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Cardinals, Bobcats face off in district play

Published: Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 9:55 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 10:16 a.m. CDT
(Jocelyn Sheets/Daily News)
Senior Jaron Roush (28) is one of five running backs powering Newton High’s Cardinals to the second-best rushing team in Class 4A in Iowa. The Cardinals head into Class 4A District 4 play Friday at Marshalltown with the top running game in the district.

Four games are what Newton High’s Cardinals and the rest of the Class 4A District 4 football teams had to prepare for the final five weeks of action. What the six teams of District 4 do over the next five weeks will determine which district teams advance into the 4A playoffs in October.

First up for the Cardinals is a road game at Marshalltown on Friday. The Cardinals (4-0) and Bobcats (1-3) kick off 4A District 4 play at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Marshalltown’s Leonard Cole Field.

“Newton and Marshalltown have a longtime rivalry. It’s their homecoming game, so they’ll be ready to come out and play well against us,” Newton head coach Ed Ergenbright said. “You can’t go on records. We have to be ready to play from the opening kickoff to the end.”

Newton is the lone undefeated team in Class 4A District 4, but the district favorite is 4A third-ranked West Des Moines Valley (3-1). Southeast Polk (2-2), Fort Dodge (3-1) and Newton each have received votes in the recent Iowa high school 4A football poll.

Valley opens district play at Fort Dodge on Friday. Southeast Polk plays at Indianola (3-1).

“Marshalltown runs the same type of offense we’ve seen the past few weeks. Their quarterback is a dual threat athlete, who throws the ball well. They have a good running back. They run the zone-read, spread offense and we have to be ready to defend it all,” Ergenbright said.

Senior quarterback Sam Irwin leads the Bobcat offense as its leading passer and rusher. He is 41-of-76 for 570 yards passing with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Irwin has rushed for 280 yards on 54 carries. Junior Alex Rockingham has carried the ball 40 times for 99 yards.

The Bobcats are coming off a 56-14 loss to Waterloo West. Newton and Marshalltown have one common non-district opponent in Waterloo East. Newton beat Waterloo East, 56-26, in the second week of the season and Marshalltown dropped an 18-15 decision to Waterloo East the next week.

“Every team is different even if they run the same type of offense. We’ve made some personnel changes this week on both sides of the football. We’ve had three good days of practices so I believe our guys are focused in on the task at hand,” Ergenbright said.

Newton takes the District 4’s top rushing attack into the game. Newton averages 7.7 yards a carry as a team as the Cardinals have amassed 1,615 yards on 210 carries this season with 24 rushing touchdowns. The Cardinals are the second best rushing team in Class 4A after four weeks with Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson the top ream at 1,644 yards on 215 carries.

“We do what we do. It starts with blocking the rocket sweeps then we work in from there. When we execute our offense well, it’s tough for teams to stop. I’m not saying it can’t be stopped, but our guys are working to get better and better each week,” Ergenbright said. “With our motion and mis-direction plays, it’s a lot to defend.”

On defense, Newton has moved Grant Garvis from outside linebacker to inside linebacker and Cole Cazett from a defensive back to outside linebacker. Jaise Gulling had started the first four games as a linebacker, but now is back at defensive end where he caused havoc from that position last year.

Ergenbright said he believes his team is ready for 4A district action.

Contact Jocelyn Sheets at 641-792-3121 ext. 6535 or jsheets@newtondailynews.com

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