Bobcats focused more on themselves, not Pella, in season opener

Marshalltown head football coach Aaron Shipley has had to deal with several issues leading up to his first varsity game as the new Bobcat head man.

From injuries to key players and teaching a new quarterback the ins and outs of the Bobcats’ complicated offensive system to installing a new defense, things haven’t always gone smoothly in the preseason.

Add in the fact that the heat index for Friday night’s season opener against Pella could play a large role in the outcome, and Shipley continues to have problems to solve.

“We have been really focused on ourselves during the preseason,” said Shipley, a West Marshall graduate who served as the Bobcats’ defensive line coach last season. “We want to do things correctly. The biggest thing right now is trying to get the timing down for the offense. We have had some guys miss practice time due to injury but we should get most of them back for this week’s game.”

Senior wide receiver Austin Sowers (concussion), junior wideouts Grant Thimesch (back) and Austin Kluver (hip flexor) and sophomore running backs Joe Rebik (ankle) and Jordan Banes have all missed practice time this preseason. Only Kluver, a wide receiver, and Banes, the back-up running back, will not play against the Dutch, however.

Sophomore tailback John Espinoza, who had a long touchdown run in the scrimmage last Friday, has been sick this week but Shipley expects him to be good to go Friday in Pella.

Guiding the offense this season will be senior quarterback Dylan Diveney, who transferred in from Clarke last season and was a third-team all-state wide receiver by the Iowa Newspaper Association.

Diveney has excelled in the running portion of the Bobcat offense this preseason but is working hard on getting the timing down with the receivers in the passing game. Losing Kluver won’t help in that effort though.

“That is a blow for us for sure,” Shipley said.

The Dutch enter the 2013 season after going 7-4 a year ago. Pella lost to Marshalltown, 31-7, at Leonard Cole Field last year but begin the season ranked in the top five of Class 3A by several outlets.

Pella returns its top two rushers from last year, its second leading receiver and two of its top tacklers.

Sophomore Nathan Henry rushed for 480 yards and four scores, while senior Lukas Steenhoek added 415 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Junior Bryce Bortscheller was the second leading receiver in 2012 with 264 yards and two scores and senior Nathan Clayberg (74 tackles and two sacks) and sophomore Noah Clayberg (40 tackles) are the top returning defensive players.

The T-R was unsuccessful in its efforts to obtain a Pella two-deep depth chart, but either Nathan or Noah Clayberg also could be the team’s starting quarterback this season. Whoever takes over under center replaces graduated senior Josh DeWaard, who threw for 1,210 yards and rushed for 390 more with a team-high 17 combined touchdowns.

“Pella likes to run the ball offensively, but they will spread you out, too,” said Shipley. “We need to be prepared for both.

“Defensively, they will attack from multiple angles and try to create some confusion. It will be key for us to know our assignments on the offensive line and be able to recognize what they are doing.”

The Bobcats’ defense transitions to a 3-4 under Shipley, the new defensive coordinator.

Senior Connor Overstake will lead the defensive line, while senior Derek Mann and junior Blair Van Staalduine are the leaders at linebacker. Senior Austin Lovin and junior Ben Rebik return as starters in the secondary.

“We will be baptism by fire on both sides of the ball this year,” Shipley said. “We are a young team in general and the seniors will have to help the young guys prepare for Friday.

“By the time we get a chance to play at home, those sophomores who will be on the field, won’t be sophomores anymore. They will have played two games against two quality opponents.”

Friday night’s game is expected to experience extremely hot temperatures, which is not something the Bobcats had to deal with in practice until this week. That has forced the coaching staff to alter things a bit, but it could be beneficial to Marshalltown come Friday.

“We moved practice start times outside to 6:15 p.m. but still met like we usually do at 4:30,” Shipley said. “We were able to use more of our time on film study and that could be a blessing in disguise.

“We have not had to deal with the heat too much but they just have to get acclimated with whatever we end up getting. We tell them to drink a lot of water and the trainers have talked to them, too. We are taking a proactive approach, but cramping always seems to be an issue in that first week anyway.”

The season-opening victory over the Dutch last year has been referenced in practice and in film study, but most of the Bobcats playing Friday night were not in the game last season.

That’s why a lot of the preseason workouts have been focused on the Bobcats themselves and not on any particular opponent.

“We used last year’s game as a reference point in film study, but we need to make sure we do things correctly Friday night,” Shipley said. “We didn’t have a lot of penalties in the scrimmage the other night but ball security is always a concern of mine. We have got to take care of the ball.”

Game time for Friday night’s game with Pella will be one of the two 7:30 p.m. kickoffs this season.

The other will be when the Bobcats travel to Des Moines Hoover on Oct. 4.