Dodgers dig deep for huge win at Ames

AMES – Birthday boy Drake Miller was grinning from ear to ear after the Fort Dodge football team escaped Ames with a gutsy 28-21 victory here Friday.

No smile was bigger than that of teammate Brayden Bell, though – the unlikely hero in a thrilling conclusion that saw the Dodgers knock off the Little Cyclones and close the non-district portion of their schedule with a surprising 3-1 record.

Bell batted away what looked to be the game-tying touchdown pass right on the goal line as regulation expired last night, sealing a dramatic win that was driven by the usual suspects early and clinched by the next men up at the end.

”I just wanted to do whatever I could to help the team,” said Bell, a back-up junior defensive back who jarred the ball loose just in time and sent FDSH’s sidelines into a wild celebration. ”I played all of the junior varsity game (at Ames the day before), but I’m always going to be ready if my number is called.

Bell happily paused as if soaking up the moment for a while longer, then added, ”there’s nothing like this. It’s a feeling I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Bell and senior Tommy Garnica were filling in for starting defensive backs Trey Mosley and Damond Lockner, who both missed the entire fourth quarter with leg cramps. While it was definitely a baptism by fire for the Dodger reserves, they made plays when it mattered most to help ruin the Little Cyclones’ Homecoming.

”A true team win,” said FDSH head coach Matt Miller, who tied his mentor, Sam Moser, for second on the program’s all-time list of career victories with No. 57 on Friday. ”All heart and all guts. To close things out on the road against an Ames ballclub that just beat (then-No. 5 Iowa City High) the week before, given how big this was for them – it took a special kind of effort.

”I tell you what, Brayden just kept fighting on that one. The (Little Cyclone receiver) had it, and it looked like it was definitely going to be a touchdown. But Brayden did everything he could to make a play. He was swatting and grabbing and whatever else to knock the ball away. I’m so proud of him. In football, you just never know when you’re going to need the next guy to step up.”

The Dodgers completely dominated the first half, and kept the momentum in their favor with another touchdown strike to start the third quarter for a 28-7 advantage. Drake Miller, FDSH’s left-handed gun-slinger who turned 16 years old on Friday, torched the Ames defense to the tune of 19 completions, 252 yards and three touchdowns in the first two quarters alone.

Mosley was Miller’s main target, with 11 catches and 152 yards before the intermission.

”We saw some things (on film) that we felt we could take advantage of if we executed, and both our line and (junior tailback) Savion (Poe) did a great job of keeping them off-balance (defensively),” said Miller, who finished with the second-most prolific passing performance in FDSH history by going 28 of 40 for 345 yards and four scores. ”Ames is a really solid team. They’re going to win a lot of games. We’re very fortunate to get this one.”

With both Mosley and Lockner suddenly sidelined, the Little Cyclones (2-2) revved up their attack behind junior quarterback Joe Evans. A series of high-percentage throws and delayed draw runs did the trick, as Ames got within a single touchdown with 4:43 left in the third quarter and appeared to be on the verge of catching and passing the short-handed Dodgers.

Instead, the FDSH defense again did what it had to do while living on the edge.

The Little Cyclones dropped a pass in the end zone on fourth down that would’ve tied the score midway through the fourth quarter. Another Ames possession turned empty when Dodger senior Jonathan Bowser recovered a fumble near midfield.

The home squad had one final chance in the waning moments, taking over at their own 31-yard line with no timeouts and 1:31 left in regulation. They then drove quickly to the FDSH red zone, when a wide-open Tyler Doyle let a sure score bounce off his finger tips with nine seconds remaining on 1st down from the Dodger 19.

Bowser then nearly had an interception on the ensuing play from his safety position, setting up one final snap and Bell’s memorable break-up. Evans had his receiver right at the end zone as time expired, but Bell punched it loose and the officials determined there was never clear possession of the ball.

”Our offense started to sputter a little when Trey went out, and with both Trey and Damond on the sidelines (defensively), it took its toll,” Miller said. ”But I’m not going to dwell on that, because I had our other kids putting it all on the line until the very end.

”We’ve had some incredible games through the years with Ames, and this one will always rank right up there. To walk off this field at 3-1 and know that we’ve been getting better every Friday – I couldn’t be happier for our guys.”

Drake Miller, who has now thrown for 961 yards and nine touchdowns on 85 of 127 passing (67 percent) in his first four varsity starts despite being just a sophomore, called the win ”the best birthday present ever – by far.”

”Not because of the stats or anything else, but because so many guys contributed to a huge road win.”

Mosley, who had 13 catches for 191 yards in less than three full quarters of action and hauled in three of Miller’s four TD strikes, added, ”we felt like we could do some things in open space (on offense), and I think our defensive gameplan worked well and we did what we needed to do (down the stretch).

”We’re all about working hard for the team. It’s a really close (group), and we all have confidence in each other. So if one of us isn’t out there, it’s just ‘next man in.”’

Bowser added nine catches for 73 yards, and Lockner had the other touchdown reception. Poe rushed for 53 yards on 14 carries.

Three different Dodgers recovered fumbles: Bowser, Poe and senior Noah Nafe. Junior linebacker Cayd Lara tallied a sack and recovered an on-side kick to start the second half. Senior Keaton Dornath and sophomore Triston Licht also combined for a sack.

Fort Dodge’s next challenge is a big one: the Dodgers visit top-ranked West Des Moines Valley (4-0) on Friday. The Tigers steamrolled Johnston last night, 52-9.

