The "preseason" games are behind them. It is now time for division play. And the Marshalltown High School football team is looking to turn things around in its second season.
The Bobcats also will get the chance to steal a Homecoming from Ottumwa on Friday as the Bulldogs also welcome back members of their 1963 state championship team.
"Our kids are excited to have the chance to steal someone else's Homecoming game," Marshalltown coach Aaron Shipley said. "We had ours taken away from us last week so they will try to do the same to Ottumwa."
The Bulldogs come into the game having won three of their first four games on the field but enter the contest with a 2-2 mark after being forced to forfeit their opening-week win over Keokuk after using an ineligible player.
Ottumwa is coming off its first true loss of the season last Friday when Class 4A No. 8 Indianola throttled the Bulldogs 34-7 on their home field. The Bulldogs have road wins over Mount Pleasant and Des Moines East. A win against Marshalltown on Friday would be their first victory at home in 2013.
"They are a downhill, physical running team," Shipley said of the Bulldog offense. "It is not complicated. They just want to out-execute and out-physical you."
Marshalltown (0-4) at Ottumwa (2-2)
At Ottumwa High School
Friday, 7 p.m.
Shipley said Ottumwa's offensive line is much more athletic than it has been in recent years. And the Bulldogs will rely heavily on sophomore tailback Isaiah Cox, who averages 7.3 yards per carry and has scored six touchdowns.
Cox had rushed for at least 100 yards and one touchdown in each of the Bulldogs' first three games but was held to just 46 yards on 20 carries against undefeated Indianola last week.
The Bobcat defense may find success if they can force Ottumwa to throw. Quarterback Shane Frazier has completed just 18 of his 42 passes. The junior has thrown for just 311 yards in four games and has three interceptions to just on touchdown.
"The Cox kid is a big, physical presence," Shipley said. "He weighs better than 200 pounds and will be a challenge to take down."
Ottumwa's defense has given the Bobcats several different looks in recent years. But this year's Marshalltown offense is different as the coaching staff continues its shift to a style geared more toward the run.
"I think with the way our offense is this year, we'll probably see the four-man front from them defensively," Shipley said. "We are going to try put our kids in positions to be successful and are still going down the process of trying to transform the offense."
The Bobcats have yet to eclipse the 250-yard mark in any game this year. They also have only tallied more than 200 yards in one game.
"The kids have good attitudes, and they realize we have to do some different things to be successful," Shipley said. "This is our second season. This is a huge game for us because it is a chance for us to get our season back on track."
The Bobcats are led offensively by Dylan Diveney, who has thrown for 374 yards and three scores and rushed for 132 and two touchdowns. Derek Mann, the 2013 MHS Homecoming King, leads the defense with 54 tackles.
The Bulldogs were just 4-6 last year but appear to be on their way to an above .500 record with games against Mason City and Des Moines Hoover still on the schedule.
Marshalltown handed Ottumwa a 49-7 loss at Leonard Cole Field last year, but this Ottumwa team looks on paper to be much better than a season ago.
"It's a testament to that coaching staff," Shipley said. "They built that program from the ground up and did not take any shortcuts to their success. The kids bought into what the coaches were teaching and got things turned around in a hurry. It demonstrates that things can turn in a hurry if you have a plan and you do things the right way."
Marshalltown and Ottumwa played their first game against each other in 1905, but the two teams have met just nine times total. The Bobcats lead the all-time series 5-4.
Kickoff from Ottumwa will be 7 p.m. Friday.
The Week 4 Players of the Week for Marshalltown were Christian Guido (offense), Justus Bjelland (defense) and Alex Guido (scout team).