One of the longest running rivalries in the state of Iowa will be renewed Friday night when the Marshalltown Bobcats head west to Ames to face the Little Cyclones.
And the Bobcats seek an above-.500 record for the first time this season - a place Ames will start when kickoff commences at 7 p.m.
"This rivalry dates back better than 100 years, so you can throw out the records every year when Marshalltown plays Ames," MHS head coach David Holdiman said. "It'll be a spirited game, and we would like to get to .500 and build from there."
The Bobcats have evened up their record twice this season but have not been able to string together back-to-back wins. Marshalltown (2-2) hopes to end that trend Friday night against a Little Cyclones' squad that appears to be the most balanced offensive team the Bobcats will have played so far this season.
"They have a nice balance, and they spread it around to different receivers, which makes things tough on you defensively," Holdiman said. "They have plenty of talent and a nice mix of abilities with their running backs and wide receivers."
The Little Cyclones (2-1) are coming off a bye and have had two weeks to prepare for the Bobcats. Before the bye, Ames won its two road games, beating Mason City 24-7 and taking down Des Moines East 63-47. The Little Cyclones were defeated in their only home game of the season in their last outing, losing to Southeast Polk, 47-17.
Marshalltown (2-2) at Ames (2-1)
At Ames High School
Friday, 7 p.m.
"We are going to stick our plan this week, and our plan every week is to be 1-0 in that week," Holdiman said. "They do play well at home, and it is a tough place to play. We have to keep our eye on the prize, and it will take a strong four-quarter effort to beat Ames."
The balanced Ames offense features junior quarterback Sam Straub and junior tailback Clifford Kwaw-Mensah.
Straub has thrown for 645 yards and eight scores and two interceptions this season. He has hooked up with seven different wide receivers in the first three games. Kwaw-Mensah balances out the Little Cyclones' attack with 406 rushing yards in 58 carries and has scored four times.
Straub's leading receivers are senior Mike Mayberry and juniors Alex Brammer and Spencer Shane. Mayberry and Shane both have 17 receptions, while Brammer has caught nine passes for 167 yards and one score. Mayberry leads the team in receiving yards with 204 and receiving touchdowns with four.
"We will have to play real solid team defense and play our responsibilites," Holdiman said. "We need to just do our own jobs. We can't try to do someone else's job."
The young Bobcat defense is improving with each game. Senior linebacker Tyler Kluver said after last week's win over Fort Dodge that young players are catching on, and he feels his defense is starting to get locked in.
"That's a fair statement," Holdiman said of Kluver's thoughts. "They are athletic kids. And with reps and instruction, good athletes will improve. It won't get any easier for us the rest of the year. We need to keep improving."
On the other side of the ball, the Ames Little Cyclones have not seen an offense like Marshalltown's yet. Des Moines East attacks with a spread offense but doesn't throw it near as much. And it is tough to see from the film where the weaknesses lie with the Ames defense, according to Holdiman.
MHS senior quarterback Blake Gimbel continues to lead the state in pass completions, attempts and yards. Senior Tad Steffensen - who is coming off a five-touchdown game against Fort Dodge last week - and senior De'Quan McDowell are 1-2 in pass receptions in the state.
The win last week over Fort Dodge helped Marshalltown's attitudes improve this week. Holidman said the squad had a great week of practice.
"The attitudes are always better after a win," Holdiman said. "We have had a good week of practice, and the positive attitudes started last Friday after our win."
Ames' roster consists of 61 juniors and seniors and just one sophomore. Senior Dakota Ennis leads the Little Cyclones' defense with 31 tackles and one sack.
Ames leads the all-time series 62-31 against Marshalltown, and the last four home teams in the series has lost. Marshalltown has averaged 59.5 points on offense in the last two games played in Ames. The Little Cyclones defeated Marshalltown at Leonard Cole Field, 14-7, in 2010 and then won a double-overtime game in Marshalltown in 2008.
There will be no sub-varsity game before the varsity contest Friday night. Kickoff for the varsity matchup will be at 7 p.m.