Des Moines East made an adjustment at halftime that forced the Marshalltown football team into doing something it doesn't usually like to do.
And overcompensating for the Bobcat receivers defensively opened things up for the running game.
Colton Fuller and the offensive line took it from there as Fuller rumbled for a career-high 173 yards and three scores and the Bobcats held off a talented Scarlets' squad, 45-30, at Leonard Cole Field.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
MHS senior Colton Fuller, right, rushed for a career-high 173 yards and three scores Wednesday during the Bobcats’ 45-30 win over Des Moines East in the first round of the Class 4A football playoffs at Leonard Cole Field.
"They left some holes in the middle of the field, so we turned it over to our offensive line," MHS coach Dave Holdiman said. "We found a formula that worked tonight, and the kids executed it well."
Racking up 520 total yards, Blake Gimbel also threw for 347 yards and three scores and the Bobcat defense forced three turnovers and denied the Scarlets three times inside the red zone.
"We got some big plays from our defense tonight," Holdiman said. "Our front seven were great in those red zone situations. The field closes up a bit, which takes away from them using their speed some."
The victory for Marshalltown (7-3) moves the Bobcats to Monday's second round. They will travel to Class 4A No. 6 Southeast Polk as kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The Rams knocked out Marshalltown in round two last year, beating the Bobcats 60-20.
"We didn't play well last year against them, and they are always a solid defensive team," Holdiman said. "They have Kyle Starcevich and a strong running game. We'll have our hands full."
Gimbel moved past current Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg on the all-time career passing yards list with another solid performance. He now sits in third place and can become the first Iowa high school football player to throw for 4,000 yards in a season with 321 yards against the Rams.
He had plenty of help tonight as Brandon Pettigrew returned from an injury to catch six passes for 143 yards and a score and De'Quan McDowell hauled in nine catches for 98 yards. Gimbel's three TDs went to Pettigrew for 48, McDowell for 4 and Tyler Kluver also caught his first career TD with a 1-yard grab in the second quarter.
"He used a lot of guys tonight," Holdiman said of his record-setting quarterback. "We were balanced tonight, and balanced to us usually means how many guys can we get the ball to."
East (6-4) is a very talented squad, but none more talented than quarterback Xavier James. James scrambled for 170 rushing yards and threw for 235 in the game, but the Bobcat defense came through when they needed to.
Marshalltown grabbed a 24-7 lead in the game, but East closed to within 10 at halftime before cutting the lead to one midway through the third.
The Scarlets had a chance to tie the game after Davontae Buckner caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from James.
However, Nick Whaley blocked the extra point to keep the Bobcats in the lead and then Marshalltown rolled off 21 straight points to put the game out of reach.
James got the Scarlets closer with a 60-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter, but that's all the closer they would get.
"They are a talented team, and when Xavier James gets going it's trouble," Holdiman said. "It's a nightmare for any defense. We are happy to get the win tonight."
The Scarlets gained 410 yards of offense but turned it over three times, committed 12 penalties and missed out on three chances inside the red zone.
The Bobcats were a perfect 6-for-6 inside the red area, had just four penalties and did not turn the ball over in the victory.
And when it was all said and done, it was Fuller's legs and not Gimbel's arm that moved the Bobcats to next round.
"Give East credit, they made us adjust to the run and we executed," Holdiman said. "The OL was challenged and they answered for us in a big way."
The Marshalltown-Southeast Polk game will kick off at 7 p.m. Monday ... McDowell went over 1,000 yards receiving Friday. He now has 71 catches, 1,094 yards and nine scores on the season. ... The Bobcats played without the services of offensive lineman Blake Gethmann and cornerback Austin Lovin. Both could be back for Monday's game. Replacing Gethmann on the offensive line the past two games was senior Pedro Gomez. ... One of Des Moines East's touchdowns was a 100-yard kickoff return by Rico Gafford, but the ball appeared to be over the goal line on the kickoff. The official did not stop play though and Gafford rumbled the entire way for the score, breaking several tackles during the scamper. ... Southeast Polk beat Des Moines East 38-0 during the regular season. The Rams eliminated Mason City, 61-7, Wednesday night. ... Whaley put together a great effort in the win. Besides the blocked PAT, he was in on several tackles and came through with a big sack on James during a key drive in the fourth quarter. Ben Rebik recovered a fumble, while Derek Mann had one of the two interceptions against James. The other pick was hauled in by McDowell in the first half.