In one sense, the light is at the end of the tunnel for the Ottumwa High School football team.
This week, however, features yet another difficult challenge.
The Bulldogs take a five-game losing streak into today’s Class 4A District 6 contest against Waukee at Waukee Stadium, hoping to figure out a way to put all facets of their game together. That won’t be easy against a Warriors team peaking at the right time.
“We’re facing another really good opponent with big offensive and defensive lines,” Ottumwa coach Brian Goodvin said. “What we have to do is try to establish some sense of a running game.”
Waukee (3-3, 2-0 District 6) is led by senior quarterback Mitch Randall, who grew up in Ottumwa and will be headed to Minnesota State-Mankato. He was excellent in his return to Schafer Stadium last season, accumulating 213 yards total offense. He’s been on a tear again, combining for 1,632 total yards and 17 touchdowns.
“He’s really good, just a big, strong, fast kid,” Goodvin said. “He’s exactly what you’d want in a quarterback.
“We just have to play some base defense, and play good assignment football against him,” Goodvin said. “A lot of the runs he’s had are designed runs. We have to be ready for anything with them. They can move it down the field, or they can have big plays. They’re creative offensively.”
The Warriors also have gotten production out of running back Alexander Linquist, the team’s leading rusher who had 131 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s meeting. Throw in a pair of receivers with over 20 receptions apiece, and the task for Ottumwa’s struggling defense is tall.
“They can give us all kinds of trouble,” Goodvin said. “Just because we’re going to be outsized against them.”
Goodvin thought his team improved last week despite a 38-point loss to Johnston. The Bulldogs didn’t turn it over for the first time all season, but Johnston was able to march up and down the field for most of the first half.
The intensity was better, he said, than it had been the two previous weeks.
“We saw some good things, made them punt it a time or two, but I thought we did a better job of competing on every down,” he said. “I thought we had a better mentality of showing more fight on each play.
“Offensively, though, we just didn’t get anything going.”
The Bulldogs certainly miss tight end Trae Swartz in the passing game, and he’ll be sidelined once again this week with an ankle injury. In his absence, the offense has sputtered, and even the once potent and balanced running game has run into some roadblocks against better defenses.
“We have to find away to get some type of consistency, so we’re not giving the other team opportunity after opportunity to score,” he said. “Defensively we continue to work on tackling. Some of our guys are doing it too high.”
This is the final game in a difficult three-week stretch. The Bulldogs will close with Des Moines East and Mason City, two teams with a combined one win.
But that still is down the road.
“We just have to do what we need to to improve,” Goodvin said. “We’re focused on Waukee this week. We can’t afford to focus on any other game.”