Marshalltown's football game with Dowling Catholic is for all the marbles in the new Class 4A Division 3.
Both teams enter the contest with identical records. Both are 3-0 in division play. Only one will walk out of Leonard Cole Field as a champion.
"This is what we had hoped for," MHS coach Dave Holdiman said. "We'll have a tough challenge in playing against Dowling. They are deep, well coached and sound fundamentally."
The Bobcats enter the contest with five straight wins and a 6-2 overall record. During the win streak, Marshalltown has outscored its opponents 257-77 and is averaging 51 points per game.
Dowling Catholic has dominated division play so far, outscoring Mason City, Des Moines Hoover and Ottumwa 138-23. The Maroons took care of Mason City 42-9 earlier this season.
Something's got to give.
Dowling Catholic (6-2, 3-0) at Marshalltown (6-2, 3-0)
At Leonard Cole Field
Friday, 7 p.m.
"Dowling's tradition will help them, too," Holdiman said. "When you have that belief, it's a good thing. It'll be a big challenge for us for sure."
A big difference in the game could be at the quarterback position.
The Bobcats feature the state's top passer in Blake Gimbel, who has a state-best 232 completions, 347 attempts, 3,173 yards and 29 touchdowns.
The Maroons' attack features a two-headed monster in sophomore Nick Wilson and junior Brandon Mauro. Both are trying to replace sophomore Ryan Boyle, who was lost for the season earlier this year in a loss to Urbandale.
"There is no drop off from what I can see," said Holdiman referring to Wilson and Mauro. "Both are effective. And there is no real pattern as to who plays when. He may even go with the hot hand. I am not really sure."
Gimbel is coming off a 488-yard, seven touchdown performance last week against Mason City. During that win, Gimbel also became the school's all-time leading passer for yards in a career with 7,400, which also ranks as the fourth highest total ever in the state of Iowa.
The records don't stop there though for the Bobcat signal caller. The seven TDs he threw against Mason City was a new MHS record and is tied for second all-time in the state of Iowa. He also holds school records in career touchdown passes with 71 and career pass completions with 526.
"We just call the plays," Holdiman said. "When Blake gets going, he is tough to slow down."
Coming into the game Friday night, Gimbel has 3,173 passing yards. The 488 passing yards he threw for last week against the Mohawks ranked third at Marshalltown behind his own all-time state record 567 yards.
Gimbel will be without his favorite target the rest of the season though as senior Tad Steffensen had knee surgery last Friday to repair a torn ACL.
Senior De'Quan McDowell stepped up big time last week with 234 yards receiving and two scores. McDowell currently leads the team and is third in the state with 62 receptions and also is second in yardage with 957. He'll get help Friday night from Brandon Pettigrew and Dacoda Ewalt, who have 49 and 39 catches this season, respectively.
"We can't replace a Tad Steffensen, but we want a player that can be effective there," Holdiman said. "Austin Sowers did that for us last week with five catches. It is a matter of just stepping up and filling the void."
McDowell's career day does not have to be duplicated Friday, but if a mismatch is there again, the Bobcats will surely exploit it.
"We liked that matchup last week and we just kept going back to it," Holdiman said. "He had some big plays and can certainly turn an average play into a bigger play with his size and speed. He's physical, which helps him break tackles."
Dowling Catholic senior Michael Sherinian and junior Reed Flood will be two of the Maroons trying to slow down the Bobcat offense. Both have 65 tackles on the year to lead the team.
Headlining the Dowling offense besides the two-headed monster at quarterback will be running back Chase Dowell and wide receiver Matthew Haack. Dowell has 654 rushing yards and nine scores this year, while Haack is easily the team's most productive receiver with 50 catches, 911 yards and 11 scores.
"They like to run it, but (Haack) is a player," Holdiman said. "He's fast and probably their best athlete."
The next best receiver is future Iowa Hawkeye tight end Jon Wisnieski, who has 17 catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns.
Mauro has passed for 317 yards and five scores this year, while Wilson has 243 passing yards and five TDs.
The Maroons won their first three games of the year and are currently on a three-game win streak following victories over Ottumwa, Hoover and Mason City. In between the two three-game win streaks are two losses to top-ranked Ankeny and Urbandale.
The Bobcats lead the all-time series with Dowling Catholic, 3-1, but the Maroons won the most recent meeting in the 2010 playoffs. Dowling beat Marshalltown 56-14 that season.
Marshalltown received votes in the weekly Class 4A Associated Press poll. The Bobcats are currently sitting at No. 11, while Dowling Catholic is ranked fifth. Kick off for Friday's game is set for 7 p.m. at Leonard Cole Field.
"We like the friendly confines of Leonard Cole Field," Holdiman said. "The guys love playing in front of their home fans. And the student body has not let us down all season. Hopefully that will be an advantage for us."