The game of catch has looked easy. Trying to catch Ty Steffensen has been anything but easy for Marshalltown's opponents.
The Bobcat senior Steffensen has sped, zigged and zagged his way to establishing himself as one of Iowa high school football's top wide receivers.
As Marshalltown takes a 4-1 record into its Homecoming contest on Friday against CIML Iowa rival Waukee, Steffensen has had 100 receiving yards and a score in each game this season.
T-R ILLUSTRATION BY MARK PAWLAK
Steffensen's 47 catches for 720 yards and eight touchdowns are all tops in Iowa 11-man football (according to quikstatsiowa.com) over five games. His 'average' per-game numbers of 9.4 receptions for 144 yards and 1.6 scores are staggering.
The Bobcats are scoring 46.8 points per game with Iowa's top passing offense with third-year starter Steffensen serving as the No. 1 wideout.
"The experience that he's had as a sophomore starter and junior starter you can see that it's paid off for him," said Marshalltown head coach Dave Holdiman. "He does a lot of little things that really separates himself from the defenders. Ty's a go-to guy when we need a big play, and he's answered the bell every time for us."
Ty Steffensen's Game-by-Game Receiving
DM Roosevelt, 11 rec., 166 yards, 3 TDs
DM North, 2, 105, 2
Johnston, 9, 133, 1
Valley, 12, 156, 1
SC East, 13, 160, 1
"You can see even in practice the experience factor is a big thing in the year he's having and we knew it would be."
"He's become a real good leader for us too, in addition to his physical skills and what he brings to the table as a receiver," Holdiman added. "He's been a vocal leader for us and a guy I think other people look to."
The speedster, who recorded his 100th career reception last time out against Sioux City East, had 27 catches in both his sophomore and junior campaigns.
"(The game's) much slower this year," Steffensen said. "It's much easier. I feel more fast with all the hard work I've put in during the offseason.
"It helps being the third year at receiver coming from my sophomore year I was still learning the offense switching from running back to receiver and going from last year to this year, it's much easier."
Steffensen started 2011 with career-highs of 11 catches for 166 yards and three touchdowns against Des Moines Roosevelt. He set a new personal-best with 13 receptions (tied for second in MHS history) against Sioux City East on Sept. 15.
One-on-one defenses against Steffensen? Advantage, Steffensen.
"If it's one-on-one, I'd say it's going to be a bad day for the defender," Steffensen said. "My speed and my elusiveness really plays a big part in what I do."
Even with more than one set of eyes on Steffensen, that is still a situation the Bobcats consider a win due to the senior's play-making ability.
Both of Steffensen's catches against Des Moines North went for touchdowns, including a play-of-the-year contender in his 68-yard score. On the first play of the second half, Steffensen took a bubble screen pass and sprinted by the defenders near the line of scrimmage. Once downfield, Steffensen changed direction four times over the last 30 yards, including a cut back at the 5-yard line that left the final North defender bewildered and left grasping air.
"We knew we had one last series, I thought I might as well make it interesting and cut back a few times. There was good downfield blocking and I got the touchdown," Steffensen said.
Whether it be the bubble screen, short passes over the middle or deep shots down the field, Marshalltown employs Steffensen in a variety of ways.
"He's one's of those guys he could be a running back, he could be a receiver and in our offense those two are pretty interchangeable," Holdiman said. "We have ways to get him the ball quickly so he can be more like a running-back type. We have other plays that let him use his speed to stretch the defense and get behind them for the big bomb.
"It doesn't matter if we throw the quick game and use his elusiveness or whether we throw the vertical game and let him get behind the defender, he can make both of those types of plays."
Marshalltown racked up an Iowa high school football record 567 passing yards in its 63-41 win over Sioux City East. Ty and his younger brother Tad accounted for 25 catches for 245 yards. Quarterback Blake Gimbel hit Ty 13 times for 160 yards, while Tad finished with 12 catches for 85 yards.
"Gimbel was obviously on his game. Five receivers caught touchdowns so he was spreading it out and the run after the catch was really big," Ty Steffensen said.