OTTUMWA — Maybe it was the long bus ride from Marion. Or maybe it was the unusually warm conditions.
Whatever it was, it took Linn-Mar’s offense a half to get untracked Friday night.
Leading 18-7 at halftime, the Lions got a pair of long touchdown strikes from senior quarterback Reese Phillips and the defense held Ottumwa without a second-half first down until midway through the fourth quarter and rolled to a 46-7 prep football win at Schaefer Field.
“I took it as a challenge at halftime to come out and run hard,” said Linn-Mar senior running back Neme Siaway, who finished with 120 yards on 20 carries. “We just started out way too slow and we didn’t even want them thinking they could get back in the game.”
Ottumwa did a good job bottling up the Lions in the first half. The tide turned for good when senior Jacob McNeil picked off an Addison Coram pass late in the half. He returned it 35 yards to the Bulldog 12. Phillips carried it in from seven yards out to give the Lions an 18-7 lead at the break.
McNeil said he saw on film Coram liked to hit his receivers in the flat.
“I just read it and was able to get back in the play,” he said. “I wish I could have run a little faster, but I haven’t been able to condition like I have been able to in the past.”
McNeil and fellow senior linebacker Alex Streicher were back in the Linn-Mar lineup after missing time with injuries.
“It really helped us to have both of them back tonight,” Linn-Mar Coach Bob Forsyth said. “They are capable of making big plays and they both came through with great efforts.”
Phillips took control of the game in the second half.
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He hit Trot Carey with a 63-yard pass for a score, then followed it up with a 79-yard screen pass to Josh Gassmann, who finished with five catches for 127 yards.
“Reese really made some big plays for us,” Forsyth said. “He hung in there and took a hit on the long pass to Trot.”
The Lions have a big test next Friday at home against Kennedy.
“We need to be a lot better in that game,” Forsyth said. “We still have a lot of things we need to work on, but you never turn your nose up at a win.
“We’ll take this and move ahead.”