At each Marshalltown football practice, a member of the coaching staff counts down how much time separates each play that is run.
The clock is ticking not just in Marshalltown but throughout the division as teams are going faster and faster with no-huddle offenses. The Class 4-A Division 3 will feature four teams who plan to use the quick-striking offensive scheme this season.
“I think the trend now is to try and get more offensive plays in,” Ottumwa coach Zach Pfantz said.
No one may be doing it more than this division. The Bulldogs, Des Moines Hoover and Marshalltown will all implement the no-huddle offense this season. Dowling Catholic coach Tom Wilson said his team will use it at times as well.
Ankeny Centennial will join the division in 2013. The only team not to use the no-huddle? Mason City.
“We’re slowing it down,” Mason City coach Justin Penner said. “Whenever everybody else does one thing, I will completely do the opposite.”
The current trend is heading to faster and more. And no one may use it better than the Bobcats and quarterback Blake Gimbel.
As a junior, Gimbel tore through defenses for a state-record 3,979 passing yards and 39 touchdowns, helping his team rack up eight victories and turn into one of the most explosive offenses in the state.
“Usually it all happens so fast it’s hard for the opponent to get their defenses set up much less figure out what we’re trying to do,” Marshalltown coach Dave Holdiman said.
Holdiman tries to get his players accustomed to what they’re trying to do with a fast-paced practice. During the workouts, while one coach signals in a play to Gimbel, another tracks how much time elapsed between each play.
“If we’re going too slowly, he lets us know,” Holdiman said. “To be able to do it in a game situation, you have to be able to simulate it in practice.”
Holidman said the goal is to have the ball snapped in around seven seconds.
Pfantz, who spent the last three seasons as a defensive coordinator at Central, saw first-hand the effects the no-huddle can have. While he was credited with leading the defense, the opposing team’s offense often controlled it.
“It just kind of takes some of that control out of your hands,” Pfantz said. “That’s one of the reasons why I guess I wanted to implement that .”
The first-year Bulldogs coach also saw it as a way to attract new players .
“In middle school and high school, I watched college football,” he said. “I watched the NFL and I wanted to try and do the things that those guys on TV were doing.”
Hoover coach Will Siffin said one of the reasons he made the move to a no-huddle offense last year was to help interest players and increase numbers.
Marshalltown wide receiver Tad Steffensen, who caught 64 passes for 1,004 yards and nine touchdowns last season, has seen the exhausting effect it has on opponents.
“At the end of the fourth quarter, they’re breathing pretty hard,” he said.
Holdiman said he thinks the no-huddle should make for some entertaining play.
“I think there’s enough athletes in this division to see a lot of points on the board,” Holidman said. “No doubt about it.”
COACH: Tom Wilson, 160-52, 20th season.
LAST SEASON: 9-3
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: WR/P Matt Haack, TE/LB Jon Wisnieski, OL Jake Kirvin, LB Reed Flood, LB Mike Sherinian, DB Michael Gillotti, LB Michael Palme, DL Alex Kramer, TE Matt Mallisee.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Sophomore Ryan Boyle will take over the starting quarterback duties.
UPSIDE: The Maroons have a pair of Division I recruits in tight end Jon Wisnieski (Iowa) and punter Matt Haack (Arizona State).
DOWNSIDE: The Maroons will field a young team, with possibly six sophomores vying for playing time.
DID YOU KNOW? Sophomore Jo Jo Jok, a defensive end expected to get playing time, is the younger brother of Valley basketball player Peter Jok.
SCHEDULE: Aug. 17 at Johnston; Aug. 24 vs. Southeast Polk; Aug. 31 at Valley;
Sept. 7 vs. Ankeny; Sept. 14 vs. Urbandale; Sept. 21 at Mason City; Oct. 5 vs. Ottumwa; Oct.12 at Hoover; Oct. 19 at Marshalltown.
COACH: Will Siffin, 1-8, second season.
LAST SEASON: 1-8
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: QB/WR/CB Matt Pearson, P/K Colton Ruegsegger; C Nik Nicholson; WR Kalean Toliver; RB Terion Farely; CB Devonte Wiggins.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Sophomore Brock Larson will take over the starting quarterback duties.
