That feeling walking off the field last October in Week 9 of the Iowa high school football season hasn't left.
The scoreboard read 21-0 in favor of Mason City. In a game coming into the week both teams knew they had to have for their postseason lives, Marshalltown came up empty. The Bobcats ended up getting a second life for the playoffs as other games across the state fell their way as their 3-6 record finished up five points ahead of the Mohawks' 3-6 mark in the Class 4A points system.
Marshalltown (6-2, 2-2) knows it is playoff bound this season - marking a school-record third straight postseason bid, but tonight's CIML Iowa matchup with Mason City (2-6, 0-4) still holds plenty of significance.
"We've won two in a row. We don't want to backslide, we want to go into the playoffs with some momentum and with the idea we're going to keep playing well," said MHS head coach Dave Holdiman.
The Bobcats have used a deadly passing attack to score 42.8 points per game, fifth-best in Class 4A, behind a well-tuned machine of quarterback, receivers and line working together.
Quarterback Blake Gimbel is rocketing up Iowa's all-time leaderboard for single season passing as he is 199-for-324 for 3,056 yards with 28 touchdowns. The Iowa High School Athletic Association lists only nine 3,000-yard seasons in state history coming into the year.
Gimbel played the second half last year in Mason City as a sophomore and was intercepted three times in his 17 attempts. That game served as a springboard for the offseason and this year's performance, Holdiman said.
The game marked the first time Marshalltown had been shut out since 2008 and only the third time in what is now Holdiman's ninth year.
"We had a bunch of turnovers that second half," Gimbel said. "I was young and I've come a long ways from that. We're ready to go at it again."
Gimbel has been intercepted only six times this fall, once every 54 throws.
In addition to a chance at redemption against the Mohawks, a Marshalltown win gives the Bobcats a seven-win regular season. Marshalltown has four seasons of seven or more wins in the last 50 years, two under Holdiman.
"It's a huge game," Gimbel said. "We definitely want to be the third team to have seven wins in a season. We've had this on our schedule all year just from the egg we laid up there last year."
Ty Steffensen has 77 receptions for 1,079 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Bobcats going into tonight's Senior Night at Leonard Cole Field. Steffensen has moved into the state's career top 15 in receptions and is approaching several single season and career school records.
Marshalltown's defense, led by Kyle Carnahan's 106 total tackles, is allowing 25.4 ppg to rank 22nd in Class 4A.
"We're going to see one of the better running backs in the league with Sam Skogen, he's been a three-year starter (at Mason City)," Holdiman said.
"They're running kind of a unique offense that nobody else runs, it's the split-back veer where they are going to try to hit you with a quick-hitter, pull the ball and then the quarterback has the option to run or pitch. It's the old triple-option type play that really dictates a lot of discipline on defense and sometimes puts you in one-on-one situations where you have to make a tackle."
Waukee's run game hurt the Bobcats at the end of last month and the Marshalltown defense has played pretty well since.
"The defense has really stepped it up, they've been outstanding the last couple weeks," Holdiman said.
The Bobcats and Mohawks have met 46 times and the series is tied 22-22-2.