The offense could not deliver that knockout blow of a touchdown to put the game out of reach.
It was up to the Bobcat defense to just keep knocking Fort Dodge down to protect the lead, and it did.
Marshalltown ran its season mark to 6-2 after claiming a 24-14 victory over the Dodgers on Friday in CIML Iowa Conference football action at Leonard Cole Field.
T-R PHOTO BY MARK PAWLAK
Marshalltown linebacker David Hughes brings down Jaydan Bruhl-Lara of Fort Dodge during Friday’s CIML Iowa Conference matchup at Leonard Cole Field. The Bobcats won 24-14 to improve to 6-2 overall for the season.
T-R PHOTO BY MARK PAWLAK
Marshalltown wide receiver Tad Steffensen, right, is tripped up by Fort Dodge defender Will Gormally (29) during Friday’s CIML Iowa Conference football game at Leonard Cole Field.
The Bobcat defense had two interceptions, a fumble recovery and forced a turnover on downs over the final 8 minutes. MHS evens its conference record at 2-2, while defending CIML Iowa champion Fort Dodge saw its shot at repeating ended as the Dodgers are now 3-5 overall and 2-2 in conference.
Marshalltown limited Fort Dodge to 48 rushing yards on the night on 32 attempts. Dodger quarterback Sam Edwards threw for 184 yards, but completed only 14-of-40 and threw three interceptions - one each for Kyle Carnahan, Tyler Kluver and Jordan Dean.
The Bobcats also registered five sacks, led by two by David Hughes and 1.5 by Pedro Gomez, as well as Carnahan forcing a fumble recovered by Ty Steffensen.
"It was a real big night by our defense. I thought we did a fine job of containing their offense," said Marshalltown head coach Dave Holdiman. "Edwards has thrown for 300 yards one game and he's had several 200 yard games. We had some coverage sacks in the first half with the defensive backs having everyone blanketed and we had some timely blitzes here late in the game to get the sacks to put them behind the eight-ball a little bit. They had to throw it up and we got our picks.
"All those things fall together to give the defense opportunities and our defense took advantage, they played a fine ballgame."
Marshalltown scored on its first play from scrimmage with Tad Steffensen hauling in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Blake Gimbel to jump ahead less than 90 seconds into the contest.
The quick score gave every indication of another big output upcoming for the Bobcats. Yet Marshalltown could not overcome six fumbles (three lost), 99 yards of penalties and 2-for-11 on third-down conversions.
"That's the definition of winning ugly right there," Holdiman said. "We lost our focus a little bit. We scored easy early and I think we kind of felt it was all going to be like that and the guys wearing the white jerseys (Fort Dodge) had a different idea about that. We're happy to get out with a win."
Isaac Lehman of Fort Dodge caught the first of his two touchdown receptions with 21 seconds left in the first half to cut the Bobcats' lead to 10-7 at halftime.
Marshalltown again struck quick to start the second half with a long Tad Steffensen kickoff return setting up a 5-yard touchdown run by Dominick Osborne 34 seconds into the half.
Austin Hauser brought in an 8-yard scoring pass from Gimbel on the Bobcats' next possession for a 24-7 advantage. Lehman scored in the final minute of the third quarter as the Dodgers - who hadn't lost on the road until Friday - capped a 17-play drive, but could get no closer thanks to the MHS defense.
Gimbel finished the night 22-for-36 with 303 yards and two scores. Gimbel eclipsed the 3,000-passing yard mark for the season, only the 10th time an Iowa high school quarterback has done so.
Ty Steffensen led the receivers with eight catches for 116 yards. He moved over 1,000 receiving yards for the season and joins a list of 15 previous Class 4A players to reach 1,000 in a single season.
Hauser had eight catches for 96 yards - both career-highs - with a touchdown. Osborne also had a career-high with 110 rushing yards on 17 carries with a score.
The Bobcats close out the regular season with Senior Night next Friday against Mason City at Leonard Cole Field. Marshalltown suffered a disappointing 21-0 loss last year in Mason City with its poorest effort of the year, Holdiman said.
"We remember the game up there last year," Holdiman said. "We're committed to not having a repeat performance.
"We got to get a lot of things fixed though," he added. "We keep talking about little things and that was very evident out there tonight with how we played."