Marshalltown football seeks solution against Southeast Polk

T-R GRAPHIC

While Marshalltown and Southeast Polk don’t have a long history of playing each other on the gridiron, the Rams have definitely held the upper hand when the two teams have faced off.

In the four previous times the two squads have matched up, all in the last eight years, the Bobcats have lost all four times by an average of 38.75 points, including a 52-0 win for Southeast Polk last season.

This year Marshalltown enters with the better record at 4-3, though head coach Adam Goodvin said the Rams’ 2-5 record doesn’t necessarily represent who they are.

“It’s no secret, they’ve have a lot of talent but have played a brutal schedule so far,” he said. “That’s been tough on them but they bounced back last week with a pretty big win up in Sioux City, we expect another tough game on Friday night.”

Southeast Polk earned its second win of the year and first win in Class 4A District 2 play last week when it pummeled Sioux City West, 77-6.

The Bobcats suffered arguably their worst loss of the year in a 20-15 loss to Des Moines Roosevelt last week, a game where Marshalltown failed to reach over 100 yards rushing or score a rushing touchdown as a team for the first time all season.

“When you think about it you can come up with any excuse you want but it all come down to we have to get better and we have to improve,” Goodvin said. “We played really bad on Friday night, all the kids know it and all the coaches know it. We have to improve from both of those standpoints, as players and coaches as well.”

Despite the inability to run the ball, the Bobcats still had a chance to win the game last week after recovering an onside kick after Dylan Eygabroad scored on a 35-yard pass from Jacob Smith with less than 30 seconds left on the clock.

Getting that close to completing the comeback and ultimately falling short to a team they feel they should have beat didn’t sit well with the Bobcats, and Goodvin said both the coaches and players have done their best to fix those issues.

“We took a step back and looked at what we can do ourselves to improve on our run game because we weren’t satisfied by any means from last Friday,” he said. “We have had a good week of practice, it really upset the guys the way we performed last Friday and they want to get back out there. They are eager to show that’s not really how we do things, get back out there and execute and improve and be a lot better than we were last Friday.”

It might be easier said than done getting right against this Rams team, however, as they have been stingy against the run all season. Only two individuals have gone for over 100 yards against Southeast Polk — Sam Yeaway from 4A No. 8 Waukee and Corey Godwin from No. 2 Ankeny Centennial — and Goodvin said his guys are going to have to be at their best.

“They’ve got some good size on their defensive line so it’s going to be a big challenge for us,” he said. “Our guys are competitors, they are going to be ready to go.”

While the Rams are strong against the run, they have struggled a bit against the pass, surrendering at least 150 yards and a touchdown through the air in three of their five losses.

Smith had arguably his best night passing in the loss to the Roughriders last week going 13-for-22 with 143 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, partially out of necessity as the Bobcats continued to attempt a comeback, and Eygabroad had six catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns, his best statistical night of the year.

“They’ve got a lot of confidence, if we feel like we’ve got to throw we will and hopefully we can execute,” Goodvin said.

Like Marshalltown, Southeast Polk will look to keep things on the ground. The Rams are the eighth-ranked rushing attack in 4A at 1,665 total yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground, while the Bobcats are fifth with 1,773 yards and 22 rushing scores.

Gavin Williams is the bell cow for Southeast Polk with 780 rushing yards, which ranks eighth in the class, and last year he went for 112 yards and a score against Marshalltown.

“They really rely on their run game, why wouldn’t you when you have a very talented running back in the Williams kid?” Goodvin said. “He’s got good size and good speed, we’ve seen him the last two years and seen what he can do.”

Quarterback Josiah Cole is also a strong running threat for Southeast Polk as he leads the team in rushing touchdowns with nine and is second with 546 total yards, gaining 8.7 yards per carry.

“Their quarterback is a great athlete as well, I think he might have moved from receiver in the past, but you can tell he does a good job of leading that team,” Goodvin said. “He’s a very athletic kid that can hurt us as well on defense, we have to be aware of where those guys are at at all times.”

Last week against Des Moines Roosevelt, the Bobcats had a hard time wrapping guys up, which allowed them to chew up yards and maintain possession at key times. Goodvin said they are determined not to let that happen against the Rams.

“This week we put a big emphasis on getting to the football first. It’s going to take a group effort, no matter who has the ball for them, it will take everybody,” he said. “We’ve got to swarm them and when we get there we can strip the football.”

While the players try to take the football out of Southeast Polk’s hands, something Marshalltown did three times last week against the Roughriders, they will also do their best not to cough up the ball on their own. Smith had an interception and a lost fumble in that loss, though he and center Kyle Griego put the ball on the turf five total times in their exchange, and Goodvin said that has also been a focus this week.

“Ball security is huge, we’re not going to tell the kids to go out there and focus on not messing up, but you just can’t have that,” he said. “That comes through the number of reps you get in practice throughout the week, Jacob and Kyle have gotten a lot of reps throughout the season and we continued that this week. We are definitely not looking to put any more footballs on the ground.”

This is a big game for Marshalltown. It could snap a four-game losing streak against Southeast Polk and be the first win against the Rams, it would secure the first winning season for the Bobcats in six years, and it would help wash the taste of a bad loss the week prior out of the teams’ mouth.

For that to happen, however, MHS will have to play a complete and physical game, and Goodvin said his guys will have to rise to the challenge.

“We know we are a different team than we were last year, our main focus all season has been toughness,” he said. “I think that will come into play on Friday and hopefully our kids will continue that mindset and hopefully things will go our way.”

The game between Marshalltown and Southeast Polk in Pleasant Hill is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday.