Any coach or football player can attest, changing the culture of a football program is no simple task. So when the Bobcat football team took down a favorited Fort Dodge team at home Friday night, 34-7, head coach Don Knock said it was a huge key to taking that next step forward.
“I love all our kids. They’re just working their butts off,” Knock said. “They want this thing to work. They want this program to develop into something everybody can be proud of. We had some bumps along the way, but if we keep playing like we did tonight, we’ve got a chance.”
There were a few storylines that propelled the Bobcats (2-5, 1-2 District 4) to their first win against Fort Dodge (4-3, 1-2 District 4) since 2012.
Marshalltown had lost the three previous matches with the Dodgers, including being outscored 67-0 in the past two meetings. The Bobcats struck first on a four-yard run by quarterback Sam Irwin, who had himself his best outing of the year.
The junior commander went 20-for-28 with 211 passing yards and two passing touchdowns, while rushing in for another in the first quarter.
An intercepted pass by Nick Fisher led to the first score, while Reese Hageman started his career night with an interception of Fort Dodge quarterback Drake Miller in the end zone before the halftime break.
Miller, who came into Friday night’s contest with more than 1,000 passing yards, went 16-for-35 with 114 yards and three interceptions. Miller had thrown just two interceptions all year.
“Our secondary played outstanding,” Knock said. “I always thought we’d give up one, maybe two [big plays] just because the way they can throw the football against opponents. But, our secondary put some heat on [Miller], and anytime you can get somebody in his face and disrupt him a little bit, he’s not going to throw that perfect ball.”
Marshalltown handily won the turnover battle, five to zero. Along with an interception, Hageman stalled a late Dodger drive with a stripped fumble at the Marshalltown 22-yard line.
The game started off with a muffed kick off by Fort Dodge, which it recovered, and its first drive was halted by its first of two lost fumbles of the game, a forced turnover by Marco Ordaz.
Senior Maddux Richardson scored twice on both sides of the ball. On defense, he took an interception back 32 yards to go ahead 27-0 after the Bobcats had just gone up three scores on a 29-yard pass to Josh Melde.
Richardson then caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Irwin to put the Bobcats up 34-7. Melde led the Bobcats in receiving with seven catches for 73 yards and a score. TJ Snyder also have seven grabs for 69 yards.
The running game was also stout, behind power back Marquis Haynes, who carried the ball 15 times for 121 yards, and Avery Brooks, who was a dual threat.
Brooks went 22 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, but also caught three passes for 40 yards. Penalties plagued both teams, with Marshalltown disobeying 11 times for 88 yards. But on one drive that led to Richardson’s touchdown, the Dodgers grabbed four of their 14 penalties for 40 yards, ending with 110 total penalty yards.
Knock, who received a sideline penalty in the first half, said one week, one official will be more lenient than the next, and he and the Bobcats have to do a better job of adjusting to how the game is being officiated.
The Fort Dodge also received a sideline penalty for disagreeing with an official, which was led by an offside penalty and ended in back-to-back unsportsmanlike penalties on two Dodger players.
In the end, Marshalltown shook off a lot of dust and rust Friday night, coming out and executing the game plan to a tee. From the best performance from the offensive line, to defensive prowess from the Bobcat secondary, the Bobcats played with an inspiration that has been unmatched thus far.
“It seems like it was last year since we had our last win [which was] against East Waterloo,” Knock said. “To beat a quality football team like Fort Dodge, it’s not like you’re beating up on sisters of the poor. They’re well coached, they have a great program and great coaches over there. It just feels good.”
Marshalltown is back home for another district matchup against Southeast Polk next Friday, kicking off at 7:30 p.m.