Bulldogs dodge Bobcats’ best bid yet
OTTUMWA – The Bobcat football team had their best chance of the season to collect a victory. The offense was much improved, the passing game showed flashes of success and the defense forced three turnovers.
But 14 penalties were too much to overcome Friday night as Ottumwa jumped out to 14-0 lead and beat Marshalltown 28-17 on the Bulldogs’ Homecoming night in front of a packed house at Schafer Stadium in the Class 4A Division 3 opener for both teams.
Ottumwa sophomore tailback Isaiah Cox also rumbled for 273 yards on 24 carries and scored three times, including a school-record 99-yard scamper in the fourth quarter that effectively put the game away.
“The penalties killed us,” MHS coach Aaron Shipley said. “Every time we would get something good going, we would have our momentum squashed by an ill-advised penalty after the whistle. We have to clean it up. We are not a good enough team right now to overcome mental mistakes.”
The Bobcats are now 0-5 for the first time since 1988 when they began the season with seven straight losses.
Cox scored on touchdown runs of 38 and 8 yards in the first quarter to give the Bulldogs an early 14-0 lead. He then got loose late in the fourth quarter on a 99-yard scoring run. It was the second 99-yard run in the state this season and only the 26th in state history.
Ottumwa ran for 335 yards in the win. The Bulldogs threw it just seven times for 14 yards.
“We knew it was coming,” said Shipley of the Ottumwa rushing attack. “We were able to corral him. We would have two or three good plays then he would pop one. Then we’d get two or three good plays and then he would pop another one.”
It was definitely Marshalltown’s best game of the season. The Bobcats tallied a season-best 292 total yards and 17 points offensively. But the penalties and converting just three of their 16 third-down conversion attempts stalled several possessions.
“It’s great to move the ball. We hadn’t done it all season,” Shipley said. “It gives us confidence and shows them that the system works. We just have to execute better within the system. I think a lot of it is a testament to Coach (Terry) Whaley working hard with the offensive line and Coach (Adam) Hoop working hard with Dylan Diveney. He looks more like a quarterback now than he ever has before.”
Diveney threw for 244 yards in the loss. He ran for another 58 yards but had around 100 yards lost in the first half because of penalties. Diveney’s 17-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter made it 20-10 and then he connected with Austin Lovin on a 7-yard touchdown with 1:47 to play to cap the scoring.
The other three points came off the foot of Austin Kluver, who connected on a 32-yard field goal with no time left in the second quarter. Kluver led the Bobcats with five catches for 43 yards.
Austin Sowers had a big 56-yard reception in the fourth quarter and finished with 133 yards on four catches. Lovin added 23 yards on four grabs.
“We are improving,” Shipley said. “It was an opportunity for us to experience some success and to compete in a ball game. From that aspect, I am happy with how tonight went.”
But in the end, the Bobcats couldn’t cash in on Ottumwa’s mistakes.
Cox rushed for 274 yards but also lost three fumbles. Marshalltown though couldn’t convert any of them into points.
Ottumwa also missed a field goal and had one blocked. Kluver missed a long field goal try in the first half that was short and returned 90 yards by Andrew Altfillisch. One play later, Cox ran into the end zone from 8 yards out.
“We are not good enough to overcome things like that,” Shipley said. “When we get opportunities we can’t squander them.”
Altfillisch finished with 56 yards rushing, 11 yards passing and also had an interception on defense. He also returned punts and handled the Bulldogs’ punting duties.
The Bobcats will look to earn their first win next week at Des Moines Hoover (2-3). The Huskies are one of the top passing teams in the state, but Shipley said the team is prepared for Hoover’s attack.
It is a must-win game,” Shipley said. “There is no other way to look at it. They are second in the state in passing yards. They will chuck it all over the field. We know that. We are familiar with it, and we are going to be ready for it.
“We have to keep building brick by brick and keep trying to improve.”
There were 27 penalties and five turnovers between the two teams in the game. Ottumwa (3-2) committed 13 penalties for 100 yards and lost three fumbles. Marshalltown’s 13 penalties covered 96 yards. Diveney also threw two interceptions.
Marshalltown senior linebacker Derek Mann continued to lead the defense, finishing with 11.5 tackles. He also carried the ball for the first time this year, rushing one time for no yards.
The Bulldogs honored their 1963 state championship team at halftime. Ottumwa head coach Zach Pfantz and Shipley both attended West Marshall High School and played for long-time coach Ken Winkler. Pfantz graduated in 1999. “It served as a little extra motivation,” Shipley said. “But none more than any other time. You still want to win. You can tell he runs things that we did in high school so that was cool to see.” Chris Peden had 12 tackles to lead the Ottumwa defense. Sam Kramer and Altfillisch each had an interception as well. The Bulldogs were just 3-of-11 on third down conversions. Ottumwa heads to Mason City next week to take on the 0-5 Mohawks in Division 3 play.