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Bobcats glimpse gridiron games

MHS football schedule for 2020 released

T-R FILE PHOTO - Marshalltown tight end Carson Williams (87) tries to reel in a pass in front of Sioux City West defender Estevan Quintana during their game Oct. 4, 2019, at Elwood Olsen Stadium in Sioux City.

It’s not an indication of where the Marshalltown High School football program wants to be, but rather where it has been, and head coach Adam Goodvin can’t argue with that.

The Bobcats’ 2020 football schedule was released Thursday, and its competitive profile is one that suits a squad that has gone 12-24 over the last four seasons.

Marshalltown ranks 31st out of 40 Class 4A schools according to the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s Success Model Rankings, which “was designed with the intent of adding competitive games to regular season scheduling of the large-school class” through a ratings percentage index (RPI) and past playoff success. Teams are then separated into tiers by their ranking within the model, and schedules are assigned with those results in mind.

The 16 state playoff qualifiers in 4A will all be at-large candidates based on the IHSAA’s RPI formula. Marshalltown hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2012, and last year’s 5-4 campaign in Goodvin’s third season at the helm is the Bobcats’ best in the seven years since.

“I think first off my reaction was I’m definitely excited, we’re excited,” Goodvin said of an overview look at the 2020 schedule. “After talking with the rest of the staff and Mr. Isgrig (athletic director Ryan Isgrig), I’m excited. This is where our past success has placed us and we’re ready to get after it this year.

“Top to bottom, it’s a very competitive schedule. I don’t have to look at the schedule and count ‘blowout’ or ‘not blowout’. I think this is going to get the kids excited, but no games are easy. We’re not in any position to think any game is going to be easy.”

Marshalltown’s nine-game schedule includes five home games and four road games with an average travel distance — one-way — of 51.025 miles. Last fall, Bobcat fans traveled an average of 109.1 miles one-way for five road games that included a 211-mile jaunt to Sioux City.

That trip to Elwood Olsen Stadium on the campus of Morningside College racked up 422 miles for a 45-point victory over winless Sioux City West, 57-12. This coming fall, Sioux City North will visit Leonard Cole Field in Week 9, as long as the schedule holds amid the growing novel coronavirus concerns.

In the fall of 2020, the Bobcat bus will venture a total distance of 408.2 miles round trip for four road games. One roud-trip visit to Sioux City compiles 422 miles on its own.

The distance, or general lack thereof, comes in second to competitive football in Goodvin’s eyes. Marshalltown has been on the uptick in the past couple seasons, going 4-5 and 5-4 under Goodvin, but the IHSAA’s Success Model Schedule considered the past four years in its formula.

Of Marshalltown’s nine opponents, only Linn-Mar was a playoff qualifier (lost in the first round to Bettendorf) a year ago.

The Bobcats are scheduled to host Mason City in Week 1 as the Mohawks drop down to Class 3A this fall. Marshalltown travels to Newton 2 in Week to for their first game against their former rival Cardinals since 2017, and in Week 3 the Bobcats are set to entertain Des Moines Lincoln. It’s the first run-in with the Railsplitters since 1997.

In Week 4, Marshalltown’s shortest road trip is a game at Grinnell — the first meeting for these two teams since 1966. It’s followed by back-to-back home games against Ames and Des Moines East, the latter of which will be the Bobcats’ Homecoming contest on Oct. 2.

“This date was carefully selected in order to avoid any community conflicts, especially with Oktemberfest,” Isgrig said in an email.

Marshalltown’s only consecutive road games fall in Weeks 7 and 8, when the Bobcats travel to Memorial Stadium in Waterloo to face the West Wahawks and then venture east for the first-ever meeting with Linn-Mar in Marion — the longest road trip at 75.5 miles one-way.

MHS closes is regular season on Oct. 23 with a Week 9 home game against Sioux City North — the first clash with the Stars since 2009.

“The first thing that popped into my head was that we’ve got five home games and we don’t have to travel near as far as we did last year,” Goodvin said. “Second, I thought ‘what’s the summer going to look like? Are we going to have workouts and camp?’ It’s all up in the air. We’re going to have to be flexible as a coaching staff with checking in on kids and holding them accountable to be working out on their own.”

Goodvin says he always tries to stay positive, but because of the the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic he’s “not very positive based on everything I hear, and that’s a bummer.”

The Bobcats only have two common opponents from last year’s schedule — Ames and Mason City — and Goodvin lamented the loss of Fort Dodge on their calendar considering the rivalry had skipped only one year since 1968.

Two opponents — Newton and Grinnell — were 3A last year and remain so, while four of Marshalltown’s nine foes in the coming fall will have new head coaches: Ames, Des Moines Lincoln, Mason City and Newton.

“That’s going to be tough,” Goodvin said of scouting a bunch of new teams, especially those with new coaches, “but the thing I think we’ve relied on the last couple of years that has helped us is to just worry about ourselves.”

Marshalltown’s 2020 opponents finished last fall with a combined record of 28-54, with the Bobcats’ 5-4 ranking behind only Linn-Mar (6-4) and Grinnell (6-3).

“I think we’re kind of in a weird position right now because there’s not a lot of parity in teams in the state (in Class 4A) between the top and the bottom,” Goodvin said. “The past couple years we’ve been around .500, but further back we’ve been a little bit lower, so if you take that into account this is where we belong and hopefully we can keep improving and move up in the tiers.”

By the IHSAA’s Success Model Ranking, Marshalltown aligned in Tier 5 with teams ranked 28-34, but only one opponent in 2020 is also a part of that group — Des Moines Lincoln. Per the IHSAA’s scheduling setup, MHS will meet one team from Tier 3 (Linn-Mar), two from Tier 4 (Ames and Waterloo West) and two more from Tier 6 (Des Moines East and Sioux City North).

Three games against 3A competition — Mason City, Newton and Grinnell — were either assigned by the IHSAA or a part of the schools’ requests for the non-assigned games. Goodvin said both Marshalltown and Fort Dodge included each other in their list for requested games, but that rivalry will not persist for the time being.

“I’m glad we got Ames back on the schedule, but I’m upset to see no Fort Dodge on there,” he said. “We both put each other in our top four and for one reason or another they didn’t play us, but I don’t see the rivalry ending because this (schedule) is just a one-year deal.”

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