By ANDY HEINTZ
Courier sports writer
OTTUMWA —The Ottumwa football team takes on Class 4A, Division 3 opponent Des Moines Hoover today with its playoff aspirations on the line.
The Bulldogs find themselves locked in a tie for fourth place with Hoover and Marshalltown going into the final game of the regular season — each team has garnered one division victory this season. With a victory today, the Bulldogs guarantee themselves a berth in the Class 4A playoffs.
"It's kind of a pre-playoff playoff game," Ottumwa coach Zach Pfantz said.
Hoover goes into today's game after being trounced by Class 4A, Division 3 Goliath Dowling 62-7. The Huskies' sole Division 3 victory this season came against Marshalltown — 28-17; the exact same score of Ottumwa's victory over Marshalltown earlier this season.
The Bulldogs take on the Huskies on the heels of a 31-29 loss at Ankeny Centennial last Friday that might have been Ottumwa's best offensive outing of the season. The boys were able to supplement their solid run game with a dynamic passing attack spearheaded by wide receiver Zach Bowling, who had a whale of a game against the Jaguars last week. Not only were the boys able to successfully execute a dual-threat offense, but they were able achieve this feat against a solid opponent. And, with their playoff hopes on the line, Ottumwa's offense couldn't have blossomed at a more opportune time.
"I think that's the best offense we've played since I've been here considering the quality of opponent we were playing against," Pfantz said.
Brock Larsen will be under center for the Huskies. He's completed 120 of 161 passes this season for an average of about 16 yards per completion. Larsen has thrown for 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Husky quarterback, however, can also tuck the ball away and run with it if the situation warrants. He's gained 133 yards and rushed for three touchdowns on 69 carries.
"He's a very good quarterback and they have some very good receivers and their scheme is really good," Pfantz said.
One of Larsen's favorite targets is Dejorian Thedford, who has made 30 receptions for 595 yards and five touchdown passes this season. He averages about a 20 yards per catch. Another popular passing option for the Huskies' quarterback has been Kalen Toliver, who has made 33 grabs for 535 yards and three touchdowns. Other receivers who have played a role in Hoover's offensive success this season include Nic Snider and Colton Black. Snider has caught 24 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns and Blackford has caught 23 passes for 257 yards.
The Huskies' run game has played a much smaller role in Hoover's offensive success. Husky Terion Farely has rushed for 211 yards and two touchdowns on 49 carries and Logan Pifer has rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries. Although Hoover was on the receiving end of a severe shellacking by the Maroon's last week, the Huskies' did receive some solid outings from a few of their players. Larsen completed 19 of 31 passes for 276 yards and Thedford made four catches for 118 yards. Billy Davis amassed a team-high seven tackles in the game, and he leads the squad with 36 tackles on the year.
Meanwhile, Isaiah Cox enters today's game after he passed the 1,000 yard rushing mark last week against the Jaguars. If Cox can replicate or exceed his performance last week —he rushed for two touchdowns and 145 yards on 17 carries —the Bulldogs' chances of picking up a victory will greatly increase. Bowling also will try to build on his performance last week — he caught four passes for 125 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown.
In addition, Greg Howard will continue to play his role as the Bulldogs' passing quarterback, while Ottumwa's other quarterback Andrew Altfillisch will use his speed to give the Bulldogs another potent threat out of the backfield.
After a rough outing last week, Ottumwa's defense will try to re-find the magic against the Huskies. Ottumwa's defense played a solid first half last week, but the boys were consistently kept off-balance by the Jaguars' offense in the second half. The Bulldog defense has to regroup this week if Ottumwa wants to walk away with a win.
To follow Andy Heintz's Twitter feed, go to @heintz23
Ottumwa starting lineup
LT — Kolton Fountain, Seth Rupp
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