The Ottumwa football team begins its postseason Wednesday at No. 11 Waukee (4A).
The Warriors, who went 7-2 in the regular season; will enter the contest after closing out the season with three straight victories. Meanwhile, Ottumwa ended its season by crushing Class 4A, Division 3 foe Des Moines Hoover 54-17 Friday. So both squads will head into Wednesday’s matchup with some momentum.
Coach Zach Pfantz instituted several changes offensively before the Bulldogs’ regular-season finale against the Huskies. He resurrected the Pistol offense — Ottumwa began its season using the Pistol, but abandoned it later because of center-quarterback exchange problems. In addition, he moved junior Alec Maas, who had started at fullback until last Friday; to tailback, while moving Seth Griffiths, who has been Ottumwa’s No. 1 run option, to wide receiver. Senior Clayton Cudworth was tapped to fill the vacant fullback position. Also, Pfantz, as he’s done a couple of times this season, went with a different combination of offensive linemen, which featured a mix of normal starters and new faces.
The offensive shake-up seemed to work, as Ottumwa gained 436 yards on 51 plays. Junior right tackle Josh Hudnut said the Pistol makes things easier for the offensive line.
“It’s a lot better on the line and I think everyone has more cooperation,” he said.
The offensive line’s much-improved performance led to a career day for Maas, who rushed for a season-high 202 yards on 17 carries. Griffiths, who played receiver much of the game, gained 91 yards on 13 carries.
“Our offensive line played really, really well,” Pfantz said. “They [Hoover] were bringing a lot of pressure and I think we did a good job of picking it up.”
The return of the Pistol metamorphosed a fairly predictable offensive formula into a creative one: Ottumwa’s offense, in stark contrast to the previous game against Dowling Catholic; featured a mixture of runs up the middle and to the outside, misdirection plays that featured fake handoffs (that Maas sold superbly) and pass plays.
“I think that was kind of our hope,” Pfantz said, “To have that kind of offense when we started the season; but we had some snapping problems and some other issues that we felt kind of limited us on what we could do offensively.
“I think we decided to go back and run our system and just try to work out the kinks. I don’t think we had a single bad snap, so that was great to see, too.”
Although no snaps resulted in turnovers, quarterback Alex Goodvin did have to jump to catch several of junior center Joey Lee’s snaps. Still, the quarterback-center exchanges were better than they have been in previous games.
“I’m fairly confident we have those problems fixed and Joey’s done a great job at center over the last two weeks,” Pfantz said.
Ottumwa’s run defense will attempt to replicate what it accomplished against Hoover today. The Bulldogs held the Huskies to 50 yards on 14 carries. The breadth of Hoover’s yards came from the air. Husky quarterback Brock Larsen completed 18-29 passes for 201 yards. One person who should help Ottumwa’s pass coverage is Collin Schulz, who returned last Friday after being sidelined for the majority of the season with a foot injury. The senior cornerback picked off a pass against the Huskies. Of course, the biggest interception of the night was made by junior Zach Bowling, who returned the pick for a 36-yard touchdown.
Waukee’s offense relies heavily on the run — the Warriors have thrown no more than 10 passes in any of their last three games. Pfantz said his defense must defend the run well, adding that Waukee also likes to run play-action passes. Trevor Allen is the cornerstone of Waukee’s run attack. Allen has rushed for 1,164 yards on 181 carries. He rushed for 210 yards and three touchdowns in the Warriors 49-35 victory at Marshalltown.
The Warriors, however, have four other backs that have taken their share of handoffs. Kyle Boulanger has 51 rushes for 401 yards — he rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown in Waukee’s 48-28 win over Des Moines East. A.J. Allen has 43 carries for 432 yards, Riley Gray, Waukee’s quarterback; has 288 yards on 43 rushes and Patrick Gray has 235 yards on 28 carries.
Three Warriors have taken snaps behind center for their team this season, but Gray has been featured most prominently. He has completed 36-71 passes for 71 yards. Reid Loftsgard and Derek Groathouse also have taken a combined 29 snaps this season. Ryan Fogt leads Waukee with 76 tackles and Komuri Lejukole has 62 tackles and three fumble recoveries. In addition, Charlie Raike has 54 tackles, Matt Hoeg has two fumble recoveries and Miles Blessum and Conner Wachter each have two interceptions. Pfantz said the Warrior defense has a talented group of lineman and linebackers.
The Warrior’s only losses come to teams — West Des Moines Valley and Southeast Polk — ranked in the Class 4A top 10. They also have victories over two teams — DM East and Marshalltown — who have wins over the Bulldogs.
Yet, Ottumwa put together one of its best games of the season last Friday, even if it was against a less talented opponent. The Bulldog defense was solid, as it has been for most of the season and, perhaps more importantly, the offense looked crisper than it has in quite some time, with over 300 yards rushing and over 100 yards passing.
Attitude and effort will be crucial to our success,” Pfantz said.
Aside from Ottumwa’s opening game against West Des Moines Valley, Pfantz said his team hasn’t brought the same level of intensity to games against high caliber teams as it has against less talented squads. He said the Bulldogs will have to bring and sustain a tremendous amount of effort and intensity through four quarters to pick up a win.
If Ottumwa prevails against the Warriors, it will play the winner of Division 3 opponent Dowling Catholic and Abraham Lincoln Council Bluffs Monday.
OTTUMWA VS. WAUKEE
Time and Place: Ottumwa will begin its postseason when it takes on No. 11 Waukee in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Records: Ottumwa (4-5) is coming off an impressive 54-17 victory over Des Moines Hoover. Waukee (7-2) ended its regular season with three straight victories. Waukee has two high-profile wins this season over Marshalltown and Des Moines East.
Last meeting: Waukee defeated Ottumwa 60-19 in 2011. Ottumwa is 0-2 all time against the Warriors.
Key Fact: The Bulldogs gained 436 yards offensively last Friday against Hoover after resurrecting the Pistol offense and Alec Maas gained 202 yards on 17 carries in his first game starting at tailback.
Ottumwa Probable Starting Lineup
QB — Alex Goodvin (6) Sr.
RB — Alec Maas (19) Sr.
FB — Clayton Cudworth (84) Sr.
WR — Seth Griffiths (34) Sr.
WR — Kyle Keck (11) Sr.
LG — Brok Hopwood (61) Soph.
RG — Levi Cobler (66) Jr.
C — Joey Lee (76) Jr.
LT — Kevin Childs (77) Sr.
RT — Josh Hudnut (65) Jr.
TE — Chris Peden (7) Jr.
K — Justin Vonderhaar (56) Soph.
DE — Kyle Lundy (12) Jr.
DE — Logan McCarty (30) Sr.
DT — Jonah Wright (62) Sr.
DT — Conner Mier (64) Jr.
LB — Peden (7) Jr.
LB — Titus Weller (35) Jr.
LB — Cole Eklund (46) Jr.
CB — Zach Bowling (9) Jr. /Collin Schulz (2) Sr.
CB — Andrew Altfillisch (8) Soph.
FS — Shawn Foster (14) Sr.
SS — Bowling (9)/Corey Ridgeway (3) Soph.
P — Bryce Ward (88) Sr.
The Ottumwa football team begins its postseason Wednesday at No. 11 Waukee (4A).
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