The Ottumwa High School football team isn’t about to rest easy.
Still, with a large group of seniors taking the field for their final home game, the Bulldogs do want to put their best foot forward.
After a rugged three-game stretch against the elite teams in the district, the Bulldogs host Des Moines East in today’s Class 4A District 6 contest at Schafer Stadium for Senior Night.
The schedule softens over the final two weeks, but coach Brian Goodvin isn’t necessarily buying it.
“There really isn’t a single game that we can look at as a guaranteed win,” he said. “We have to play much tougher when things don’t go our way than we have the last three or four games.
“But there’s nothing we can drink, no magic potion for us that can flip the switch,” he said. “We just have to be respond much better.”
The Bulldogs (1-6, 0-3 District 6) enter play on a six-game losing streak after a loss to Waukee last week, which ended a string of games against teams — Indianola, Johnston and Waukee — that all could make the playoffs.
Still, East (2-5, 1-2) is a dangerous opponent. The Scarlets have struggled offensively, but they boast one of the most opportunistic defenses in 4A. East’s 14 fumble recoveries lead the class. Defensive end Queden Ballew has nine sacks to lead the state as well, and East’s 19 sacks are fourth in 4A.
“Ballew is 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, and he runs a lot of plays down from the back side,” Goodvin said. “He’s not just some big, lumbering guy. He’s extremely fast, and someone we have to account for.
“The rest of their defense just flies to the football, and East runs a good offense,” he said. “They’ll spread you out and try to run the ball.”
East’s Aubrey Gillard, who rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns against the Bulldogs a year ago, has been a bit stymied this season. Also, the Scarlets lost starting quarterback Trent Brown to injury in the district opener.
Ottumwa looks to kick-start its offense just in time for a big finish. The Bulldogs will have tight end Trae Swartz back in the lineup after missing the last four games because of an ankle injury. It’s unknown if he’ll be on limited snaps, but Goodvin said having him back will be a boost.
“Trae’s really worked hard to get back in the lineup,” he said. “He’s been at all our meetings with the offense, and really just been mentally in the game with us. It’ll be good to get him back in.”
As for the Bulldogs’ seniors, Goodvin figures they will come out with their best game. The season has been long, but he’s been appreciative of the work they’ve put in.
“Even the juniors can look to this group,” he said. “The attitude and work ethic this week has been outstanding and there has been a lot of enthusiasm to come back for this week.
“For a lot of guys, this is the hardest they’ve have worked when it comes to conditioning, etc., and it is and will be to their benefit.”