Bobcats brace for Fort Dodge air assault

Every Friday night, the goal is simple: Win.

And while the Marshalltown football team hasn’t had as many opportunities as it would like to win this season, head coach Don Knock and senior TJ Snyder both stressed the importance of something greater than just winning in preparation for this week’s Class 4A District 4 game against Fort Dodge.

“You never quit trying to get better,” Knock said. “That’s a valuable lesson in life. No matter what happens in your life, whatever type of adversity you might face, you have to get back up, go to work and do your job. You’ve got to take care of your family and provide. And that’s no different than a football team.

“We’ve got to get back to work, take care of business; we’ve got to go out and provide for our family and see if we can find a win out here.”

The task will not be any easier for the Bobcats (1-5, 0-2), as they’ve fallen into a three-game skid after their 70-0 shutout win against Waterloo East. Marshalltown is coming off a lackluster 38-21 loss to Indianola, while Fort Dodge comes in with a full head of steam after trouncing once-undefeated Newton 43-21.

The Dodgers (4-2, 1-1) will have a different look than the past two Bobcat opponents. Rather than beating up on the line with a rugged run game, the Dodgers will most likely go to the air to initiate their offense.

Fort Dodge quarterback Drake Miller has completed 63.6 percent of his passes, going for 1,297 yards, 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. The Bobcats have tallied five picks this season – two for touchdowns – while last week’s match at Indianola was the first time a Bobcat did not intercept an opposing quarterback.

“It’s a little bit different for a Fort Dodge team, but they don’t have Sam Cook [this year],” Knock said. “They have some pretty good players and pretty good linemen; some receivers who are pretty talented. It’s a little bit different approach for us, we’ve got to be able to stop the pass, the long ball, but we’ve got to get ready for that these next two weeks.”

Marshalltown will counter with Sam Irwin as field general. The junior quarterback has completed 47.4 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Snyder, the leading Bobcat receiver, said the key to a quick start will be establishing the run game.

“We’ve got to be consistent and just get the ball out in receivers’ hands,” Snyder said. “We need to get the ball running, too. We’re a run-first team. If we can get the offensive line to get a good push up front, it sets everything else up.”

Snyder has caught 23 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns this season. Easily Irwin’s go-to receiver, Snyder averages 8.9 yards per catch.

The senior receiver also talked about how difficult it is to stop the running back duo of Marquis Haynes and Avery Brooks. The two tailbacks have rushed for a combined 476 yards and three touchdowns. Haynes averages 4.4 yards per carry, running with the ball 74 times so far. Brooks carries the ball 6.2 yards on average, but has only gotten the ball 25 times this season.

“They’re both really hard runners,” Snyder said. “Once they’re in the open field, they’re hard to tackle. I don’t even like tackling them. If Marquis gets some steam going, he’s a load to take down. They just have to hit the holes hard and make the first cut.”

Moving forward, the Bobcats are running with a lot of confidence into Friday night’s game with Fort Dodge.

“I’m fairly impressed by the week we’ve had,” Knock said. “We’ve had two good practices back-to-back, Tuesday and Wednesday, and the kids are preparing well and thinking. We’ve got a simpler plan; we were running around good tonight and last night. We’re pretty excited.”

Marshalltown kicks off against Fort Dodge at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Leonard Cole Field.