FORT DODGE - When Marshalltown's wide-open spread offense is clicking, it is virtually impossible to stop.
The Bobcat machine was working on all cylinders Friday night as the Bobcats got back on the winning track with a 52-15 win over Fort Dodge at Dodger Stadium.
Senior Tad Steffensen scored three times in the first half and added two more touchdown receptions in the second half to propel the Bobcats to the win. Steffensen's four receiving touchdowns ties the Marshalltown single-game record set by Jarred Carlson in a Class 4A substate win over Indianola in 2009.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Marshalltown receivers Tad Steffensen (2) and Brandon Pettigrew celebrate one of Steffensen’s five touchdowns during Friday’s football game against Fort Dodge at Dodger Stadium. Steffensen matched a school record with four receiving scores as the Bobcats improved to 2-2 with a 52-15 victory.
"Tad had quite the ballgame," Marshalltown head coach David Holdiman said. "He scored on a deep ball, he scored on a kick return and he scored with a play where he got in the open field. Once he gets in that extra gear, he is tough to stop."
Defensively, seniors Tyler Kluver and Pedro Gomez and the rest of the Bobcats also made sure the Fort Dodge attack never got off the ground. Fort Dodge managed very few big plays on the ground and scored just seven points against Marshalltown's starting defense.
"We are pleased with where we are right now, and it was good to bounce back after last week's loss," Holdiman said.
Steffensen caught two touchdown passes from Blake Gimbel in the first half and scored another touchdown on a 95-yard kickoff return. Gimbel added a field goal as the Bobcats led 24-7 at halftime.
"I have to credit everyone else on those plays," Steffensen said. "The blocking was awesome on the kickoff return. The blocking was great on the passing plays. And Blake threw great passes. Everyone played well and it was clicking today."
Steffensen finished with 10 catches for 181 yards and four scores. He added a fifth score in the second quarter on the 95-yard kickoff return.
But the Bobcat offense was balanced as Gimbel connected with five different receivers. Gimbel was 31-of-48 in the game for 413 yards and four scores - all Dodger Stadium records. He threw an interception in the first half, but the Bobcats out-gained Fort Dodge, 503-240.
"We did a good job of distributing the ball," Holdiman said. "And balanced to us is getting the ball to several different guys, not necessarily running as much as we throw it."
The game was relatively close in the first quarter as it was tied at 7 before the Steffensen kickoff return. The Bobcats pulled away though during a stretch in the second and third quarters, outscoring Fort Dodge 31-0.
"This one started competitively, and we knew they were going to come out and try to get momentum," Holdiman said. "We were able to separate though in the second and third quarters."
Colton Fuller scored two second-half touchdowns to put the game away for the Bobcats. He finished with 10 carries for 98 yards and two scores. Marshalltown ran for 90 yards in the game, which is enough production, according to Holdiman.
"We were able to run the ball late, which is what we like to do," he said. "We like to throw it early and run it late."
The Marshalltown defense was fantastic in stopping Fort Dodge's ground game. The Dodgers threw for 240 yards but only gained 11 rushing yards on 28 carries.
"We knew they were a running team, and we have seen just about every running play in the books these first four games," Kluver said. "The younger guys are coming together and we are starting to click on defense. It's hard to come in here and win, so I am glad we were able to do that this week."
Senior De'Quan McDowell finished with eight catches for 78 yards, while senior Brandon Pettigrew added seven catches for 68 yards. Dacoda Ewalt also had four catches for 67 yards in the win.
"We like to get the ball to our playmakers, and Blake did a good job of doing that tonight," Holdiman said. "We had a lot of good plays today, but I think we can be better. We can certainly be more consistent."
The Bobcats will stay on the road next week when they travel to Ames to face the Little Cyclones. Marshalltown will be 2-2 when it kicks that contest off next week.
"We are playing better, but we need to be more contained defensively," Kluver said. "We need to be able to defend the pass with that team. They kind of throw the ball more like we do."