Footballs instead of soccer balls will be the object of everyone's attention on Sunday at the Marshalltown Area Soccer Club fields.
Marshalltown is the host site of a 7-on-7 high school football passing tournament - the 7on7U Midwest Shootout.
Seventeen teams are signed up to take to the MASC fields, said Iowa 7on7U State Director Adam Hoop. Up to four teams from the Midwest Shootout will advance to the national championships next month in Washington, D.C.
"Seven-on-seven has seen a lot of growth. There's a lot more tournaments around now, especially in Iowa," Hoop said. "The 7-on-7 has filtered up from the South."
"The 7-on-7U is a national tournament that plays from California to Florida, and up to New York," Hoop added. "It's a national group that is growing and will continue to grow."
Last year's Midwest Shootout in Marshalltown was won by Waterloo East, while ADM was the runner-up. Both teams played in the national event.
Marshalltown finished third last year. The Marshalltown roster has 19 players, consisting of 12 that will be seniors in the fall and seven juniors. In tournaments earlier this summer, Marshalltown went 4-1 at Northern Illinois University and then 3-2 at Iowa State University. Both of the losses for Marshalltown at Iowa State were to eventual champion Iowa City West, once in pool play and then in the quarterfinals.
Marshalltown has fared well in 7-on-7 action over the years with prior championships to its credit at the University of Iowa and Iowa State among its top finishes.
That summer success has played a part in what the Bobcats have done in the fall.
The high school team in 11-man play has advanced to the IHSAA playoffs four of the last five years, including a championship game trip in 2009 and its current school record three straight appearances.
"The more you can work on your passing game the better off you're going to be," said Hoop, the wide receivers coach for the 11-man high school team. "It's what we do here and the 7-on-7 directly translates."
"With how the defenses are set up and there being no option to run the ball, 7-on-7 challenges the offense," Hoop added. "You have to develop ways to defeat man coverage."
Included on Marshalltown's roster for the Midwest Shootout are Iowa record-holders Blake Gimbel and Tad Steffensen. Gimbel set Iowa high school single-game and single-season passing yardage marks in 2011. He is No. 1 in 4A history in both completions and touchdown passes in a season. Steffensen is the Class 4A record holder for receiving yards in a game. Unanimous all-CIML Iowa Conference performer Tyler Kluver is one of the team's linebackers.
Pool play begins at 9:30 a.m. at the MASC fields. The bracketed tournament starts at 2:15 p.m. with the championship game to follow at 3:45 p.m. Admission is free.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck, GMG and South Tama have teams entered as well.
Hoop mentioned Marshalltown, last year's finalists Waterloo East and ADM, Iowa City West and La Porte City Union (IHSAA 3A state champion in 2011) as the top teams to watch.
"It's a pretty good field, I think," Hoop said. "There should be competitive games."