PLEASANT HILL - For the second straight year, the Southeast Polk Rams ended the Marshalltown football season in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
The sixth-ranked Rams scored on their first eight possessions, punted only once and ran through the Bobcats, 52-17. Southeast Polk tallied 447 total yards and advanced to Friday's Class 4A Quarterfinals where it will take on No. 5 Dowling Catholic.
"They played flawless football," MHS coach Dave Holdiman said. "They controlled the line of scrimmage."
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Marshalltown High School seniors Zach Smith (59), Tyler Kluver (7) and Nick Whaley receive the Class 4A participation trophy Monday night after the Bobcats’ football season ended following a 52-17 loss to sixth-ranked Southeast Polk.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
MHS senior Blake Gimbel reacts after playing his final game in a Bobcat uniform on Monday night, a 52-17 loss to sixth-ranked Southeast Polk in the second round of the Class 4A state
football playoffs. Gimbel threw for 256 yards and two scores in the loss.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Marshalltown’s Austin Lovin (4) makes a tackle against a Southeast Polk ball
carrier during Monday’s playoff loss in Pleasant Hill.
Kyle Starcevich was a perfect 11-for-11 in the first half through the air for the Rams (9-2) and finished with just one incomplete pass, 311 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target was Phil Velez, who blew past several Bobcat defenders on his way to hauling in nine passes for 228 yards and three scores.
"We blew a couple of coverages on those big TDs and those were big plays in the game," Holdiman said. "(Starcevich) had time to throw and made the plays. Give credit to Southeast Polk. They made the plays tonight."
The Bobcat offense was held in check most of the night by Southeast Polk. Marshalltown rushed for just 28 yards on 11 carries and Blake Gimbel was held to just 256 yards on 25 completions. He finished the season just shy of 4,000 yards but holds the top two single-season passing yardage totals in Iowa high school history.
Monday's Second Round
Ankeny 45, Sioux City East 10
Cedar Rapids Prairie 49, Iowa City West 28
Cedar Rapids Xavier 45, Waterloo East 0
Pleasant Valley 41, North Scott 12
Southeast Polk 52, Marshalltown 17
Dowling Catholic 38, Waukee 0
West Des Moines Valley 42, Johnston 17
Cedar Falls 35, Cedar Rapids Kennedy 15
Ankeny (11-0) at West Des Moines Valley (9-2)
Southeast Polk (9-2) vs. Dowling Catholic (9-2) at Williams Stadium, Des Moines
Cedar Falls (10-1) at Pleasant Valley (11-0)
Cedar Rapids Prairie (8-3) at Cedar Rapids Xavier (11-0)
"We're real proud of his efforts," Holdiman said. "He lets you coach him and handles criticism well. He is a once in a lifetime guy and he will be missed."
Holdiman was emotional after the game when talking about this year's senior class. That unit won 15 games the past two seasons at Marshalltown and won two playoff games.
"It's a great group of kids and we'll miss that class very much," Holdiman said. "They were stalwarts for us for the past two seasons. They did well for us the last two years."
Senior Brandon Pettigrew finished with 112 yards and one score on the night. That put him over the 1,000 yard mark for the season. Senior De'Quan McDowell also eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season. He finished with 65 yards on seven catches Monday. The other touchdown catch came from Colton Fuller as he grabbed a 9-yard TD to start the Bobcat scoring in the first half.
After the Bobcats started the game with a punt on their first possession, Southeast Polk drove right down the field on its first possession. The Rams used a steady diet of Jordan Beem and went 58 yards in eight plays. Beem capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.
The Bobcats turned it over on downs on their next possession, and the Rams again took advantage. This time, Southeast Polk went 55 yards in eight plays and Dalton Sanford did the damage on the ground. Beem finished with 68 rushing yards and the speedy Sanford scurried for 67.
"Those two guys kept the sticks moving for them and the Starcevich beat us with the big plays," Holdiman said. "They are great change of pace backs and compliment each other well. You can't get any more efficient than they were today."
Marshalltown managed to get on the board on its next possession as it went 78 yards in 19 plays. The Bobcats picked up several third- and fourth-down plays to extend the drive and eventually Gimbel found Fuller for the 9-yard score.
But Southeast Polk answered right back with a two-play scoring drive on its next possession. Starcevich started the drive with a 9-yard pass to Velez and then went deep for 71 more yards to Velez for the touchdown. The drive covered 80 yards and took less than 15 seconds.
"After they established the run, they went to the play-action," Holdiman said. "Starcevich had plenty of protection and time. It put us in a tough spot and he executed the plays to perfection."
That was the beginning of the end for the Bobcats, who trailed 38-7 at the break following another Starcevich touchdown pass to Velez as well as a Starcevich short TD run.
The continuous clock went into effect after the Rams' first drive of the second half. Beem ran in a 1-yard TD run to make it 45-7.
The clock stopped its continuous motion briefly after Marshalltown trimmed the lead below 35 points with a 10-yard TD pass from Gimbel to Pettigrew.
However, Starcevich went right back to Velez on the next drive and put the clock back into motion. The final touchdown to Velez covered 58 yards and put Southeast Polk up 52-14. That scoring drive covered 80 yards and took just four plays.
Gimbel added a 26-yard field goal later in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late for the Bobcats, who finalized their season at 7-4.
Gimbel was just 25-of-59 through the air and several of his incomplete passes were due to throwing the ball away when the Rams' defense pressured him. The Bobcats' high-powered offense amassed just 256 total yards and they were held to 5-of-16 on third-down conversions.
"They mixed up the pressures, and we didn't do a good job of finding out where we needed to be," Holdiman said. "There speed showed tonight."
All in all, it was a great season for Marshalltown, which advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the second straight season.
"We got off to a rocky start, but we got things rolling eventually," Holdiman said. "Credit our seniors for that. Their leadership really showed this year. They turned things in a positive direction for us."
Southeast Polk will meet Dowling Catholic in the Class 4A Quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Friday. Dowling Catholic beat the Rams in the season opener earlier this year.