Two weeks ago, the Muscatine football team (2-5, 2-1) was searching for its first win. Now, it’s searching for a spot in the playoffs.
The rejuvenated Muskies, however, now face their biggest game of the season − a road meeting with Davenport Central today that will likely decide who advances to the postseason as the second team out of Class 4A District 7.
Muscatine is 2-1, while Davenport Central and Bettendorf are tied for the district lead at 3-0. Iowa City High is the only other team in the district with a win.
The victories haven’t always gone smoothly, though, for the Muskies, who watched a 21-point lead over Davenport North on Sept. 28 slip away before knocking through a game-winning field goal in the final seconds. Last Friday against Iowa City High, Muscatine overcame five lost fumbles and a blocked punt to sneak past the Little Hawks 20-16 on a rain-soaked evening.
The most important thing is they're finding ways to win games.
"I think it's just a combination of getting guys in the right spots and kids getting comfortable with what they're doing," Muscatine coach Jake Mueller said. "Our guys haven't had a whole lot of repetition prior to this year, and so they needed some games to see those reps and to get better.
"We've continually improved, and I think we've gotten better in all phases of the game."
It was the offense that shined against Davenport North, collecting 478 yards and five touchdowns. The defense, though, took control in last week’s game, holding Iowa City High to 145 yards of offense while allowing just 16 points.
“I think we’ve really rallied behind our guys up front,” senior Jackson Foulk said. “They’re doing a great job in the trenches right now. If you look at that Iowa City High game, I don’t think we gave up 100 rushing yards. And that’s all because of those three guys up front.”
With reason to celebrate, the entire Muscatine football team did the Hokey Pokey after last week’s win.
“That was pretty fun,” Foulk said. “Every year after a big win coach (Mueller) likes to break out the Hokey Pokey. Other coaches do kind of some newer dances, but coach (Mueller) kind of likes to show off his moves with the Hokey Pokey.”
Muscatine will need all three sides of the football to deliver against Davenport Central, which leads District 7 in total offense (2,786 yards) and rushing (1,943 yards).
The Muskies, meanwhile, have collected 392 yards on the ground over the last two games, surpassing their total output through the first five games. The resurgence is largely thanks to Foulk’s switch to running back, as the senior has piled up 195 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns in the last two weeks.
Freshman Timothy Nimely also has provided a spark, carrying the ball 18 times for 111 yards last week against Iowa City High.
“Our rushing attack has been really good the past two games,” Foulk said. “We owe that to the five guys up front on offense. I think we’ve really rallied behind our offensive line and D-line. Those guys down in the trenches have done an amazing job, and we’re going to need them to step up big against Central as well.”
On defense, Muscatine opponents are averaging 24.5 points in the last two games, a vast improvement from the 53 points Muskie foes put up on average in the first five weeks.
More improvement today could lead to the Muskies dancing into the postseason.
“I think every guy realizes that it’s do or die this week,” Foulk said. “As Ethan (King) said earlier, the playoffs came a little bit early this year, and we get a chance to go out there and fight for more life.
"Our road is in our hands, we control our own destiny.”