa’s passing attack, partly because of snapping issues, has been conspicuously absent in the last two weeks. Quarterback Alex Goodvin, however, also has struggled at times to make good passes. Goodvin, however, showed he could be a good passer before his recent slump. Hopefully, he will have a breakout game Friday.
OTTUMWA VS. MARSHALLTOWN
Time and Place: The Bulldogs open Class 4A, Division 3 play at Bobcat Football Field in Marshalltown at 7 p.m. tonight.
Records: Marshalltown is 3-2 coming off an impressive 37-27 win against a solid Ames team on the road. Ottumwa is 2-3 and hopes to snap its two-game losing streak.
Last meeting: Ottumwa lost 14-7 at Marshalltown the last time the two teams faced off in 2003. The Bulldogs beat the Bobcats the three other times the teams have met.
Key Fact: Ottumwa coach Zach Pfantz says Des Moines East’s offense is the closest reflection of what kind of an offense Ottumwa will see tonight.
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. /Lucas Lunford (72) Jr.
RG — Clayton Cudworth (52) Sr.
C — Jonah Wright (77) Sr.
LT — Lucas Lunsford (72) Jr./Aaron Wagner (53) Sr.
RT — Josh Hudnut (65) Jr.
TE — Sam Kramer (21) Soph.
K — Justin Vonderhaar (56) So.
DE — Kyle Lundy (12) Jr.
DE — Logan McCarty (30) Sr.
DT — Cole Eklund (46) Jr.
DT — Conner Mier (64) Jr.
LB — Chris Peden (7) Jr.
LB — Titus Weller (35) Jr.
LB — Rodney Requena (31) Sr.
CB — Zach Bowling (9) Jr.
CB — Andrew Altfillisch (8) So.
FS — Shawn Foster (14) Sr.
SS — Tyler Johns (15) Sr.
P — Bryce Ward (88) Sr.