Maroons mercilessly end MHS playoff streak
WEST DES MOINES – Top-ranked Dowling Catholic made sure an upstart Marshalltown football team couldn’t gain any more confidence early in Friday’s gridiron matchup at Valley Stadium.
Fresh off their first win of the season last week against Mason City, the Bobcats came into the week with a glimmer of hope to extend their playoff streak to five seasons, but the Maroons quickly dashed that opportunity.
Dowling scored 28 points on its first nine plays from scrimmage, led 35-0 at halftime and then coasted to a 49-0 victory in the regular season finale for both teams. The entire second half featured the 35-point running clock mercy rule.
“They are as good of a team as I have seen on film,” MHS coach Aaron Shipley said. “I haven’t been around a long time, but I have watched every one of their games and it’s very similar to some of the other teams that we’ve played this year. The more film I watched, the more impressed I was with them. They are very sound and you are going to be hard-pressed to find a lot of weaknesses on that team.”
The Maroons claimed their second straight Class 4A Division 3 title with the victory. Dowling will take a 9-0 record into Wednesday’s playoff opener at Des Moines East’s Williams Stadium. It’s the first time the Maroons finished the regular season unbeaten since they won the state title in 2010.
The youthful Bobcats ended their season at 1-8. It was the first time since 2000 that Marshalltown finished a season with just one win.
“It is going to take a very profound effort from another team to beat these guys,” Shipley said. “I truly believe that. There are some teams that may be able to give them a run for their money but it will take a mistake-free, sound football game to beat those guys.”
The Maroons needed just four plays on their opening drive to get on the scoreboard. The two big plays were a 30-yard run from Nate Christian and a 34-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Boyle to Rico Gafford.
Gafford scored on the Maroons’ first play from scrimmage on the team’s next possession as he took the ball on a counter reverse and went 36 yards to paydirt.
“They are explosive. They came out with the intent to be explosive tonight,” Shipley said. “Rico maybe hasn’t been as involved in the offense as they would have liked so it didn’t surprise me that they tried to feature him a little bit. That also took a little bit of pressure off Boyle to where he didn’t have to run as much.”
Gafford wasn’t the only Maroon making plays. After Dowling recovered a fumble on the Bobcats next possession, a 13-yard pass completion by Boyle set up a short touchdown for Christian.
That drive covered 16 yards in two plays and the Maroons quickly led 21-0 with 3:50 to play in the first quarter. A 33-yard run by Chase Dowell on Dowling’s next drive pushed the advantage to 28-0 after one.
Christian ended up with 84 yards on just seven carries and Dowell, who set up his long touchdown run with a 15-yard run on the only other play of the drive, added 81 yards on eight carries in the win.
Dowling ran the ball 41 times for 396 yards and gained 504 total yards in the victory. Marshalltown compiled 157 yards in 45 plays in the loss.
“We certainly have a lot to improve on,” Shipley said. “They not only have a lot of the best players at their positions in the state, but that coaching staff also is elite.”
The Bobcats’ best drive of the night was a 13-play possession in the second quarter. The drive featured first-down runs of 10 and 17 yards from quarterback Dylan Diveney and a 22-yard pass play from Diveney to Austin Sowers.
However, the drive stalled deep in Maroon territory after the Bobcats turned it over on downs.
The long field didn’t slow down Dowling though. The Maroons were forced to go 89 yards and did so in 12 plays. Christian finished it off with a 6-yard touchdown run.
Most of the Dowling starters were taken out in the second quarter, but the Maroons managed to score two more times in the second half. Both scores were run in by Elliott Treinen, a senior tailback that rushed for a team-high 144 yards on 15 carries.
Nine different Maroons carried the ball in the victory and three different quarterbacks took snaps under center.
Boyle finished 5-of-6 for 81 yards and the score. Nick Wilson and Brandon Mauro each completed two passes in backup roles.
Diveney led the Bobcats with 34 rushing yards and 68 passing yards. Jordan Paone’s 42 yards on five catches led the team and were both season-highs. Sowers added 38 yards on three catches but he left the game early in the third quarter after a 10-yard completion from Diveney also resulted in an injured ankle.
The Bobcats lost two fumbles and Diveney threw an interception, while Marshalltown also recorded just six first downs.
Shipley hopes that a full offseason of workouts will help push the Bobcats back into the postseason next year and back to familiar territory for the program.
“I got hired a little late in the year. We really only had June and July this past summer, and I was coaching baseball, too, at that time,” Shipley said. “The work we were able to do with the skill position guys was limited. I am really excited to see what our staff can do with an entire year of planning and implementation. There are a lot of positive things we can do with that time.”
Besides a consistent effort in the weight room, Shipley and his coaching staff will push for the players to take part in other sports.
“We want them to go out for another sport,” he said. “I do not want them to sit around and do nothing. If they are not out for another sport, they are going to be lifting with us because we have a lot of work to do.”
The Bobcats were without wide receiver Austin Kluver, who missed the game due to an illness. Derek Mann added to his Class 4A tackles lead with 10 1/2 more Friday night. Justus Bjelland also had 5 1/2 tackles and 1 1/2 tackles for loss. The Bobcats reached the red zone just once in the game. Dowling was 4-for-5 in its chances. … The last time the Bobcats missed the playoffs was when they 3-6 in 2008. The next year, MHS reached the championship game and went 13-1 overall.