By ANDY HEINTZ Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa football team will try to bounce back from a disappointing loss last week when the boys face a winless Marshalltown squad in its Class 4A, Division 3 opener today on homecoming night at Schafer Stadium.
The Bulldogs will try to re-establish a running attack that — aside from a few obscure drives — was rendered ineffective by an impressive Indianola squad last Friday.
Look for Isaiah Cox, who has ran for over 100 yards and at least one touchdown in three of Ottumwa’s four games, to come back strong after being neutralized by the Indians’ defense last season. Even with the inauspicious outing, Cox is having a whale of a season with 533 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 70 carries. The talented sophomore running back averages about eight yards per carry.
Isaiah Hutchinson, who played a major role in Ottumwa’s only scoring drive last week, will try to complement Cox’s physical running game with his lightning quick speed. Hutchinson’s 29-yard run against the Indians last week set the stage for Andrew Altfillisch’s 9-yard touchdown run in the final minutes of the contest.
Ottumwa quarterback Shane Frazier will try to bounce back after a stormy outing last week. Frazier tossed two interceptions and failed to lead the Bullldogs on a single scoring drive. Frazier, however, had played extremely well in the previous three games, so hopefully he will be able to respond to his first bout of adversity in positive fashion tonight. Frazier has shown the capacity to be a dual threat, as he can run the ball and pass for solid gains.
The Bulldogs also will try to reignite their passing attack after a subpar outing against the Indians. Frazier has a number of receiving options to choose from including Titus Weller, Corey Ridgway, Sam Kramer and his No. 1 option Zach Bowling. The Bulldogs best passing performance thus far was against Mount Pleasant, where Frazier completed 12 of 17 passes for 163 yards and Bowling made seven catches for 119 yards. If Ottumwa can replicate that performance against the Bobcats, it should help the boys notch that all-important first league victory.
On defense, Ottumwa will have to stay disciplined if the Bulldogs hope to avoid giving up any big plays to the Bobcats.
“Defensively, we just need to contain the quarterback and that’s been an issue where we’ve struggled at times this year,” Ottumwa coach Zach Pfantz said.
Cole Eklund really had a strong second half against the Indians, registering tackle after tackle despite the lopsided score. In addition, Chris Peden is having another monster season, as he leads the Bulldogs in tackles with 36 and Sam Kramer has had a solid year with 29 tackles. Senior strong safety Titus Weller also has had a admirable season with 24 tackles overall.
The Bulldogs face a team that has had to deal with its share of struggles this year. The Bobcats, who lost the breadth of their premier players last season, have yet to garner a win four games into their season. But, it’s unwise to underestimate any opponent, especially coming off a rough loss.
Although a discouraged feeling permeated through the Bulldog roster immediately following their loss to the Indians, that feeling hasn’t stuck.
“The mood has been pretty good and I think we’re excited,” Pfantz said.
The Bobcat offense is led by quarterback Dylan Diveney, who has completed 44-93 passes for 374 yards this year. Diveney also happens to be Marshalltown’s leading rusher with 45 rushes for 132 yards. Ranking second on the Bobcats in rushing yards is Joe Rebik, who has 48 rushes for 74 yards. Marshalltown’s receiving crew is spearheaded by Austin Lovin, who has 14 receptions for 130 yards and Austin Sowers, who has 10 grabs for 99 yards. Defensively, Derek Mann leads the Bobcats in tackles with 53 and Ben Rebik has 24 tackles.
“The biggest thing that we’re focused on is improving ourselves,” Pfantz said. “Our focus has been more on making sure that we learn from the areas we struggled in this past week. We just want to get better every week as a football team.”
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Ottumwa starting lineup
LT — Kolton Fountain,
LG — Conner Mier
C — Joey Lee
RG — Cole Eklund
RT— Josh Hudnut
TE — Chris Peden
QB — Shane Frazier
FB — Titus Weller
RB — Isaiah Cox
WR — Corey Ridgway, Kyle Lundy, Sam Kramer
WR — Zach Bowling
DE — Kyle Lundy
DE — Cody Meixner
NG — Hudnut
DT — Mier
LB — Peden
LB — Eklund
LB —Osha Wylie
SS — Weller
FS — Kramer
CB — Bowling
CB — Andrew Altfillisch