The Ottumwa football team (3-5) will try to end its regular season on a positive note when it takes on Class 4A, Division 3 opponent Des Moines Hoover tonight at Schafer Field.
Coach Zach Pfantz has decided to shake things up offensively after the Bulldogs suffered a lopsided 41-7 defeat to No. 5 Dowling Catholic (4A) two weeks ago. Alec Maas will replace Seth Griffiths at tailback. Griffiths, who has been Ottumwa’s No. 1 run option for the crux of the season, will start at wide receiver and Clayton Cudworth has been tapped to replace Maas at fullback. Junior Chris Peden will fill in for Cudworth at tight end while still assuming his usual role as starting linebacker at defense.
Pfantz said Griffiths will still run the ball on occasion when the Bulldog offense needs a change of pace.
Maas has already proven that he’s more than capable of being Ottumwa’s primary run option. When Griffiths got banged up early against Mason City three weeks ago, Maas made a smooth transition from fullback to tailback. By the end of the contest, he had gained 172 yards on an exhausting 32 carries and the Bulldogs vanquished their division foe, 21-3. Coincidentally, Griffiths caught two touchdowns after he was moved to wide receiver in the game.
Pfantz, as he has done a couple of times this season, also has elected to make some changes to his offensive line. The shake-up of the line, and of the offense as a whole, was triggered by a lackluster performance against Dowling where the offense, because of a non-existent passing attack and the line’s inability to open up holes for Griffiths and Maas to run through; didn’t get a first down until there was 3:40 left to play in the second quarter. Although Ottumwa’s offense picked up a bit in the second half, Pfantz said he wants to start with a more balanced attack Friday as opposed to the run-centric strategy the offense employed at the beginning of the Bulldogs’ game against Dowling.
“We would like to be more balanced ... spreading the ball out around the field,” the coach said.
The loss to Dowling was a disappointing setback one week removed from a solid effort against Mason City that featured a mixture of solid blocking, hard running and a resurgent passing attack. Yet, a couple of positives could be gleaned from the Bulldogs’ lopsided defeat. Aside from throwing one interception, Ottumwa quarterback Alex Goodvin turned in a solid performance, completing 7-of-12 passes despite facing constant pressure from the Maroon offensive line. It could be argued that one of Goodvin’s completions — a 39-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Zach Bowling — was the highlight of the game for Ottumwa. Another bright spot for Ottumwa was Peden, who finished with a team-leading 10 tackles.
Aside from the restructured lineup, Pfantz also has decided to reinstitute the Pistol Offense. Ottumwa started the season running the Pistol, but abandoned it later in the year.
“We just want to get an identity and stick with it,” Pfantz said about his decision to bring back the Pistol.
Defensively, Collin Schulz will return to action at cornerback after being sidelined for several weeks with a foot injury. Schulz made some key defensive plays for the Bulldogs in their wins over Keokuk and Mount Pleasant earlier in the season. The senior cornerback intercepted a pass and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown against Keokuk and he scooped up a fumble and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown against the Panthers.
The Bulldog defense will have to go without one of its most prominent defenders. Pfantz said strong safety Tyler Johns will not start Friday, although he declined to comment about the reason behind this decision.
Johns has consistently been one of the team’s leading tacklers. Plus, he’s picked off a pass in the last two games and he’s a dangerous threat to defenses on punt returns.
Hoover has had a rough season this year. The Huskies are 1-7 and have yet to defeat a Division 3 opponent. Behind center for the Hoover is Brock Larsen. Larsen has completed 136-of-157 passes this season for 1,740 yards. He’s tossed 13 touchdowns and thrown 11 interceptions.
“They have a good quarterback and an offense that can be pretty good at times,” Pfantz said.
Larsen’s main target has been Kalen Toliver, who has caught 35 passes, including six touchdowns; for 483 yards. In addition, Matt Pearson has 31 catches for 441 yards and three touchdowns and Colton Blackford also has two touchdown receptions.
Hoover’s Terion Farely has been his team’s lead runner this season with 57 rushes for 242 yards and Balah Rushing has 164 yards on 33 carries. Matt Pearson also has rushed for two touchdowns.
Ben Mitchell leads the Huskers’ defensive attack with 74 tackles and Matt Foley has 73 tackles.
If the Bulldogs win, Pfantz said they will probably face Waukee in the first round of Class 4A regionals next Wednesday.
OTTUMWA VS. DES MOINES HOOVER
Time and Place: The Bulldogs take on Class 4A, Division 3 opponent Des Moines Hoover in the last game of the regular season tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Schafer Stadium.
Records: Ottumwa (3-5, 1-2) has had two weeks to recover from a 41-7 loss to No. 5 Dowling Catholic (4A). Hoover (1-7, 0-3) has dropped its last six games after picking up its lone victory of the season against Des Moines Roosevelt.
Last meeting: The Bulldogs destroyed Hoover 56-10 when the two teams met in 2011.
Key Fact: Ottumwa is 14-0 all-time against the Huskies.
Ottumwa Probable Starting Lineup
QB — Alex Goodvin (6) Sr.
RB — Alec Maas (19) Sr.
FB — Clayton Cudworth (84) Sr.
WR — Seth Griffiths (34) Sr.
WR — Kyle Keck (11) Sr.
LG — Brok Hopwood (61) Soph.
RG — Levi Cobler (66) Jr.
C — Joey Lee (77) Sr.
LT — Kevin Childs (77) Sr.
RT — Josh Hudnut (65) Jr.
TE — Chris Peden (7) Jr.
K — Justin Vonderhaar (56) Soph.
DE — Kyle Lundy (12) Jr.
DE — Logan McCarty (30) Sr.
DT — Jonah Wright (62) Sr.
DT — Conner Mier (64) Jr.
LB — Chris Peden (7) Jr.
LB — Titus Weller (35) Jr.
LB — Cole Eklund (46) Sr.
CB — Zach Bowling (9) Jr. /Collin Schulz (2) Sr.
CB — Andrew Altfillisch (8) Soph.
FS — Shawn Foster (14) Sr.
SS — Bowling/Corey Ridgeway (15) Sr.
P — Bryce Ward (88) Sr.