The snowball effect swallowed up the Fort Dodge football team in the second half of a 37-21 loss to Sioux City North here Friday.
The Stars reeled off 23 unanswered points to hand the Dodgers their second consecutive home setback in front of a large crowd on a gorgeous evening last night. Leading by a touchdown at halftime, head coach Matt Miller's squad fell apart in all facets of the game after the break.
''We've got a choice to make,'' Miller said. ''We can either start doing all of the little things right and taking responsibility for our actions, or we won't win another game. Because it's going to be a long six weeks if we play like we did (Friday).
''I'm not handling this with kid gloves. The mental mistakes have to stop. And we're compounding the problem by hanging our heads when something doesn't go right. You know what? Sometimes things don't go your way on the football field. You can't sulk and lose your focus - it only makes things worse. We were living proof of that in the second half.''
North (2-2 overall) rushed 40 times for 349 yards, including an eight-carry, 166-yard output during a back-breaking third quarter. The Stars broke free for eight totes of 20 or more yards, overcoming a pair of fumbles in the final two minutes of the first half that led to a pair of FDSH touchdowns.
''They're running just simple counter plays and we're out of position, we're trying to make arm tackles - just bad fundamental football,'' Miller said. ''We took all the momentum we could ask for into the locker room, then flushed it right away.
''Two weeks in a row, we're facing a team similar to us on our home field and we totally lose it in the second half. It's our responsibility now to fix this, because we've dug ourselves a pretty deep hole with these losses (to Urbandale and North).''
Senior quarterback Sam Edwards had 260 yards and three touchdowns - two passing and one rushing - in the losing effort. Most of Edwards' success came before intermission, as he completed 17 of 25 throws for 164 yards and two scores to help the Dodgers take the lead.
Isaac Lehman had eight more catches for 136 yards and a pair of TDs. The passing efforts again couldn't mask the struggles on the ground, as Edwards was sacked seven times for a loss of 58 yards and two errant snaps cost FDSH 28 yards and a critical safety.
''We actually got some positive rushing yardage, then gave it all back,'' Miller said. ''There are no excuses for the mistakes we made on both sides of the ball. None.''
Seniors Will Gormally and Dillon Christensen both recovered fumbles late in the second period, setting up touchdowns from Edwards (1-yard run) and Lehman (14-yard pass). The latter came with 10 seconds left and pushed the Dodgers ahead 21-14.
The Stars opened the third quarter with a three-play, 80-yard TD drive, but they missed the extra point. After trading punts, Fort Dodge drove to the North 30-yard line up by a point, but a bad snap on 3rd-and-2 took the Dodgers out of scoring territory.
North then immediately answered with a 62-yard touchdown jaunt by tailback Charlie Forey, who finished with 149 yards on just six rushes.
A safety on FDSH's next possession on a ball hiked over Edwards' head made it a two-possession contest.
The Dodgers took over in North territory with a little over seven minutes left in regulation when the Stars' punter mistakenly took a knee, but Ty Littzen missed a 42-yard field goal wide left. An 8-play, 80-yard North scoring drive followed as the icing on the cake.
Cole Jarrard also recovered a fumble for Fort Dodge, while senior Matt Gast and junior Anthony Credit registered sacks.
''We need our leaders to rally the troops,'' Miller said. ''The mistakes on offense and defense, the personal fouls - all inexcusable. We've talked about how important it is to not let things hit bottom when adversity comes your way. That's where the focus needs to be right now both physically and mentally.''
The Dodgers host seventh-ranked (Class 4A) West Des Moines Dowling on Friday. The Maroons defeated Urbandale last night, 30-14.
Contact Eric Pratt at (515) 573-2141, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org