Fort Dodge ventures into new territory on the gridiron here tonight, but a familiar foe awaits.
The Dodgers take on Ames in the first-ever week of Class 4A, Division 2 football action. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Head coach Matt Miller's squad looks to piggyback on the momentum it built last Friday at Mason City against a Little Cyclone ballclub that has dropped its last two contests after a 2-0 start.
''Ames is a good, solid football team,'' Miller said. ''They've struggled a little against Southeast Polk and Marshalltown, but I consider both of those programs Top-10 caliber.
''(The Little Cyclones) took care of Mason City and scored 63 points on Des Moines East. They have a balanced offense that can hurt you running the ball or passing it. You'll recognize a lot of their names, both because they have a lot of experienced varsity players and they're from families that have tradition in (AHS uniforms).''
Ames (2-2), which has lost three consecutive times to Fort Dodge (1-3) for the first time in over 20 years coming into this evening's contest, is paced by the arm of junior quarterback Sam Straub (1,046 yards, 11 touchdowns, 59 percent completion rate) and the legs of junior tailback Clifford Kwaw-Mensah (459 yards, four TDs, 6.3 yards per carry). Senior Mike Mayberry (31 catches, 365 yards, 5 scores) and juniors Alex Brammer (18-328-3) and Spencer Shane (20-210-2) are the primary receivers for Straub.
''They're very balanced,'' Miller said. ''And honestly, I think their defense is pretty good. I know they've allowed a lot of points the last three weeks (131), but they were to top-level offenses that give almost everyone problems.
''We're going to have our work cut out for us. We're hoping for a hard-fought, hard-hitting game with Ames, which is what it was last year and what it typically is when we play them.''
The Dodgers earned a 28-17 penalty-ladened win over the Mohawks a week ago. Fort Dodge forced five turnovers to defeat the Mohawks for the ninth consecutive time and retain the Decker Sporting Goods traveling trophy.
It was the fourth road triumph over the course of the last 13 months for the FDSH program, but the Dodgers are winless at home since Oct. 15, 2010 - a span of eight games.
''A lot of that is due to the level of competition we've been facing here (inside Dodger Stadium) during that period of time, but yes, it would obviously be nice to end that skid,'' Miller said. ''We're looking forward to getting back home in front of our fans coming off a win (in Mason City). Hopefully we've turned a corner when it comes to dealing with adversity and overcoming the issues and challenges we've faced early on.
''The 'preseason' part of our schedule is over now. Each game adds meaning and importance from here on out. Our ultimate goal is to get into the playoffs, but we know that in order to do that, we'll have to win a minimum of two (divisional) games.''
Senior wingback and defensive back Wesley Castro (ankle injury) is a game-time decision. Junior lineman Carlos Rocha (shoulder) is out. Senior nose tackle Gavin Thomas returns to the lineup this week.
Ames leads the all-time series with the Dodgers, 31-26-3. Before FDSH's recent three-game win streak, the Little Cyclones had taken 14 consecutive matchups from 1995 through 2008.
The Dodgers prevailed last year in Ames, 28-20.
These programs have met in football every year since 1968, but the rivalry actually dates back to 1913.
Top-ranked Ankeny, Johnston, Sioux City North and Des Moines North will join Fort Dodge and the Little Cyclones in Division 2 competition this season.