While Friday night was another statistical step forward for the Muscatine football team. The scoreboard, however, showed another double-digit loss for the Muskies.
"We got our effort going," said Muscatine DJ Hawkins. "We're right there, we competed at very tough place to play. It's (Bettendorf's) homecoming."
Muscatine and the Bettendorf Bulldogs both entered the Week 3 contest matching 0-2 records, the first time that's been the case for Bettendorf in 37 years.
Ultimately, it was the Bulldogs that prevailed and moved to 1-2 while the Muskies fell to 0-3 after suffering a 27-6 loss at Bettendorf High School on Friday night.
Yet again, the Muskie defense not only gave up big plays, but let opportunity escape.
With Bettendorf pinned inside its own territory and facing a third down and 17 yards to go, a pass from Bettendorf's Christian Kautz was momentarily bobbled by a Muskie defender, only to bounce out of grasp and into the waiting arms of Bulldog wideout David Canfield for a 36-yard gain, not only giving Bettendorf a fresh set of downs, but possession on the Muscatine side of the field.
"Another would-be interception, we had them bottled up third and long," Hawkins said. "A couple plays here or there. We're getting there, our assignments were better. Now, it's just the matter of making the play when we have the opportunity.
"We have small numbers, we lost a starter early (in safety Conner Christiansen) ... guys were going in and giving their best effort. I cannot fault their effort and willingness to do whatever they can for the team. A lot of guys are playing every snap both ways."
Bettendorf junior running back Isaiah Martinez followed up the third down pass play with a 30-yard run the very next play, setting up his third and final touchdown of the contest with over 10 minutes left in the game.
Martinez did not start for the Bulldogs (1-2), but came on after starting running back Terry Dunn III left with an injury. Martinez led Bettendorf offensively with 144 yards on the ground on 17 carries.
"That's what you expect the next man in to do," said Bettendorf head coach Aaron Wiley. "(Isaiah) has had a bunch of reps in practice. He's a starter on our defense (at strong safety). He came in and ran well."
Kautz added the other Bulldog score, that came with just over eight minutes remaining in the second quarter from three yards out on a run.
The Bettendorf senior quarterback ended 9 of 15 passing for 114 yards plus 29 yards rushing on seven attempts.
Though the sides were scoreless after the first quarter, Martinez's first score came from four yards on the first play of the second quarter, part of a 20-point quarter for the Bulldogs. His second came a few minutes later from a yard out.
"We wanted to right the ship here a little bit after two losses, I felt we functioned pretty well for the most part," Wiley said. "We had a little bit of a lull there in the third quarter ... (But) I thought we played pretty good defense for the most part."
Muscatine (0-3) found some success in the run game behind sophomore back Ty Cozad, who finished with 18 carries and 88 yards. He also added three receptions for 21 yards.
"Ty is not playing like a sophomore anymore. He finally has that confidence," said Hawkins, the second-year head coach. "He's just going to continue to get better ... (and) the line is continuing to make progress."
The Muskies were able to put points on the board in the fourth when junior quarterback Landon Battey snuck it in from the one-yard line. Muscatine tried a similar play on the two-point conversion, but was stopped.
The score capped off by far the Muskies' most productive drive. Muscatine started in its own 35-yard line and went 15 plays for the score.
However, that drive chewed up almost nine and a half minutes of game clock at a time when the clock was not on the the Muskies' side.
Battey had his most productive game through the air, completing 9 of 14 passes for 69 yards.
He didn't throw an interception, but Bettendorf did force a turnover on a strip sack in the second quarter that helped set up the Kauntz score to give Bettendorf a 20-0 lead before the sides headed into the halftime locker room.
Comparatively, it was the Muskies' best showing to date. Muscatine gained a season-high 164 total yards while giving up a season low 351 yards.
In Week 1, Linn-Mar gained 466 more offensive yards than the Muskies, and Iowa City West's 510 total yards in Week 2 more than tripled Muscatine's 159.
Muscatine is home for Pleasant Valley next Friday.
"We competed, battled back, I'm proud of that," Hawkins said. "We took another step. It's hard losing three in a row, but if they keep giving the effort, good things are going to happen."
Bettendorf 27, Muscatine 6
Muscatine 0 0 6 0 - 6
Bettendorf 0 20 7 0 - 27
B-Isaiah Martinez 5 run (Josh Pelzer kick), 11:55
B-Martinez 1 run (Pelzer kick), 8:15
B-Christian Kautz 8 run (kick fail), 1:34
B-Martinez 3 run (Pelzer kick), 10:30
M-Landon Battey 1 run (Two-point run fail), 1:18
First downs 11 16
Rushes-yards 37-95 32-237
Passing yards 69 114
Total yards 164 351
Comp-Att-Int 9-14-0 9-15-0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-0
Penalties 6-57 6-40
Muscatine – Landon Battey 10-8, Nolan Recker 7-3, Brayden Lane 2-(minus 5), Ty Cozad 18-89. Bettendorf – Isaiah Martinez 17-144, Ty Numkena 4-59, Terry Dunn 1-2, Elijah Mendoza 2-2, Christian Kautz 7-29, Cameron Figgs 1-1.
Muscatine – Battey 9-14-0-69.
Bettendorf – Kautz 9-15-0-114
Muscatine – Paul Henry 3-29, Recker 3-7, Lane 2-12, Cozad 3-21.
Bettendorf - Figgs 4-70, Numkena 2-3, Mendoza 1-11, David Canfield 1-36, Charlie Eaton 1-13.
Records: Muscatine 0-3, Bettendorf 1-2.
Sophomore score: Bettendorf 42, Muscatine 12