The Bobcats are coming home. And after what happened in the first two games in 2013, that could give the Marshalltown football team a big opportunity to get things turned around.
A struggling opponent also doesn't hurt.
The Bobcats (0-2) welcome the 0-2 Fort Dodge Dodgers on Friday as both teams try to earn their first win of the new season.
"Fort Dodge has played an extremely tough schedule, so their record is not indicative of how good they really are," Marshalltown coach Aaron Shipley said. "They are always a hard-nosed team that won't beat themselves."
The Dodgers dropped their opener on the road to No. 4 Urbandale, 63-21, and are coming off a 44-7 loss to Sioux City East, a squad that is receiving votes in the latest Associated Press poll. The Bobcats' two losses also have come to state-ranked opponents.
"Playing on the road against good teams with an inexperienced team was a tall task for our football team," Shipley said. "But the good news is that they now are a little more seasoned. We'll play a game that is supposed to be competitive and we'll be able to stay in our comfort zone."
Fort Dodge (0-2) at Marshalltown (0-2)
At Leonard Cole Field
Friday, 7 p.m.
Marshallown will welcome back one of its starting wideouts this week. Junior Austin Kluver will see his first snaps of the year after battling through a hip injury. But senior Marco Tapia (MCL sprain) is expected to miss Friday's home opener. Back-up running back Jordan Banes is a game-time decision.
In other injury-related news, backup linebacker Paden Himes will miss around 4-6 weeks after suffering a broken leg in the junior varsity game Monday. Himes had played a significant role on special teams through the first two games.
Fort Dodge comes into Friday night having scored just 28 points in its first two games. The Dodger offense is led by quarterback Andrew Stover, running back Sam Cook and wide receiver Spencer Barberg.
Stover, a senior signal caller, has thrown for 256 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions and is completing less than 50 percent of his passes. Cook, a sophomore tailback, is a 195-pounder who has gained 271 yards and one touchdown on 38 carries this season. Barber, a junior, has six catches for 93 yards and a score.
"We have to be aware of what is going on because Fort Dodge will spread us out and throw it all over the field with Stover and then move everything in tight and run Cook right at us," Shipley said. "We are going to have to be prepared for several situations."
The Fort Dodge defense is similar to Pella's in that it looks to confuse opposing offenses by attacking from different angles. Sophomore Kole Kampen and junior Austin Halligan lead the defense with 18 and 17 tackles, respectively.
As far as the Bobcats go, the coaching staff tried to keep the offense simple in the first two games because of all the inexperience. Shipley though says as soon as the players get a grasp of what is going on, offensive coordinator Adam Hoop will be given free reign to open things up.
"I am excited to see things get more creative," Shipley said. "Coach Hoop has some things up his sleeve when the time is right. We need to figure out how to get (Dylan) Diveney out in space."
Diveney enters the game as the team's leading rusher but has just 48 yards on 17 carries. He also is completing 50 percent of his passes for 243 yards and a score. Austin Lovin and Austin Sowers both have eight catches. Lovin leads the team with 86 receiving yards.
Senior linebacker Derek Mann is well out in front as far as tackles go. He leads the Bobcats in that category with 19.
Overall, the newly installed 3-4 defense is coming along, and Shipley said things get better every day.
"It is a new system so the guys are having to learn on the fly," Shipley said. "We are getting better, but we haven't shown the ability to wrap up and tackle ball carriers yet. The 3-4 gives us the best chance to win, but we are going to have to wrap up Cook.
"We had two interceptions last week and were in the right spots to make plays. We just have to do a much better job of tackling."
The game will kick off at 7 p.m. from Leonard Cole Field. Marshalltown leads the all-time series 25-19-1. The Bobcats beat the Dodgers 52-15 last year in Fort Dodge.
The players of the week for the Bobcats' most recent game with Waukee include Joe Rebik (offense), Jordan Paone (defense) and Owen Spencer (scout team). Rebik rushed for 37 yards and scored the team's only touchdown against the Warriors on Friday, while Paone snatched his first interception of the season on defense.