By ANDY HEINTZ Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa football team was at the wrong end of a convincing 34-7 defeat to undefeated Indianola Friday at Schafer Stadium.
“We got our tails kicked in just about every way you can get it kicked,” Ottumwa coach Zach Pfantz said.
“We just played tight, we weren’t necessarily loose enough,” Andrew Altfillisch added. “We were too worried and nervous before the game. We have to get more focused.”
The Bulldogs suffered from an admixture of turnover problems, offensive stagnation and a very efficient Indian offense. And, for the first time this season, the Bulldogs were never able to establish a running attack. Ottumwa’s promising sophomore running back Isaiah Cox, who had been so effective in the Bulldogs previous three games, was mostly held in check by the Indians. Despite a tremendous effort, Cox had few holes to run through most of the night.
“I think it was a combination of things,” Pfantz said about his team’s inability to establish a run game. “They played really well on defense and we just made a lot of mistakes offensively.”
Nothing went Ottumwa’s way at the start of the game. Early in the Indians’ first offensive series, Indianola quarterback Trey Bunting got loose on a quarterback keeper and, seeing plenty of daylight in front of him, took it 54 yards to Ottumwa’s 5-yard line. A couple plays later, Cameron Bunting ran it in from two yards out for a touchdown.
Then, at the genesis of Ottumwa’s first turn on offense, Indianola’s defense picked up a Bulldog fumble and took it in for a touchdown. And, just like that, the Bulldogs were suddenly down 14-0 with over eight minutes still remaining in the first quarter. The Bulldogs next offensive series didn’t render positive results, and Ottumwa was forced to give the ball back to the Indians.
Indianola, which at this point had captured all the game’s momentum, marched down the field for another touchdown. The drive was punctuated by a 3-yard quarterback keeper by Trey Bunting with 22 seconds left in the quarter. Drew Jensen booted in the extra point to grow the Indians’ lead to 21-0.
The Bulldogs started to show signs of life at the start of the second quarter. Ottumwa’s drive was led by Cox, who ran for several first downs. In what has become his modus operandi, the sophomore running back made sure to fight and claw for every yard. Unfortunately, the drive ended inauspiciously for Ottumwa, as quarterback Shane Frazier was picked off by the Indians’ Trey Kuehl in the end zone. Ottumwa substantially tightened up its defense after the Indians first two scoring drives. The Bulldogs managed to stop Indianola on its next two offensive series.
“We just stopped the big plays from happening,” Altfillisch said. “We played those [first two] drives well, but we just gave up a few huge plays that killed us.”
Aside from the Cox-led drive that ended in an interception, Ottumwa couldn’t generate much offense despite being handed generous field position by the Bulldogs’ defense on a couple of occasions. The third quarter moseyed along quietly without any ripples of excitement from the Bulldog offense. The Indians grew their lead to 27-0 thanks to two field goals by Drew Jensen. Jensen booted one of the field goals from 42 yards.
Ottumwa put the ball in the air a lot in the fourth quarter, but the strategy didn’t produce much offense for the Bulldogs. Frazier, however, was able to connect with wide receiver Sam Kramer, who made a nice grab on a long reception. Despite the large deficit, linebacker Cole Eklund had a strong second half, making a number of tackles from the linebacker position.
The Bulldogs’ offense finally got going on Ottumwa’s last drive of the game. Isaiah Hutchinson and Altfillisch, who had replaced Frazier at quarterback, spearheaded Ottumwa on the drive. Altfillisch, who also had a couple nice kickoff returns in the game, ran for a couple solid gains before Hutchinson creased through a hole and took it 29 yards to the Indians’ 9-yard line. On the next play, Altfillisch scampered nine yards around the right side for a touchdown. Justin Vonderhaar booted in the extra point to make it 34-7.
“We just didn’t play very well, but I told the guys a lot of times after your biggest failures and the times your down the most, if you handle it the right way, it can result in some really good things down the road,” Pfantz said. “I still believe in our team. I think we have a good team; we just didn’t play like it tonight.”
Ottumwa (2-2) plays Marshalltown at 7:30 p.m. Friday in its homecoming game.
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