Dodgers dig deep for huge win at Ames

AMES – Birthday boy Drake Miller was grinning from ear to ear after the Fort Dodge football team escaped Ames with a gutsy 28-21 victory here Friday.

No smile was bigger than that of teammate Brayden Bell, though – the unlikely hero in a thrilling conclusion that saw the Dodgers knock off the Little Cyclones and close the non-district portion of their schedule with a surprising 3-1 record.

Bell batted away what looked to be the game-tying touchdown pass right on the goal line as regulation expired last night, sealing a dramatic win that was driven by the usual suspects early and sealed by the next men up at the end.

”I just wanted to do whatever I could to help the team,” said Bell, a back-up junior defensive back who jarred the ball loose just in time and sent FDSH’s sidelines into a wild celebration. ”I played all of the junior varsity game (at Ames the day before), but I’m always going to be ready if my number is called.

Bell happily paused as if soaking up the moment for a while longer, then added, ”there’s nothing like this. It’s a feeling I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Bell and senior Tommy Garnica were filling in for starting defensive backs Trey Mosley and Damond Lockner, who both missed the entire fourth quarter with leg cramps. While it was definitely a baptism by fire for the Dodger reserves, they made plays when it mattered most to help ruin the Little Cyclones’ Homecoming.

”A true team win,” said FDSH head coach Matt Miller, who tied his mentor, Sam Moser, for second on the program’s all-time list of career victories with No. 57 on Friday. ”All heart and all guts. To close things out on the road against an Ames ballclub that just beat (then-No. 5 Iowa City High) the week before, given how big this one was for them – it took a special kind of effort.

”I tell you what, Brayden just kept fighting on that one. The (Little Cyclone receiver) had it, and it looked like it was definitely going to be a touchdown. But Brayden did everything he could to make a play. He was swatting and grabbing and whatever else to knock the ball away. I’m so proud of him. In football, you just never know when you’re going to need the next guy to step up.”

The Dodgers completely dominated the first half, and kept the momentum in their favor with another touchdown strike to start the third quarter for a 28-7 advantage. Drake Miller, FDSH’s left-handed gun-slinger who turned 16 years old on Friday, torched the Ames defense to the tune of 19 completions, 252 yards and three touchdowns in the first two quarters alone.

Mosley was Miller’s main target, with 11 catches and 152 yards before the intermission.

”We saw some things (on film) that we felt we could take advantage of if we executed, and both our line and (junior tailback) Savion (Poe) did a great job of keeping them off-balance (defensively),” said Miller, who finished with the second-most prolific passing performance in FDSH history by going 28 of 40 for 345 yards and four scores. ”Ames is a really solid team. They’re going to win a lot of games. We’re very fortunate to get this one.”

With both Mosley and Lockner suddenly sidelined, the Little Cyclones (2-2) revved up their attack behind junior quarterback Joe Evans. A series of high-percentage throws and delayed draw runs did the trick, as Ames got within a single touchdown with 4:43 left in the third quarter and appeared to be on the verge of catching and passing the short-handed Dodgers.

Instead, the FDSH defense again did what it had to do while living on the edge.

The Little Cyclones dropped a pass in the end zone on fourth down that would’ve tied the score midway through the fourth quarter. Another Ames possession turned empty when Dodger senior Jonathan Bowser recovered a fumble near midfield.

The home squad had one final chance in the waning moments, taking over at their own 31-yard line with no timeouts and 1:31 left in regulation. They then drove quickly to the FDSH red zone, when a wide-open Tyler Doyle let a sure score bounce off his finger tips with nine seconds remaining on 1st down from the Dodger 19.

Bowser then nearly had an interception on the ensuing play from his safety position, setting up one final snap and Bell’s memorable break-up. Evans had his receiver right at the end zone as time expired, but Bell punched it loose and the officials determined there was never clear possession of the ball.

”Our offense started to sputter a little when Trey went out, and with both Trey and Damond on the sidelines (defensively), it took its toll,” Miller said. ”But I’m not going to dwell on that, because I had our other kids putting it all on the line until the very end.

”We’ve had some incredible games through the years with Ames, and this one will always rank right up there. To walk off this field at 3-1 and know that we’ve been getting better every Friday – I couldn’t be happier for our guys.”

Drake Miller, who has now thrown for 961 yards and nine touchdowns on 85 of 127 passing (67 percent) in his first four varsity starts despite being just a sophomore, called the win ”the best birthday present ever – by far.”

”Not because of the stats or anything else, but because so many guys contributed to a huge road win.”

Mosley, who had 13 catches for 191 yards in less than three full quarters of action and hauled in three of Miller’s four TD strikes, added, ”we felt like we could do some things in open space (on offense), and I think our defensive gameplan worked well and we did what we needed to do (down the stretch).

”We’re all about working hard for the team. It’s a really close (group), and we all have confidence in each other. So if one of us isn’t out there, it’s just ‘next man in.”’

Bowser added nine catches for 73 yards, and Lockner had the other touchdown reception. Poe rushed for 53 yards on 14 carries.

Three different Dodgers recovered fumbles: Bowser, Poe and senior Noah Nafe. Junior linebacker Cayd Lara tallied a sack and recovered an on-side kick to start the second half. Senior Keaton Dornath and sophomore Triston Licht also combined for a sack.

Fort Dodge’s next challenge is a big one: the Dodgers visit top-ranked West Des Moines Valley (4-0) on Friday. The Tigers steamrolled Johnston last night, 52-9.