Hard-hitting Rams rebuff Bobcats

The beginning of Friday night’s game couldn’t have started off anymore opposite, while being the perfect foreshadow of what was to come for the Marshalltown football team in a 41-13 loss to Southeast Polk.

Freshman phenom Gavin Williams broke free on a 76-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. The Bobcats followed it up with a fumbled hand off on their first play of the game. In less than five minutes, the Rams (4-4, 3-1 Class 4A District 4) were up 10-0.

After a Jacob Streeter punt on the ensuing drive, Southeast Polk’s Al Durr was ejected from the game for an unsportsmanlike tackle against Marshalltown’s Noah DeVenney.

“They’re a big, physical team. They smack you,” Marshalltown head coach Don Knock said. “Their coach does a great job with them. But they got that touchdown on the first play game, and it was tough to battle back, but we did. Then it was 17-7 and I thought we had a chance, and even with the field goal where it was 20-7. But it was the one right before half [to make it 27-7], it was tough to recover from that one.”

Southeast Polk leading rusher and senior quarterback Jackson Cole left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury, paving the way for junior Shane Starcevich.

Starcevich hadn’t attempted a pass this year before Friday night’s win against the Bobcats (2-6, 1-3 District 4). The junior quarterback finished the night 7-for-10 with 154 yards passing and two touchdowns. He threw no interceptions, while it was the first game this season the Bobcat defense failed to force a turnover.

“He did the same stuff [Cole] did,” said MHS head coach Don Knock. “They were no different in terms of schemes they were using. [Cole’s] a great athlete, great player. But that didn’t make a difference in what we were doing. We were still defending the same way, regardless of which quarterback was in there.”

But it was Williams’ 21 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown that was the biggest difference maker in Friday night’s rout, officially eliminating all possibilities for the Bobcats to make the playoffs. The Rams ran for a total of 290 yards and three touchdowns.

“We didn’t block it. And you’ve got to run it, catch it, throw, we’ve got to block and tackle,” Knock said. “We didn’t do all those things tonight on every play, and they did.”

The Bobcats did their best to counter through the air. Twice the Bobcats drove into Ram territory to come up empty handed.

After Irwin was 5-8 on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Maddux Richardson to make it 17-7, the Bobcats went on a 15-play drive to try and answer the latest Southeast Polk score.

The drive included a 4th-and-7 fake punt conversion from punter Jacob Streeter to Josh Melde for 11 yards, as well as a 4th-and-3 conversion at the Southeast Polk 38-yard line. But a series of minus-10 yards left the ball turned over on downs at the Rams’ 24-yard line.

Starcevich hit Austin Johnson for a 44-yard touchdown to then go up 27-7 at the half.

The Bobcats then had a 16-play drive that ended on a tipped interception in the end zone on 4th-and-goal from the Rams’ 3-yard line. Those missed opportunities, along with the inability to keep pace with the Rams’ gut-and-grind offense, was the result of the Bobcats’ sixth loss of the season.

Irwin kept the ‘never quit’ attitude rolling through the end of the game, as he stretched a nine-play drive in under two minutes into a touchdown, scrambling in from 16 yards out. There was no point after attempt as time had expired before Irwin scored.

Haynes led the Bobcats’ dismal rushing effort with 29 yards on 13 carries, while Irwin had 12 carries and 24 yards himself. TJ Snyder was MHS’ leading receiver with nine grabs for 63 yards. Richardson had six catches for 49 yards and a touchdown.

The Bobcats will cap off the season with a trip to Class 4A No. 1 West Des Moines Valley. It will be no easy feat, as the Tigers (8-0, 4-0 District 4) have outscored their district foes 172-16 through the four games.

Knock said it’s not every day one’s team gets the chance to go head-to-head with the No. 1 team in the state, and hopes to use that challenge as a positive heading into the final week of practice. That game kicks off at Valley Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday.