Bobcats finally break through
On a night when the Bobcat defense forced six turnovers, it was a play on the offensive end that secured Marshalltown’s first win of the season.
With a three-point lead, senior Dylan Diveney connected with Austin Sowers for 34 yards on third down and nine.
Extending the drive allowed the Bobcats to take more time off the clock and then the defense came up with one last stop with less than a minute to go as the Bobcats held off Mason City, 16-13, at Leonard Cole Field Friday night.
“We didn’t expect to blow anyone out,” said MHS coach Aaron Shipley, who picked up his first win. “We knew the first win we got was going to be a dogfight, and it would come down to a huge play at the end. The missed field goal on their end and the third-and-9 on our end made it a story of big plays and we ended up coming up on top.”
Mason City kicker Miguel Recinos booted a 58-yard field goal in the Mohawks’ 47-7 win over Des Moines Hoover last week, but missed two crucial kicks Friday night in the loss. The final attempt came from 45 yards out with 3:18 left in the game.
Before that miss, Austin Kluver sent a career-long 37-yard kick through the uprights to give the Bobcats the lead for good late in the third quarter.
“I didn’t think twice about it,” Shipley said of sending Kluver out to give the Bobcats a lead. “I have a lot of confidence in him. We have had some bumps in the road this year, but when the game is on the line, and it’s in his range, I don’t think twice about it.”
Kluver also helped MHS (1-7, 1-2) tie the game in the third quarter when he snatched a Dylan Diveney pass out of the air, out-jumping a Mason City defensive back in the process, for the 26-yard touchdown catch.
Kluver came into the game listed as a backup on this week’s depth chart but came through in the clutch when his team needed him the most.
“He ran a great route,” said MHS senior quarterback Dylan Diveney, who finished with 177 passing yards, 54 rushing yards and two touchdowns. “It was one-on-one coverage and I knew he would go up and get it.”
The win helps the Bobcats avoid their first 0-9 campaign since going winless in back-to-back years in 1984 and 1985. It also was the third straight win over the Mohawks, who came into the game riding a two-game win streak.
“You hear all the criticism in the hallways about how our team is bad and it hurts,” said senior wideout Austin Sowers, who gave the Bobcats the lead with a 14-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. “To finally get a win is amazing. We worked so hard, and it finally paid off.”
The Bobcat defense played easily their best game of the year, too. Marshalltown forced the Mohawks into six turnovers, sacked Mason City quarterback Matt Meyer four times and allowed a season-low 13 points.
“We felt really strong about the gameplan we put together,” Shipley said. “When you can get pressure on the quarterback and you are only rushing three guys, that’s a recipe for sucess.
“We have never expected to come out here and win pretty. We knew we were going to win ugly and that is part of the process. We needed that win, and we got it.”
Bobcat senior Derek Mann padded his Class 4A tackle lead with 12 1/2 more Friday night. Junior Blair VanStaalduine had four tackles, three tackles for loss and three sacks in the win. Connor Overstake got the other sack, while Josh Sowers had two interceptions and Austin Lovin and Sam Rogers also recorded picks.
“It was great to win my last game at Leonard Cole Field,” said Lovin, who also had 3 1/2 tackles. “We played our butts off. It was a good effort by the whole team.”
The Bobcats had plenty of chances to take command of the game early on but failed to capitalize on several miscues from the Mohawks.
Austin Sowers’ touchdown late in the second quarter finally cracked the scoreboard, but Mason City led 7-6 at halftime after Meyer hit Wyatt Cooper for a 76-yard score with 1:58 to go in the second quarter.
“We are used to squandering opportunities but are just trying to overcome them at this point,” said Shipley. “We went into halftime feeling good. We didn’t panic. There was a calm about the room. Everybody knew what the mission was and we were able to get it done.”
The Mohawks went up 13-6 early in the third quarter when Meyer rumbled for a 27-yard touchdown. A drop-kick attempt on the PAT was no good for the Mohawks, which proved to be crucial in the final outcome.
The Bobcats came right back on their next possession and went 80 yards in seven plays. A 34-yard pass to Austin Sowers on third-and-7 put the ball in Mohawk territory and then a 14-yard catch by Kluver placed the ball inside the 30.
Kluver’s next catch was a 26-yard touchdown grab that tied the score at 13-all.
“Even though we didn’t have him listed as a starter this week, we still expect him to make plays when his number is called,” Shipley said of Kluver. “Everyone has to be ready at a moment’s notice and Austin came up with a big play for us.”
Josh Sowers’ second interception of the game set up Kluver’s game-winning kick. The Bobcats started at the Mason City 19 but went backwards before the MHS junior blasted a 37-yarder through the uprights.
Meyer, who set the single-season completions record at Mason City during the loss, took his offense down the field late in the fourth quarter and nearly tied it. He hit Matt Danielson for 28 yards and then connected with Cooper for 18 more to put the Mohawks in position.
A Van Staalduine sack pushed the ball back a few yards. That proved to be huge though as Recinos’ attempt at the game-tying field goal clanked off the crossbar from 45 yards out.
Mason City got one last shot at the win but Meyer threw four straight incompletions in the final 40 seconds. Marshalltown took one knee before celebrating its first win of the season.
“We wanted to keep everyone in front of us, don’t do anything stupid and do our jobs,” said Lovin.
Austin Sowers, who finished with 96 yards on five catches, had to watch the final possession from the sidelines. He was glad the defense came through one last time.
“My heart was pounding. It was hard to watch,” said Austin Sowers. “I just wanted to close my eyes and hope they stopped them. It’s amazing how many turnovers they got. They definitely did their job tonight. We did our job enough to stay in front of them.”
A win by Mason City would have clinched a playoff berth. Now the Mohawks are put into a must-win situation in the regular season finale against Ankeny Centennial.
“We didn’t execute well enough on offense and our defense was on the field too much tonight.” said Mason City coach Justin Penner. “We’re in a must-win next week. We have to go into that game thinking we can win.”
The win snapped Marshalltown’s eight game losing streak that dated back to the final game last season. … The Mohawks had the ball for just 19:51 but had seven more first downs and 134 more yards than the Bobcats. … Marshalltown ends the regular season against top-ranked Dowling Catholic next Friday. That game kicks off at 7 p.m. from Valley Stadium in West Des Moines. … Kluver’s only two catches gained 40 yards and both came on the scoring drive that tied the game in the third quarter. … The Bobcats recognized 14 seniors before the game. That list included Diveney, Austin Sowers, Mann, Lovin, Hunter Chamberlin, Austin Baker, Joey Pittman, Alfonso Martinez, Overstake, Kolton Ealy, Nick Rembert, Christian Guido and Justus Bjelland.