SIOUX CITY - The Fort Dodge football team faces an entirely different kind of challenge this week, as the Dodgers renew an old rivalry with Sioux City East.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Olsen Stadium, located on the campus of Morningside College.
Both Fort Dodge and the Black Raiders try to avoid an 0-2 hole to start the season. Head coach Matt Miller's squad dropped its opener to No. 9 Urbandale at home, while East suffered a 38-28 setback to second-ranked (Class 3A) Sioux City Heelan.
The J-Hawks churned out 53 run plays and threw only four times in pulling away from the Dodgers a week ago. The Black Raiders, meanwhile, attempted 42 passes against Heelan while netting just 34 rush yards on 27 carries.
''It's a 180-degree turn from what we saw in the opener, but we aren't a stranger to a (pass-oriented spread offense),'' Miller said, referring to their annual showdowns with Marshalltown. ''East doesn't shy away from the fact that they're going to step off the bus throwing the football.
''They have some very impressive athletes at the skill positions. Let me just put it this way: if we don't do a good job of containing them in open space, the only thing that will stop them is the Missouri River - and that's only because it's closer than the Mississippi.''
LT: Jake Porter, 265, jr.
LG: Michael Carlson, 280, sr.
C: Kyle Johnson, 220, sr.
RG: Carlos Rocha, 230, jr.
RT: Connor Hubbard, 260, sr.
SE: Tyler Vaughn, 170, sr.
SE: Keegan Jones, 175, sr.
WB: Wesley Castro, 155, sr.
HB: Tommy Halligan, 180, sr.
TB: Austin Halligan, 170, so.
QB: Andrew Stover, 175, jr.
DE: Riley Prescott, 220, jr.
NG: Marquan Clayton, 295, jr.
LB: Adrean Johnson, 180, sr.
LB: Sam Cook, 200, fr.
LB: Brandon Archibald, 175, jr.
LB: T. Halligan
LB: A. Halligan
Taylor DeLaughner completed 22 of 41 passes for 344 yards in his debut as the Black Raider starting quarterback last week. Dom Thompson-Williams - an all-state baseball player - caught six passes for 188 yards, while Ronald Nash hauled in eight receptions for 85 yards.
''Thompson-Williams and Nash are legitimate threats,'' Miller said. ''They can do a lot of damage if you don't stay in front of them. Like when we play Marshalltown, we have to stay disciplined defensively and stay away from the home-run balls.''
Miller wasn't completely discouraged after reviewing film of the Urbandale loss. On one hand, the Dodgers stood toe-to-toe with a Top-10 opponent for an entire half. On the other, the J-Hawks turned the third quarter into a nightmare for FDSH and quickly put the game out of reach.
''I'd say if there was a theme to take away from our opener, it'd be the need for consistency,'' Miller said. ''We have to get everyone on the same page, fulfilling their assignments and executing as a cohesive unit. That wasn't happening at all in the second half (against the J-Hawks).
''We looked like a pretty solid football team early. We looked like a lost football team at times after that. Every snap needs to be valued equally by every player; there is no margin for error at the 4A level.''
Junior quarterback Andrew Stover threw for 137 yards and two touchdowns in his first varsity start a week ago. Seniors Tommy Halligan and Wesley Castro caught the scoring strikes. Senior Keegan Jones had three receptions for 62 yards.
Defensively, seniors Tyler Vaughn and Anthony Credit recovered fumbles. Halligan recorded a pair of sacks.
Fort Dodge will play without Credit, who has a foot injury and is considered day-to-day. Freshman Sam Cook will start in his place - the first Dodger ninth-grader to ever start a varsity football contest.
''We had a great week of practice. The kids really responded, despite the heat and all the schedule changes,'' Miller said. ''You always want to see the most improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. That's what we're hoping for on Friday.''
While Fort Dodge and East are squaring off for the first time since 2001 on the gridiron, the programs aren't exactly strangers. The Black Raiders hold a 24-14-2 all-time edge over the Dodgers, which includes nine consecutive victories since 1985.
The two schools met every year from 1975 until 1991. Fort Dodge's last win over East was a 12-6 upset over the then-No. 1 Black Raiders in 1984.