MHS seeks way to slow Jags’ potent ground game

The Ankeny Centennial offense is not fancy. The Jaguars won’t look too flashy. They simply run the ball right at opposing defenses and hope to win the execution battle.

That is what the Bobcat football team can expect to see Friday night when Ankeny Centennial invades Leonard Cole Field for a Class 4A Division 3 contest.

The Jaguars boast the ninth best rushing offense in Class 4A, averaging just more than 250 yards per game on the ground. Marshalltown, on the other hand, has allowed at least 205 rushing yards to every opponent but one this season.

It is safe to say that the Bobcats are going to have to find a way to bring down the Jaguars’ best ball carriers.

“We are giving up an average of six yards per carry this season so until we stop the run, I would anticipate every team running it at us,” MHS coach Aaron Shipley said after the loss to Hoover last week. “I would do the same thing against us.”

There is no doubt that is what Ankeny Centennial will do Friday. Head coach Jerry Pezzetti had dominant rushing attacks when Ankeny had just one school and he has brought that mentality over to Centennial this season.

Marshall Clark is the featured Jaguar in the backfield. He has run for 561 yards and eight scores, while quarterback Isaiah Kramme has rushed for 559 and passed for 586. Kramme has 11 total touchdowns and has thrown five interceptions.

“Marshall Clark can really run,” Shipley said. “He is very fast. He’s as explosive of an athlete as we’ve seen this year. And that’s high praise because we have played against some really great athletes already. He is one of the elite athletes we’ll face this year.”

The key to stopping the Jaguars’ running game is to be fundamentally sound. There will be lots of mis-direction and plenty of false reads, according to Shipley.

“We just have to fundamentally sound and follow our keys,” said the Bobcat head coach. “If you focus on just one guy, it will lead to your demise.”

Last year’s Ankeny team won the state championship in the final year as one school. This year has been different in the community as the Ankeny Hawks are 1-5 and the Jaguars have begun the season 3-3. Shipley made it clear though not to look into what the record says.

“I don’t think there’s any question that they are better than the record shows,” Shipley said of Centennial (3-3, 1-1). “They are well coached and the more film we watch on them the more they confirm what we already knew.”

The Jaguars’ wins have come against Ankeny (17-7), Johnston (51-39) and Des Moines Hoover (52-14). The losses were to undefeated Ames (34-30), undefeated and top ranked Dowling Catholic (42-10) and West Des Moines Valley (41-21).

Bryce Evans is the Jaguars’ top receiver with eight catches, 126 yards and two scores but also has three picks on defense. The top tackler is Jack Higgins at 70.

The Centennial defense, according to Shipley, is conservative and runs on the basis of “bend but don’t break.”

“They don’t blitz a lot and rely on their front four guys to get pressure on the quarterback,” Shipley said. “But they don’t misread things very often. They are very sound.”

That Jaguar defense will look to keep Marshalltown’s offense in neutral. The Bobcats (0-6, 0-2) had its best offensive week last Friday against Des Moines Hoover but still ranks 44 out of 48 4A teams in total offense. And only five 4A schools have scored fewer touchdowns.

“There are three things that have slowed our offense down collectively,” Shipley said. “The penalties at bad times have hurt us and we can’t seem to get all five linemen on the same page at the same time. We also have had issues with timing in the passing game but that gets better every week.”

Dylan Diveney leads the offense with 800 passing yards and 227 rushing yards. He has nine total touchdowns and eight interceptions. His favorite targets have been Austin Sowers and Austin Lovin. Sowers leads the team with 22 catches, 369 yards and a score, while Lovin has 20 catches, 165 yards and two touchdowns.

Derek Mann still leads the defense with 80 tackles, while Blair Van Staalduine has three sacks and 11 tackles for loss.

Marshalltown is one of four Class 4A teams that are still winless. The Bobcats join Davenport West and Waterloo East at 0-6 and Des Moines North at 0-5.


The Bobcats were 4-11 against the Ankeny Hawks before the split. This is the first-ever meeting between Ankeny Centennial and Marshalltown. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. … In honor of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, the Marshalltown Not In Our Town (NIOT) coalition is encouraging the community to participate in an ‘Orange-Out’ and wear orange to Friday’s game. It’s also Youth Night, as local youth football players and coaches will be recognized at halftime. All Marshalltown Football League and middle school football players who wear their jerseys to the game will receive free admission. … The players of the week for the Hoover game were Diveney (offense), Connor Overstake (defense) and Johnny Espinoza (scout team).