A slew of school records and a spirited rally still couldn't erase the sting of defeat for the Fort Dodge football team on Friday.
Despite nearly coming back from a 17-point fourth quarter deficit and seeing plenty of old program marks fall in the process, the Dodgers couldn't quite get over the hump in a 38-28 loss to Ames as Class 4A, Division 2 play kicked off on a perfect evening here last night.
Senior Tyler Vaughn had the most prolific receiving game in FDSH history, grabbing 19 passes for 234 yards - both all-time bests by a Dodger. The 19 catches tied for the fourth most ever in Iowa by a prep player.
Junior quarterback Andrew Stover also cleared the top of the charts with the most completions (29), attempts (47) and yards (362) by an FDSH signal-caller in a single contest.
In the end, though, the Little Cyclones (3-2 overall, 1-0 division) did just enough to keep Fort Dodge (1-4, 0-1) at bay after nearly coughing up a seemingly-insurmountable lead in the final period.
''Bottom line: we lost. That's why they have a scoreboard out there, and that's what matters in the end,'' Dodger head coach Matt Miller said. ''With that being said, I'm incredibly proud of the fight and resilience our kids showed. They could've packed it in and called it a night when Ames went up 31-14. Three weeks ago, that probably would've happened. But to their credit, they hung together and proved a lot to themselves.
Ames 0 17 14 7 - 38
Fort Dodge 7 7 0 14 - 28
Fort Dodge - Tyler Vaughn (3-yard pass from Andrew Stover), 7:17 left first. Vaughn kick.
Ames - Jordan Sexton (28-yard field goal), 11:53 left second.
Ames - Clifford Kwaw-Mensah (11-yard run), 11:53 left second. Sexton kick.
Fort Dodge - Tommy Halligan (13-yard pass from Stover), 8:09 left second. Vaughn kick.
Ames - Sam Straub (1-yard run), 4:16 left second. Sexton kick.
Ames - Mike Mayberry (28-yard pass from Straub), 10:42 left third. Sexton kick.
Ames - Straub (1-yard run), 5:22 left third. Sexton kick.
Fort Dodge - Vaughn (5-yard pass from Stover), 8:23 left fourth. Vaughn kick.
Fort Dodge - Stover (6-yard run), 4:21 left fourth. Vaughn kick.
Ames - Spencer Shane (55-yard pass from Straub), 1:52 left fourth. Sexton kick.
RUSHING - Fort Dodge: Andrew Stover 15-24, Austin Halligan 7-15, Devon Kirby 4-6, Anthony Credit 4-(minus-8). Ames: Clifford Kwaw-Mensah 15-35, Sam Straub 4-20, Allen Steward 5-17.
PASSING - Fort Dodge: Andrew Stover 29-47-2-362. Ames: Sam Straub 25-43-2-322.
RECEIVING - Fort Dodge: Tyler Vaughn 19-234, Tommy Halligan 5-56, Keegan Jones 3-27, Austin Halligan 1-25, Zach Anderson 1-20. Ames: Spencer Shane 9-134, Mike Mayberry 9-125, Alex Brammer 7-63.
1. Joe Audlehelm, 22, Central Decatur of Leon vs. Wayne Community, Oct. 27, 2006.
2. Flynn Heald, 21, Cedar Rapids Washington vs. Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Sept. 9, 2011.
3. Wes McGraw, 20, Central Lee of Donnellson vs. Wilton, Oct. 26, 2007.
4. Tyler Vaughn, 19, Fort Dodge vs. Ames, Sept. 21, 2012.
(tie) Mike Assenmacher, 19, Pretson vs. Valley of Elgin Community, Oct. 8, 1999.
(tie)?Jim Luse, 19, Southeast Warren in 1971.
''We fell asleep for about 10 minutes at the start of the third quarter, and it cost us. But hopefully, we take what we learned (Friday) and build from it. Our guys did some things and showed some tenacity late that I'm used to seeing from a Fort Dodge football team, which is encouraging.''
Stover and Vaughn were a thorn in Ames' side all night long, but the Dodgers turned the ball over four times and had five different drives come up empty in Little Cyclone territory. Fort Dodge also struggled to balance out its offense, rushing 30 times for just 37 net yards.
''Andrew is really starting to find a comfort zone with his receivers,'' Miller said. ''He's definitely getting there and gaining confidence with each week. And what can you say about Tyler - 19 receptions is incredible. He's such a dependable target.
''Unfortunately, we just couldn't get our ground game going. We had problems with Ames' speed up front.''
Little Cyclone quarterback Sam Straub, also a junior, nearly matched Stover stride for stride. Straub had 322 passing yards of his own, as the two quarterbacks combined to complete 54 of 100 passes for 684 yards.
'''We didn't give up,'' said Stover, who also had three touchdown passes. ''I was just trying to take what the defense (allowed) and not force anything. It would've been great to come all the way back, but we showed some fight and left it all on the field.
''Tyler and all of the (other receivers) made it easy for me, as did our line. We're getting there.''
The 6-foot-3 Vaughn was everywhere, catching two of Stover's TD strikes, intercepting a pass and making all four extra points for the Dodgers in addition to the crooked numbers he posted as a receiver. He had nine grabs in the first half for 104 yards, then snagged 10 more for 130 yards in the second stanza.
''Andrew was really in a rhythm; all of the credit goes to him and our offensive line,'' said Vaughn, an all-state pitcher who now has 22 receptions for 315 yards in the last two weeks. ''This is another step for us. Even though I'd trade it all for a win and I know Andrew feels the same way, we have to take what we can from this and move forward.''
Fort Dodge drove 80 yards on its opening possession for a 7-0 lead, but Ames tallied 31 of the next 38 points to gain control. The Dodgers finally got back in it on a short Vaughn scoring grab and a 6-yard Stover TD run after the FDSH defense forced a three-and-out midway through the fourth.
The Little Cyclones landed the dagger with 1:52 left, though, when Straub found Spencer Shane on a 55-yard strike on 2nd-and-long. The Dodgers surrendered just 12 rushing yards after the intermission, but Straub threw for 165 yards and had a hand in all four second-half touchdowns.
''They have a lot of weapons; we knew that coming in,'' Miller said. ''We got a stop earlier (in the fourth) and we wanted to come up with one more, but they made a nice play. We had the momentum and the crowd was really into it at that point, so they deserve credit for executing under those circumstances.''
Vaughn and sophomore Austin Halligan had the FDSH interceptions, while senior Tommy Halligan had a TD reception - the fourth of the season and seventh of his career - before leaving with an ankle injury. Senior Austin Anderson blocked a field goal and had a 33-yard kickoff return.
The Dodgers' empty trips to the Ames side of the field ended with two Stover interceptions, a fumble, a punt and a turnover on downs.
''We left a lot out there in the middle quarters,'' Miller said. ''It's hard to be frustrated and encouraged at the same time, but we've made some progress in the last two weeks. We still seem intent on learning the hard way that this is a 48-minute ballgame, and given the teams we face, if you fall asleep at the wheel for just a little while, you'll pay for it.''
Fort Dodge heads to Des Moines North (1-4, 0-1) this Friday. The Polar Bears lost last night to Sioux City North, 52-14.