Two old rivals will meet for the first time since 2003 when the red-hot Bobcats take on the Ottumwa Bulldogs on Friday night.
And after two road wins, Marshalltown coach David Holdiman and the Bobcats will be happy to be in the friendly confines of Leonard Cole Field.
"Our crowd is going to be big, and we like playing at Leonard Cole Field for sure," Holdiman said. "We want to do our best for them."
Lately, the Bobcats have done their best and have won two straight road games against Fort Dodge and Ames. Ottumwa comes into the game 2-3 overall. Both wins have come against Class 3A foes, while all three losses have been by double digits against Class 4A squads.
"I expect to see a hard-nosed team, and a hungry team," Holdiman said. "This is our first CIML Division game so they are all big at this point. We'll have to play very well to win."
The Bulldogs lost 27-0 to West Des Moines Valley and 47-26 to Des Moines East at home and most recently lost 26-7 at Indianola. The wins came against Keokuk (34-21) on the road and at home against Mount Pleasant (33-3).
Ottumwa at Marshalltown
At Leonard Cole Field
Friday, 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs will most likely look to running back Sam Griffiths to set an early tone on offense. He leads Ottumwa in rushing and also is very valuable in the passing game.
Quarterback Alex Goodvin has more interceptions than touchdowns but does a nice job of keeping the Bulldogs balanced. His favorite target is Kyle Kock, who has more than half of the yards compiled in the passing game.
"(Griffiths) carries the mail for them," Holdiman said. "He's a good back. But what we have also seen on film is that they are very good in the kickoff return and punt return games. And Griffiths is a part of that, too."
MHS senior quarterback Blake Gimbel continues to lead most of the offensive passing categories in the state. He is tops in all classes with 254 attempts, 161 completions and 1,978 yards. He also has thrown 13 touchdowns.
Senior Tad Steffensen also leads the state in catches with 52 and is No. 2 in yards with 667. De'Quan McDowell is second in catches with 42 and fourth in yards with 537.
The Marshalltown defense also has been much better in the past two games. The younger, more inexperienced players are improving and not making rookie mistakes anymore, and seniors Tyler Kluver and Pedro Gomez are dominating their positions in the front seven.
Kluver leads the team with 46 tackles and one sack. He recently gave a verbal commitment to play college football at the University of Iowa.
"That is a great honor for Tyler and for our football team," Holdiman said. "It has been a dream of his for a long time. He'll represent our school well there."
The Ottumwa defense is led by a host of Bulldogs who have amassed more than 35 tackles. Chris Peden has 37 tackles and two sacks, while Logan McCarty has 36 tackles and two sacks. Titus Weller adds 35 tackles and two sacks to the list, but the Bulldogs have given up an average of 33.3 points per game in their three losses to Class 4A teams.
The Bulldogs do have a new coach in former West Marshall standout Zach Pfantz. Pfantz played at Coe College and also coached at Central College as well as Akron-Westfield High School.
"I got to know Zach on the recruiting trail when he was at Central College," Holdiman said. "He'll do a great job down there. They have established a strong tradition and he'll do his best to keep that going."
Leonard Cole Field is expected to be decked out in orange on Friday as the community takes part in an "Orange Out."
The event is part of the "Not In Our Town" pledge that brings awareness to bullying in schools. The anti-bullying event is a good idea, according to Holdiman.
"Our student body has been involved with it a lot," he said. "It'll be good for us. We like anything that will help bring fans to the stadium. We're all for it."
The student body and other fans in the community are expected to wear orange at the game, while the MHS band also will be sporting orange shirts during their performances. The football team will wear "Not In Our Town" stickers on the back of their helmets as well.
Kickoff for Friday's game will be at 7 p.m. The last time Marshalltown and Ottumwa played was 2003 and that contest ended in a 14-7 Bobcats win. Ottumwa won three straight though from 2000-2002.
"We have played two really good games in a row, but we have to build on it," Holdiman said. "Now is not the time to step on the brake. It is time to step on the gas. But we're coming together. We're seeing the youthful mistakes we were seeing earlier in the season."