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Bobcats faced with improved Huskies, Homecoming distractions

September 27, 2012
By TROY HYDE - T-R Assistant Sports Editor ( , Times-Republican

Most high school football coaches do not care for Homecoming week. It is hard enough preparing a football team for the week's game, but Homecoming brings an extra handful of distractions.

Throw in the fact that the red-hot Bobcats will be facing a much-improved Des Moines Hoover team.

"They have the seventh best passing offense in the state right now, and they like to spread it around," Holdiman said of the Huskies. "Our defense sees a lot of what they do in practice with our own offense, but they can be efficient with it."

The Bobcats will take a three-game win streak into Friday night's 7:30 p.m. kickoff. After starting 1-2, Marshalltown has blown out Fort Dodge and Ottumwa and also bested a tough Ames team on the road to push its record to 4-2.

Hoover usually does not present much of a challenge to most football teams it faces, but this Huskies team has already won a game and lost another contest by just one point. Hoover beat Des Moines Roosevelt 24-21 and fell to Des Moines North 22-21.

The other losses were of the blowout variety - 42-18 to Indianola, 53-21 to Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson and 62-18 to Class 4A No. 6 and unbeaten Urbandale.

Fact Box

Des Moines Hoover (1-4) at Marshalltown (4-2)

At Leonard Cole Field

Friday, 7:30 p.m.

"We'll have to play well to win, there's no doubt about that," Holdiman said. "We'll have to contain the passing game and not give up the big play. Ideally, we also would like to create some turnovers, but we'll see how that goes."

Holdiman said the three-game winning streak has put an uptick in the team's overall confidence. All three phases of the game have improved in the three straight wins.

"We're seeing improved play in all phases," Holdiman said. "We're starting to gel, and it couldn't have come at a better time. It's what we were looking for. The challenge now is, can we sustain the strong play week after week."

So far, that has been the case for the Bobcats, who continue to lead the state in passing yards behind senior signal caller Blake Gimbel. Gimbel has thrown for 2,322 yards and 17 touchdowns thus far.

Gimbel's favorite target has been senior wideout Tad Steffensen, who leads the state in receptions with 59 and yards with 860. Steffensen has 13 more catches than the next best set of receivers, which includes classmate De'Quan McDowell at 46. Steffensen also is nearly 200 receiving yards better than the next best receiver.

Hoover will look to beat Marshalltown through the air Friday and it will rely heavily on sophomore quarterback Brock Larsen. Larsen has thrown for 1,202 yards and 11 scores this year. His favorite targets are junior Kalen Toliver and senior Matt Pearson. Toliver has 24 catches for 365 yards and five scores, while Pearson has 35 catches, 329 yards and two scores.

The Huskies' defense is led by a pair of juniors in Ben Mitchell (52 tackles) and Matt Foley (45 tackles).

And if that isn't enough to worry about, the Bobcats also have to deal with the distractions that come with Homecoming, including a parade, a dance and the pep rallies and coronations that take place.

"It's our job to keep the guys focused on the football game," Holdiman said. "Our role for this week is to play well between those white lines on Friday night, and I think our guys understand that.

"We have 1,600 kids in the high school. There are plenty of people to help worry about all that other stuff."

After Marshalltown faces Hoover on Friday, the Bobcats will have a week off before heading to Mason City in two weeks. While Holdiman admits it will be tough to not play a game when things are going well, it was expected and will be used to the team's advantage.

"We knew the bye was there for the entire season, so we'll take the time to get healthy and to get our legs back under us," Holdiman said. "It will help us get ready for the big push late in the season."

The only major injury right now for Marshalltown is sophomore Michael Schrempf's broken hand. He has missed several games but may return after the bye week against Mason City.

The Bobcats and Huskies will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday night because there will be a sub-varsity game beforehand.

Marshalltown most recently faced Hoover in 2004 and 2005. The Bobcats beat the Huskies 54-14 in 2004 and 46-7 in 2005.



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