SIOUX CITY - Many of the question marks surrounding the Fort Dodge football team were quickly answered here Friday.
Opening their 2014 season in the win column, the Dodgers (1-0 overall) trounced Sioux City West by a 57-13 final at Olsen Stadium.
As a unit, FDSH racked up 405 yards of total offense, including 326 on the ground. The Dodgers pulled away by scoring 36 unanswered points from late in the second quarter through the end of the game.
"We're still far from where we need to be, but we are a week-to-week work in progress," FDSH head coach Matt Miller said. "I was very proud of how our kids fought (Friday). This was a typical first game in that both teams had a number of turnovers and penalties.
"One thing I was disappointed in the first half was when we were deep in (Wolverine) territory with a chance to score and ended up 1st-and-47 due to penalties. We must clean up those little mistakes before next week. There's obviously a lot of room for improvement."
Despite the commanding victory, Fort Dodge was forced to play without the services of all-state junior running back Sam Cook for much of the night.
First Downs 20 8
Rushes-Yards 48-326 21-72
Passing Yards 79 91
Comp-Att-Int 6-13-2 7-16-3
Total Offense 405 163
Punts-Avg. 0-0.0 5-21.4
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-0
Penalties-Yards 13-90 7-45
Fort Dodge 13 15 7 22-57
SC West 7 6 0 0 - 13
Fort Dodge - Sam Cook (5-yard run), 10:03 left first. Ethan Schwendemann kick.
SC West - Sammy Blakey (20-yard pass from Ricky Quintana), 9:29 left first. Ray Gonzalez kick.
Fort Dodge - Taijuan Blair (3-yard run), 1:14 left first. Pass failed.
Fort Dodge - Blair (1-yard run), 9:33 left second. Solomon Clayton pass from Johnny Bice.
SC West - Cole Schultz (42-yard fumble return), 2:07 left second. Kick failed.
Fort Dodge - Blair (10-yard run), 1:16 left second. Schwendemann kick.
Fort Dodge - Austin Halligan (5-yard pass from Bice), 5:58 left third. Schwendemann kick.
Fort Dodge - Christion Garnica (2-yard run), 9:54 left fourth. Schwendemann kick.
Fort Dodge - Kadyn Preston (21-yard interception return), 9:35 left fourth. Schwendemann kick.
Fort Dodge - Keegan Myers (13-yard run), 0:58 left fourth. Keaton Dornath run.
Rushing - Fort Dodge: Taijuan Blair 20-143, Sam Cook 9-63, Christion Garnica 6-42, Johnny Bice 6-36, Keegan Myers 4-22, Jackson Thompson 1-12, Austin Halligan 1-7, Keaton Dornath 1-1. Sioux City West: Noah Mcwell 9-47, Ricky Quintana 4-22, Cole Schultz 3-5, Tristan Sweum 1-1, Sammy Blakey 4-(minus-3).
Passing - Fort Dodge: Johnny Bice 6-13-2-79. Sioux City West: Quintana 5-11-2-77, Mcwell 2-5-1-14, Colby Hill 0-1-0-0.
Receiving - Fort Dodge: Solomon Clayton 2-41, Brian Murman 2-30, Austin Halligan 2-8. Sioux City West: Blakey 4-52, Hill 2-39, King James 1-0.
Cook, who tied Jontel Clayton for the most single-season rushing yards (1,608) in school history a year ago, suffered a deep thigh bruise late in the first quarter. Prior to his injury, Cook carried nine times for 63 yards and a touchdown, finding paydirt from five yards out to break the scoreless tie just under two minutes in.
"I thought the rest of our guys did a good job of rallying around each other after (Cook) went down," said Miller. "(Taijuan) Blair really stepped up in Sam's absence, which was nice to see."
In his Dodger debut, Blair - a senior transfer from Blaine?High School in Minnesota - accounted for 143 yards and three scores on 20 attempts. The 180-pounder reached the endzone from 3, 1 and 10 yards out, respectively.
Junior signal-caller Johnny Bice finished 6 of 13 through the air for 79 yards, including a touchdown and two picks. Bice connected with senior Austin Halligan on a 5-yard scoring strike midway through the third.
"I thought we executed pretty well on offense at times," Miller said. "(West) hung in there for a while, but we seemed to kind of wear their defense down as the game went on."
Solomon Clayton was the top receiver for the Dodgers, hauling in two catches for 41 yards. Juniors Christion Garnica and Keegan Myers each added TD jaunts in the fourth period, while senior kicker Ethan Schwendemann made all five of his PAT tries on the evening.
Defensively, junior cornerback Kadyn Preston returned an interception 21 yards for a score. Preston also registered 137 kickoff return yards, with a long of 64.
Both Sam Kolacia and Kole Kampen added picks for Fort Dodge, while Jonah Benson-Carvalho contributed a sack.
The Dodgers never punted in the contest, though Halligan ran for one of their 20 first downs off a perfectly-executed fake.
FDSH was able to overcome 13 penalties for 90 yards and three turnovers.
"I brought all the sophomores with us (last night), and I know we were able to play at least 55 guys, which we haven't done in a long time," said Miller. "I hated to tell the sophomores not to punch it in there at the end with all the work they do. That's just not fair to them."
Ricky Quintana completed 5 of 11 passes for 77 yards for the Wolverines, who were held to only 163 yards of total offense. Sammy Blakey pulled down four grabs for 52 yards and a TD. Cole Schultz also returned a fumble 42 yards to paydirt for the home team.
Friday's action was delayed around 10 minutes in the fourth quarter when West (0-1) sophomore James King was carted off the field with an undisclosed injury.
Next action for the Dodgers is Thursday when they travel here again to face Sioux City North (0-1). The Stars were knocked off by Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln Friday, 42-27.