Dodgers prolong Bobcats’ woes
Marshalltown’s struggles on the football field continued Friday night in the home opener against rival Fort Dodge.
The Bobcat defense surrendered 190 rushing yards and the offense turned it over three times and gained just 120 total yards.
Put those numbers together and it added up to a 27-13 loss to the Dodgers on a chilly night at Leonard Cole Field.
“There really isn’t one thing you can pinpoint right now,” Marshalltown coach Aaron Shipley said. “We just need to get better as an entire unit offensively. And we need to get stronger as a program.”
The win by Fort Dodge was the first victory for the Dodgers at Leonard Cole Field since 2000.
Marshalltown scored the game’s first touchdown and it came two plays after Fort Dodge sophomore Sam Cook fumbled one of his 34 carries. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they couldn’t keep momentum on their side, and Cook rushed for 140 yards in the win.
Andrew Stover also completed 11 of his 20 passes for 176 yards. Four of the completions went for touchdowns as the Dodgers took advantage of some blown coverages from the Bobcat secondary.
“It was the same route over and over again,” said Shipley of the four touchdowns from Stover. “We had some blown coverages and just weren’t in the right spots. It’s frustrating because we talked about that exact route in the pre-game. We knew the route was coming. We just didn’t recognize it and didn’t adjust to it. Give credit to Fort Dodge – we knew it was coming and they still made the plays when they needed to.”
Cook’s fumble on the Dodgers’ second play from scrimmage helped Marshalltown (0-3) grab an early advantage. The Bobcats started their first possession at the Fort Dodge 30-yard line and scored three plays later as Dylan Diveney hooked up with Grant Thimesch for a 12-yard touchdown.
The Bobcats were aided on the drive by a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty by the Dodgers. Fort Dodge won the game despite committing 13 penalties for 134 yards.
Those kind of drives were few far and between for the Bobcats though.
Fort Dodge (1-2) immediately tied the game on its next possession, starting the drive on its own 17. The Dodgers marched the 83 yards in 14 plays and capped off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Stover to Spencer Barber.
Barber was Stover’s favorite target, catching 6 passes for 90 yards and two scores. His other touchdown covered 30 yards in the second quarter.
Marshalltown lost a fumble on its next possession. That allowed the Dodgers to take the lead for good. And they went 52 yards in seven plays. Stover’s 18-yard pass to Barber helped Fort Dodge move closer to paydirt and then Stover found Cook wide open on a wheel route in the end zone.
The touchdown pass came on third and 29, covered 33 yards and made it 14-7 with 28 seconds to play in the first quarter. Fort Dodge converted 10 of its 17 third down plays in the victory.
“The most disappointing thing about the third downs was we knew the quarterback sneak was coming and we still couldn’t stop it,” Shipley said. “A lot of it has to do with inexperience and we have to get stronger as a program in general.”
The Bobcats gained one first down on their next two possessions. The Dodgers took advantage on their second try as Stover went back to work through the air.
Three running plays gave Fort Dodge a first down but a 30-yard pass play to Barber capped the drive and made it 21-7 with just less than 5 minutes to play in the half.
The Bobcats managed to get some momentum at the end of the half.
A big punt return from Austin Lovin gave the Bobcats another short field and the offense capitalized by marching 36 yards in five plays. The final play was a 5-yard touchdown pass from Diveney to Lovin.
While Stover’s arm gave the Dodgers the lead in the first half, it was Cook’s legs that propelled the visitors to the win in the second half.
Not doing anything fancy, the Dodgers gave the Bobcats a steady diet of Cook on the ground, and Fort Dodge’s offensive line wore down the Marshalltown defense in the final two periods.
The only touchdown in the final two quarters came on a 14-yard strike from Stover to Halligan with 1:02 to play in the game.
That last scoring drive featured a Dodger conversion on third down and long and a quarterback sneak on fourth and three.
“I think they saw our three-man front, and just thought they could block our guys and they did that,” Shipley said. “They knocked our defensive line into our linebackers and anytime that happens, it’s not a good sign.”
The Bobcats’ offense produced just nine first downs in the game.
They opened the second half with a Diveney interception on the second play from scrimmage. The Bobcats also went three and out twice and ended their final drive with another interception. In the game, Marshalltown possessed the ball for just 14:18.
“We have to sustain drives. We had too many three and outs and we aren’t running the ball like we want to,” Shipley said. “When we try to pass it, we can’t complete the passes. We have to continue to make progress though.”
Marshalltown’s losing streak was extended to four games with the loss. And things won’t get any easier with No. 9 and undefeated Ames coming to Leonard Cole Field on Friday. The Cyclones handed No. 10 Ankeny Centennial its first loss, 34-30, in their Week 3 contest.
“Ames is very, very good,” Shipley said. “They are ready for a little bit of payback. We have gotten them the past couple of years. We beat them on their Homecoming last year and a lot of those guys are back this year. They are cruising right now and are definitely for real. We are going to have our hands full for sure.”
Diveney finished 7-for-18 for 55 yards and two touchdowns but had the two interceptions. He also led the team in rushing with 49 yards on 17 carries. Lovin had three catches for 18 yards to lead the wide receivers. … The Bobcat defense allowed 190 rushing yards and 366 total yards. Derek Mann led the way with 16 tackles. No other Bobcat had more than 7.5. … Fort Dodge and Marshalltown are both part of the Central Iowa Conference Northern Division for every sport except football. The Bobcats play in Division 3 for football, while Fort Dodge is in Division 2. … In other action involving Division 3 teams Friday night, Dowling Catholic remained unbeaten with its easy win over Ankeny, while Ottumwa moved to 2-1 with a win over Des Moines East. Des Moines Hoover, Mason City and Marshalltown are all 0-3. Ankeny Centennial’s loss to Ames dropped the Jaguars to 2-1 on the year.