Ames back on Dodgers’ grid radar

AMES – The Fort Dodge football team is in for a litmus test of sorts on Friday night at Ames.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

The Dodgers (2-1 overall) and Little Cyclones (2-1) are renewing their 100-plus year old rivalry after a brief hiatus. The programs met every fall on the gridiron from 1968 through 2013, but district realignment put them on separate paths two years ago.

Although there are no playoff ramifications attached to this evening’s rematch, FDSH head coach Matt Miller admits facing Ames will be a strong indicator of exactly where his squad stands four weeks into the regular season.

”This is going to be a great challenge for us – a definite step up in the level of competition, like (Week 1 vs. Cedar Falls),” said Miller, who is one victory away from tying his mentor, Sam Moser, for second on the school’s career win charts (57). ”Like usual, Ames is a very talented squad. It’s a good measuring stick that will tell us what we need to work on moving forward, which is where you want to be for your last (non-district contest).”

The Little Cyclones are coming off an impressive 30-27 victory over then-No. 5 Iowa City High last week. Junior quarterback Joe Evans completed 14 of 24 passes for 156 yards, and sophomore Raymond Crawford ran 27 times for 116 yards and a score.

”They really responded well (following a 35-7 loss at Cedar Falls),” Miller said. ”That was a quality Top-10 opponent they beat in City High.

”I think (Ames) is a lot like us in their gameplan. We’ll see if we can match up with them personnel-wise. They’ve got some size and speed in places where we aren’t quite as deep.”

Evans was the signal-caller for the Little Cyclones a year ago. He’s completed 61 percent of his passes for 449 yards so far, after racking up 1,276 yards and 17 touchdowns as a sophomore.

Senior Colin Newell, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound offensive tackle, is an Iowa State recruit. Classmate Marcus Coleman, a linebacker and the team’s leading tackler, will wrestle for the Cyclones. Coleman is already a two-time state champion on the mat.

”Newell and Coleman are incredibly talented, obviously, as Div. I (athletes),” Miller said. ”Evans is solid, Crawford is a good back, and they have some big targets at receiver.”

Fort Dodge’s defense didn’t allow a point for the second consecutive week last Friday against Mason City, winning 25-12. The Mohawks scored twice defensively, but produced just 125 yards of total offense against a Dodger ‘D’ that has only surrendered points in two of the 12 quarters it has played so far this season.

Sophomore quarterback Drake Miller has completed 57 of 87 passes for 615 yards and five touchdowns in the first three starts of his career for the Dodgers. Senior Jonathan Bowser (19 catches, 244 yards), junior Tyrnan Lara (16-131) and junior Trey Mosley (10-148) have all benefited from Miller’s 66-percent accuracy.

”We still have work to do offensively, both up front (along the lines) and how we execute,” Miller said. ”We’ve shown flashes, but I know we’re going to get better if we keep plugging away and building continuity.”

Junior cornerback Damond Lockner (three interceptions, one fumble recovery), senior linebacker Keaton Dornath (13 tackles, three tackles for loss), senior linebacker Colin Leonard (11.5 tackles, one sack), junior linebacker Cayd Lara (10 tackles, one sack), and sophomore Triston Licht (three sacks) have paced the FDSH defense.

Ames holds a 33-26-3 edge in the all-time series, which dates back to 1913.