By ANDY HEINTZ Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa High football team (3-4, 1-2) will try to snap a two-game losing streak when it travels to Ankeny to take on Ankeny Centennial tonight.
The Jaguars, the newest addition to the Class 4A, Division 3 division; boast a 4-3 record going into their first ever game against the Bulldogs. Their record, however, is a bit deceptive. Ankenny Centennial's three losses have come against high-caliber competition, which includes two teams that ornament the top five of the Class 4A rankings. The Jaguars have suffered defeats to top-ranked Dowling and third-ranked Ames, who are both still undefeated. Their only other loss came against seventh-ranked West Des Moines Valley.
The Jaguars picked up a convincing 50-14 victory over winless Marshalltown last week. Ankeny Centennial's offensive efforts were spearheaded by Jackson Dobesh, who ran for 116 yards on 11 carries and rushed for two touchdowns, including one from 40-yards out. Isaiah Kramme completed 11 of 19 passes for 227 yards against Marshalltown and fired one touchdown pass. In addition, Jaguar Bryce Evans ran for 98 yards on seven carries — an eye-popping average of 14 yards per carry. Brent Jones also had a huge game for the Jaguars, making five catches for 146 yards. Meawhile, Jack Higgins led Ankeny Centennial with 10 tackles.
Although the Bulldogs had a quiet game on the ground last week against Dowling, Ottumwa still generates most of its offense from its running attack. Isaiah Cox was effectively neutralized by the Maroons' defense last week, but the talented Ottumwa runner is still the Bulldogs most potent threat on the ground. But with defenses focused on shutting down Cox, the Bulldogs may need other talented runners like starting quarterback Andrew Altfillisch and Isaiah Hutchinson to divert the defense's attention from Ottumwa's star runner.
"Getting other people involved in our offense will help," Ottumwa coach Zach Pfantz said.
Now that Greg Howard has been inserted into Ottumwa's offense, the Bulldogs may opt to ramp up their passing attack. During Ottumwa's game against Dowling, Howard was sent onto the field everytime the Bulldogs elected to pass the ball. Although he only managed to complete three passes, Howard fired two great completions to Zach Bowling while he was surrounded by Maroon defenders.
"He's done a good job at the sophomore level and he's got a pretty good arm," Pfantz said about Howard. "We believe he can provide a little bit of a spark in the passing game."
But, because of the success of its running attack and the makeup of the team, Ottumwa hasn't opted to use its passing game very much in some games. Still, the Bulldogs do have a plethora of talented receivers including Bowling, Titus Weller, Corey Ridgway, Sam Kramer and Kyle Lundy.
Although Dobesh piled up the most yards against the Bobcats, Kramme is the Jaguars' rushing leader. Kramme has 116 rushes for 585 yards and seven touchdowns. And, although he didn't play against the Bobcats, Marshall Clark has rushed for 561 yards and eight touchdowns on 57 carries this season. Clark averages about 10 yards per carry. Evans has 27 rushes for 232 yards on the season and Dobesh has 142 yards on 26 rushes. In addition, Evans also is an able defender — He intercepted three passes during the Jaguars 52-14 shellacking of Des Moines Hoover earlier this year.
Jones leads the Jaguars in receiving yards with 13 grabs for 252 yards. In addition, Evans has eight receptions for 126 yards. Defensively, Higgins leads the Maroons with 80 tackles and Evans and Brandon Hubner each have three interceptions. Although the Bulldog defense didn't surrender a lot of points to the Maroons last week, they did perform extremely well in the second half. In the first half, it wasn't that Ottumwa's defense was being physically manhandled, it was more a case of the Bulldogs having occasional defensive lapses that resulted in touchdowns or major plays for Dowling.
"When we have played some really good teams, we've had some breakdowns we can't have against really good teams," Pfantz said. "We have a bad tendency of abandoning our technique. It's not a physical thing, it's a mental or technique thing. It's a case of us getting away from the technique we need to be doing."
While linebacker Chris Peden once again led the team in tackles again against Dowling, Conner Mier, Cody Meixner and Cole Eklund also had solid outings. Linebacker Osha Wylie also delivered one of the most ferocious hits of the game. At this point in the season, Chris Peden leads the Bulldogs in tackles by a cushy margin with 65 and Sam Kramer ranks second with 44.
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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