UPSIDE: The offense returns several weapons, including former quarterback Matt Pearson, who makes the move to receiver after passing for 757 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
DOWNSIDE: A roster size in the mid 20s.
DID YOU KNOW? Pearson was a state qualifier in the 800-meter run in track last season.
SCHEDULE: Aug. 17 vs. Indianola; Aug. 24 vs. Des Moines Roosevelt; Aug. 31 at Urbandale; Sept. 7 at Des Moines North; Sept. 14 vs. Council Bluffs Jefferson; Sept. 28 at Marshalltown; Oct. 5 vs. Mason City; Oct. 12 vs. Dowling Catholic; Sept. 19 at Ottumwa.
COACH: Dave Holdiman, 10th season, 50-39 (226-138 overall).
LAST SEASON: 8-3
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: QB Blake Gimbel, WR Tad Steffensen, WR Brandon Pettigrew, C Zach Smith, OT Matt Vandegrift, LB Tyler Kluver, DT Pedro Gomez, DE Nick Whaley, DE Austin Butcher.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Gimbel set a state record with 3,979 passing yards last season.
UPSIDE: Gimbel returns plenty of offensive target,s including Tad Steffensen (64 receptions, 1,004 yards) and Brandon Pettigrew (23, 397).
DOWNSIDE: The Bobcats graduated every starter in their defensive secondary.
DID YOU KNOW? Senior long snapper Tyler Kluver has played on varsity all three seasons and has produced interest from college programs around the nation.
SCHEDULE: Aug. 17 at Ankeny; Aug. 24 vs. Pella; Aug. 31 vs. Waukee; Sept. 7 at Fort Dodge; Sept. 14 at Ames; Sept. 21 vs. Ottumwa; Sept.28 vs. Des Moines Hoover; Oct. 12 at Mason City; Oct. 19 vs. Dowling Catholic.
COACH: Justin Penner (8th season, third at Mason City), 44-30 overall
LAST SEASON: 2-7
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: QB Jared Lichman, OG Tom Schiffer.
UPSIDE: All four of the Mohawks’ defensive linemen have starting experience. Lichman saw some playing time, passing for 91 yards last season.
DOWNSIDE: The Mohawks began last season by winning two out of their first three games and finished by losing their final six contests. Mason City’s last success came during a 36-14 win against Des Moines Roosevelt on Sept. 9, 2011.
DID YOU KNOW? Mason City will play Clear Lake this season for the first time in 82 years.
SCHEDULE: Aug. 17 vs. Ames; Aug. 24 vs. Clear Lake; Aug.31 at Waverly-Shell Rock; Sept. 7 at Waukee; Sept. 14 vs. Fort Dodge; Sept.21 vs. Dowling Catholic; Sept. 28 at Ottumwa; Oct. 5 at Des Moines Hoover; Oct. 12 vs. Marshalltown.
COACH: Zach Pfantz, first season.
LAST SEASON: 3-7
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: WR/QB Kyle Keck, RB Seth Griffiths, RB Alec Maas, OL Kevin Childs, DT Jonah Wright, OL John Torres, DB Tyler Johns, LB Tyler Bramschreiber, LB Titus Weller.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Seth Griffiths is one of the key returners on offense after averaging 5.2 yards per carry on 92 attempts. Griffiths finished third on the team with 482 rushing yards.
UPSIDE: The program is revitalized with a new coaching staff.
DOWNSIDE: Experience is lacking, specifically on defense with just two starters returning from last season.
DID YOU KNOW: Pfantz spent the last three seasons as a Central College’s defensive coordinator, helping the Dutch compile a 25-6 record.
SCHEDULE: Aug. 17 vs. Valley; Aug. 24 at Keokuk; Aug. 31 vs. Mt. Pleasant; Sept. 7 vs. East; Sept. 14 at Indianola; Sept. 21 at Marshalltown; Sept.28 vs. Mason City; Oct. 5 at Dowling; Oct. 19 vs. Hoover.