Things continued to go from bad to worse Friday night for the Marshalltown football team during its quest to claim the first-ever Class 4A Division 3 title.
From injuries to Dowling Catholic's intense pressure on Blake Gimbel, the Bobcats struggled to move the football offensively. Then a tough stretch in the third quarter allowed the Maroons to score 17 points in less than four minutes to claim a big lead.
Marshalltown never recovered as fifth-ranked Dowling Catholic grabbed the division championship and scored 33 straight points in a 46-9 victory at Leonard Cole Field.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Dowling Catholic wide receiver Damon Mehrl, center, is taken down Marshalltown’s Michael Schrempf (1), De’Quan McDowell and Blair VanStaalduine (3) on Friday night at Leonard Cole Field. The Maroons beat the Bobcats 46-9 to clinch the Class 4A, Division 3 title.
"It was a domino effect for us tonight," MHS coach Dave Holdiman said. "That's a good football team we played out there tonight. They just made more plays than we did."
The Maroons were certainly going to be a tough challenge for a full strength Bobcats team.
But already having lost wideout Tad Steffensen to a season-ending knee injury, the Bobcats played the game without offensive lineman Blake Gethmann, who suffered a concussion in practice this week. Brandon Pettigrew left the game with an apparent concussion in the third quarter, and Tyler Kluver also missed a crucial Dowling Catholic offensive series late in the second quarter after getting severely poked in the eye.
"They doubled De'Quan (McDowell) after Pettigrew left the game," Holdiman said. "We have good players, but we are just not as fast on the field when both Tad and Brandon are not in there. We never got into a rhythm and had some drops tonight. That's football sometimes."
Dowling Catholic's offense piled up 560 total yards, led by Nick Wilson's 229 passing yards and 92 rushing yards. He was 11-for-16 through the air but completed touchdown passes of 11, 75 and 36 yards to break the back of a Bobcat defense that played well for most of the game.
"The defense made some plays tonight, and had some key stops on fourth down," Holdiman said. "That goal-line stand was nice. We just couldn't get anything going on offense."
Marshalltown finished with just 232 total yards, and the Maroons held Gimbel to a season-low 203 yards and one score. Dowling (7-2) was in the face of Gimbel all night, either collecting a sack or forcing the senior signal caller to scramble for any kind of yards he could pick up. The Maroons also intercepted him once in the second half.
"It was a frustrating night, the coaches were frustrated and the players were frustrated," Holdiman said. "But we cannot feel sorry for ourselves. We have to regroup and hopefully get back on track Wednesday."
The Bobcats end the regular season at 6-3 overall and 3-1 in Division 3 play. They host a first-round playoff game at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Des Moines East at Leonard Cole Field. Dowling Catholic finished 4-0 in division play and will host a playoff game against Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln on Wednesday.
Marshalltown hung around for most of the first half and a 58-yard touchdown pass from Gimbel to McDowell gave the Bobcats life. It was 13-9 at that point, but Marshalltown did not score the rest of the game and the Maroons put a quick end to the Bobcats' five-game win streak.
Dowling struck one last time in the second quarter as Wilson found Matthew Haack for an 11-yard touchdown completion with 22 seconds left. It was the 12th touchdown grab of the year for Haack, who finished with four catches for 81 yards and scored his 13th touchdown in the third quarter.
Both Pettigrew and McDowell were held to just two catches on the night. Dacoda Ewalt had 33 yards on five catches, while Austin Sowers led the Bobcats with five catches for 36 yards. Marshalltown also rushed for just 29 yards in 21 attempts and turned it over three times.
"We just didn't get it done tonight," Holdiman said. "We had a hard time catching the ball and we lost our footing on the wet grass, too. The field conditions definitely hurt us."
Sophomore Nick McClellan had three field goals for the Maroons, and Damon Mehrl was on the receiving end of the 75-yard touchdown pass from Wilson in the third quarter. It was Mehrl's first receiving touchdown of the season.
Des Moines East finished its season with an easy win over Des Moines Roosevelt on Friday. The Scarlets will enter the postseason with an overall record of 6-3. Their three losses came to Waukee, Southeast Polk and Ames.
"When you give a little perspective, we had a good year," Holdiman said. "We've gotten to the second season, which is what you want. But it's one and done now. We have to fix our mental errors and execute better. We have to move forward."