T-R ALL-AREA FOOTBALL: Gimbel: More than a product of the ‘system’

Marshalltown’s Blake Gimbel did things no one else in a high school football uniform did while playing quarterback the past two seasons for the Bobcats.

No other quarterback in Iowa high school football history threw for more yards in a two-year span. No one completed more passes in a game or a season than Gimbel. And his 567 yards in one game ranks first all-time in the state.

But the word “system” still comes up when deciding where he should be placed among the state’s elite.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hear people say that,” Gimbel said. “I read all the criticism, but I try my best to not let it get to me. You have to find a way to get over it.”

Gimbel ‘got over it’ on the field when he guided the Bobcats to 15 wins as a junior and a senior, including two playoff victories.

“A quarterback with his ability doesn’t come along very often,” MHS coach Dave Holdiman said.

Because he threw for 3,979 yards in back-to-back seasons and because he has thrown for two of the top four yardage totals in a single game, he has been named the 2012 Times-Republican All-Area Football Player of the Year.

It is the second time he has earned the honor after sharing the distinction with West Marshall’s Dalton Ferch in 2011.

“It’s a great honor to represent the county,” Gimbel said. “It’s amazing. I was fortunate enough to gain valuable experience as a junior and was able to learn the game. I knew what to expect coming into this year. I had more confidence and it was our job as seniors to lead the football team on and off the field.”

There were other worthy candidates.

West Marshall’s Duncan Ferch is the favorite to win the honor in 2013 after leading Class 2A in rushing this past season.

Both Duncan Ferch and South Tama County’s Kyle Stephenson rushed for more than 2,000 yards in 11-man, while Colo-NESCO’s Brandyn Niemeyer accomplished that in the 8-player ranks.

North Tama’s Jacob Wrage accounted for nearly 3,000 total yards and teammate Nolan Hefty led all of Class 1A with 182 tackles.

All five of those athletes made the Times-Republican All-Area team, but none of them had the year that Gimbel had in Marshalltown.

And it was even more impressive that Gimbel threw for 3,979 yards because he lost his favorite target Tad Steffensen with four games to go in the season.

“It speaks volumes,” Holdiman said. “Tad going down was big. Other guys stepped up, but Blake kept the train moving. The guys had different skills, but it didn’t matter. He still found a way to get it done.”

It’s hard to track all of Gimbel’s records. He has so many.

He threw for a state-best 567 yards in one game last year and also had a 520-yard performance in 2011. The highest he reached in 2012 was 488 against Mason City. Gimbel’s seven touchdown passes against Mason City is second all-time.

He is the only quarterback in Iowa high school football history to throw for more than 3,000 yards twice. And he completed 42 passes in a game twice, which ranks first all-time as well. In 2012, his 301 pass completions were yet another record.

And for his 8,206 career yards ranks third all-time behind Tyler Jones of Cherokee and Gavin Glenn of ADM, both of which also played in very wide-open, pass-happy offenses. Former Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg is fourth on that list, but not many talk about him being a “system” guy.

“I have heard that said about Blake, and I am tired of hearing he’s the product of a system,” Holdiman said. “Everyone plays in a system. You still have to put the ball where the receivers can catch it. You still have to make the plays. It still comes down to the guy that pulls the trigger.”

“Every single offense in the state is a system – it’s that team’s system,” Holdiman added. “So I certainly think Blake deserves much more credit than that.”

Gimbel will play for Southwest Minnesota State next season. He hopes to once again prove his critics wrong, just like former MHS quarterback Tyler Peschong did when he threw for 2,423 yards and 19 touchdowns this past season for the Mustangs.

“It’s definitely self-motivation,” Gimbel said of his critics. “I want to show people that I can play at every level. The experience I had in high school will help.”

It is no coincidence that Gimbel’s favorite NFL player is Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers, who plays for the Green Bay Packers, was overlooked coming out of high school and then overlooked again when he entered the NFL draft. More than 20 teams passed on Rodgers, who has since earned a Super Bowl ring and a handful of Pro Bowl honors.

“I love his poise, he is so calm out there,” Gimbel said. “You never see me yelling at my teammates because I get that from him. I try to base as much of my game as I can around what he does.”

So far so good, system or not.