Dodgers fall flat at M’Town

MARSHALLTOWN – Fort Dodge’s resolve went from unwavering to unraveled in a hurry here on Friday.

Now the Dodgers must do some soul searching to find out what kind of football team they truly are moving forward.

Marshalltown jumped all over its mistake-prone rival last night, earning a 34-7 Class 4A, District 4 victory that FDSH head coach Matt Miller labeled a “perfect storm” of adversity after a long talk with his team afterward.

The Bobcats (2-5 overall, 1-2 in the district) scored three touchdowns in a five-plus minute third-quarter span that put the Dodgers (4-3, 1-2) on the canvas for good. Though the score wouldn’t change much from that point on, Fort Dodge lost its composure multiple times the rest of the way, adding insult to injury.

The final tally was an ugly one: 14 penalties, including five of the 15-yard variety, and five turnovers. The Dodgers were their own worst enemy all evening long, and even when they weren’t, upstart Marshalltown wreaked havoc with a stout defensive performance and well-timed offensive execution.

“It’s as bad of a loss top to bottom that I’ve ever been a part of in nearly 30 years here,” Miller said. “We stunk from a football standpoint. Every one of us. Coaches, players – no one can walk away from this feeling like they did their job. (The Bobcats) took advantage of that, which they deserve credit for.

“What bothers me most, though, was that we didn’t handle ourselves well at all when things weren’t going our way. There’s no excuse for that. None. This game will take you to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Your character is revealed when you’re in that low point. So we’ll find out a lot about ourselves in this next week.”

Despite lumbering through a first half filled with physical and mental errors, Fort Dodge only trailed 7-0 at halftime. Marshalltown executed a perfect hook and lateral to set up a 1st-and-goal situation on its opening drive of the third quarter, punched it into the end zone two plays later, and had the momentum it needed to carry the upset home.

The Bobcats scored on a 29-yard pass play to move ahead 20-0 on their next possession, then returned an interception 31 yards to paydirt moments later on a tipped ball. Suddenly, the Dodgers found themselves in a four-touchdown hole to a squad that hadn’t won a game in nearly a month.

The warning signs before the avalanche came from all directions. Fort Dodge fumbled three times – losing one – and sophomore quarterback Drake Miller matched his interception total from the entire season with a pair of picks in the first half alone. Seven infractions made matters worse, and the Dodgers managed only 105 first-half yards against a game Marshalltown defensive unit.

“They were ready for us, and we weren’t ready to play,” Miller said. “They executed really well on third down, which we had been doing to other teams all season long. They had more hits on our quarterback than Valley did.

“We were a mess, and they played terrific.”

Fort Dodge scored its first and only touchdown on a 15-play, 85-yard drive to conclude the third quarter. Instead of keeping the momentum, the Dodgers came unglued, jumping offsides on a 4th-and-1, then getting flagged for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties to put the Bobcats in a goal-to-go situation.

In Marshalltown’s final 55-play scoring march, 30 of its yards came on FDSH penalties.

“We’ll take a look at the film and evaluate all of this – not just the things we did wrong on the field, but the extra-curricular stuff. That’s simply not acceptable from any of us, myself included,” Miller said. “We better be a completely different team both physically and mentally for Indianola.”

Senior Keaton Dornath had a pair of sacks for the Dodgers, while juniors Cayd Lara and Dakota Stenzel added one each. Miller threw for 193 yards, with junior Trey Mosley catching nine balls for 93 yards.

Junior Joe Artis had 69 yards on 13 carries.

Bobcat junior Sam Irwin had a perfect second half, completing all nine of his passes for 105 yards. Marquis Haynes rushed 15 times for 97 yards. Reese Hageman recovered both fumbles and had an interception.

Fort Dodge’s home finale will be this Friday against Indianola (3-4, 1-2). The Indians were defeated by top-ranked Valley last night, 49-10.