Stopping Rams’ rushing attack the top task for Bobcats

It’ll be back to a similar game plan as it had two weeks previous for the Bobcat football team, which is paired up with a run-heavy Southeast Polk program Friday night.

The Rams (3-4, 2-1 Class 4A District 4) will be led by a stout running game of Jackson Cole and Gavin Williams.

Cole, also the Rams’ quarterback who’s completed 63.7 percent of his passes this year, leads the Rams in rushing yards at 467 (5 yards per carry), just ahead of Williams’ 462 yards on 91 carries.

“It’s stop the run this week,” said MHS head coach Don Knock. “We’ve got a lot more confidence in our pass defense now than we have all year. We did a great job last week with the pass defense, and [Southeast Polk] run the same basic stuff, they just throw a lot of formations at you. They try to get you misaligned on some of your formations. We feel if we play like we did last Friday we’ll have an opportunity to be in this ball game, too.”

Marshalltown (2-5, 1-2 District 4) played as if it could hang with anyone last Friday, besting a Fort Dodge team which received three votes to be ranked in the Class 4A weekly standings. The Bobcats adhered to their game plan, shut down the passing game early and flustered a young Fort Dodge quarterback to set the tone early.

This week, it’ll be the same challenge on the ground. If the Bobcats can shore up any big plays early on, they hope to have a shot to answer anything that gets by.

MHS quarterback Sam Irwin has 911 yards, completing 50.3 percent of his passes this year. The Bobcats will hope to counter the running attack with their duo of Marquis Haynes and Avery Brooks.

While Haynes’ 89 carries for 426 yards this season has proved to be the shake n’ bake kind of attack, Brooks has proved to be a power back with a splash of speed out in the flats.

Brooks, who’s come on strong in the past few weeks, has 37 carries for 180 yards and two touchdowns, but also has eight catches for 79 yards.

In their match against Fort Dodge, Irwin and company were able to pick apart the Dodger defense with a season-best performance from the offensive line.

“We moved some people around and simplified our pass protection,” Knock said. “We threw some pass protections out that were maybe a little too complicated with some of the things we were doing. So we simplified that and we became a better line because of that. We were able to protect him better than we ever have.”

Another critical key to Marshalltown’s win Friday night was a plus-five turnover ratio, while not giving the ball away once.

Reese Hageman had a career night on the defensive side of the ball with two fumble recoveries and an interception, while Maddux Richardson and Nick Fisher each picked the ball off. Richardson returned his pick for a 36-yard touchdown.

Marshalltown has gone just one game this year without an interception, but has forced a turnover in each of its seven games this year.

Cole has thrown just two interceptions this season, while tacking on seven touchdowns through the air.

Knock said the team has had a similar week of practice they had last week leading into the win against Fort Dodge. Now, with more confidence than ever, the Bobcats look for their first back-to-back wins since Aug. 28 and Sept. 4, 2015 when they beat Waterloo East and Newton to start the season 2-0.

“It’s been a good week of practice. It compares to last week,” Knock said. “It’s just a step above last week because they’ve got a little more bounce in their step. Anytime you come off a win like that, because it wasn’t just a win, it was a convincing win over a pretty formable opponent. The kids are pretty excited. It’s [feels like] the start of a new season, so we’ll see what we can do these next two weeks.”

Marshalltown kicks off against Southeast Polk on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Leonard Cole Field.