Year after year West Des Moines Valley is at the front of the leaderboard in Class 4A's points allowed category.
Tonight the goal for Marshalltown is to execute well enough offensively to try to skew that impressive points-per-game average.
The Bobcats (3-0) and Tigers (3-0) square off at 7:30 p.m. at Leonard Cole Field in the CIML Iowa Conference football opener.
Valley has been a consistent defensive force. In games over the 10-year span of 2000-09, the Tigers were third in 4A in scoring defense at 12.86 points per game. Valley in 2010 was fourth in 4A - 12.82 ppg, while through three games in 2011, it is allowing 12.67 ppg.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Marshalltown has scored 52, 60 and 35 points this season to tie for the 4A lead at 49 points per game.
"Valley is very sound defensively. They have real good team speed as well," said Marshalltown head coach Dave Holdiman. "It's going to be a test of which team speed is going to win out, we really hope that's us, but you look at them on film, you can see it, they're quick and they just fly to the football.
Valley at MHS
When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Leonard Cole Field
"They are a very good team when it comes down to preventing the score. Teams have moved the ball on them, but getting the ball in the end zone against those guys is a different story. That will be our challenge this week to get points on the board against a very solid defense."
The most points MHS has scored in the last eight years under Holdiman against Valley is 17 in 2003. The Bobcats' high-water mark all-time against the Tigers is scoring 20 in 1994.
Executing on offense becomes an even bigger factor this week.
"The little things that amount to precision and in our aspect of the passing game those are really important," Holdiman said. "The little things let you separate from the defender, find room in the coverage, get the ball and make a play. If you don't take care of those little things, you don't get open.
"That's really what it amounts to against quality defenses like this so we have to really pay attention to the details, the little things as we approach these guys."
Marshalltown quarterback Blake Gimbel already has thrown for 1,000 yards through the first three games and has 12 touchdowns (both 4A-leading totals) to go with a 63-percent completion percentage. Gimbel is a nominee for the Fareway Student Athlete of the Week
Ty Steffensen is the team's leading receiver with three 100-yard games already. Steffensen has 22 catches for 404 yards and six touchdowns for the season - each the top totals in 4A.
Austin Hauser and Dominick Osborne both have two receiving touchdowns. Osborne also has a team-high three rushing scores.
The Bobcats are one of seven 4A teams to be in the top 10 in both scoring offense and scoring defense. Marshalltown is allowing 11.33 points per game to stand 10th. Southeast Polk, Cedar Falls, Ankeny, Bettendorf, Davenport Assumption and Muscatine also are in the top 10 in both categories.
Valley is 12th in scoring offense at 39.7 points per game. The Tigers scored 42 unanswered second-half points for a 49-10 comeback victory over Indianola last week.
Running back Trey Lewis had three TDs against Indianola and has 458 yards for the season. Tyus Mason adds 229 yards. Both have outstanding averages with Lewis getting 9.2 yards per carry and Mason 8.2.
"They have great big-play potential with both backs," Holdiman said. "Both have great speed and their line is big up front.
"They present a real host of problems defensively with their talent level and their ability to both run it and throw it," he added.
Kyle Carnahan has 17 solo and 14 assisted tackles on the year for MHS as well as three interceptions. Pedro Gomez adds seven solo and 17 assisted stops as a lineman.
The Bobcats have won 11 of their last 13 games at Leonard Cole Field.
"Obviously we like playing in front of big vocal crowds. We're hoping Bobcat faithful come out and give us that extra boost, believe me it makes a difference," Holdiman said. "We had a great traveling following at Johnston and I think it made a difference for our kids. We're hoping to get the same here at home."