Dodgers finish year at SE Polk

PLEASANT HILL – Loose equipment, practice jerseys and boxes filled the Fort Dodge football coaches’ office at Dodger Stadium on Thursday.

Win or lose in the regular-season finale, head coach Matt Miller’s squad will be done after Friday night’s game at Southeast Polk.

”It’s definitely hard to be wrapping it all up,” Miller said. ”That’s the way it goes, though. Once you start playing games, those nine weeks fly by. You just hope your kids gain a sense of appreciation and perspective – to not take any of it for granted.”

Fort Dodge (4-4 overall, 1-3 in Class 4A, District 4) visits the Rams (4-4, 3-1) for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. In prime position to make this a playoff play-in contest two weeks ago, the Dodgers suffered consecutive losses to Marshalltown and Indianola to fall out of the postseason race under the new 16-team qualifier format.

That doesn’t mean FDSH will treat this concluding trip as a mere formality. Far from it.

”We’ve had a good week of practice,” Miller said. ”Of course our guys are disappointed that there isn’t more at stake, but we can still finish with a winning season and set the tone for the future.

”We want to send our seniors out on a positive note. There are only 15 of them, but they’ve worked their tails off and done everything we’ve asked. I expect our underclassmen to give everything they have for these seniors, because that will be them someday.”

The Dodgers are far from 100 percent, with nearly a third of their roster inactive due to injury. Starters Angel Guitron (safety) and Triston Licht (offensive and defensive line) are out. Guitron, a junior, has a separated shoulder. Licht, a sophomore, is nursing a sprained ankle.

Fort Dodge simply couldn’t hold Indianola back in the trenches last week after building an early 14-0 lead in a crushing 27-20 setback. The Dodgers have now been out-scored 41-7 in the second half over the last two contests, and they’ve surrendered 894 combined rushing yards at 5.7 yards per carry in the last four weeks since starting the season with a 3-1 record.

”The injuries have piled up on us and really affected our ability to perform the way we were a month ago,” Miller said. ”But like I said last Friday, we have to just deal with it as we go. Our (opponents) aren’t going to feel sorry for us.”

In addition to the sidelined players, quarterback Drake Miller (groin), lineman Aaron Porter (foot), receiver Tyrnan Lara (foot), linebacker Cayd Lara (knee) and defensive back Mason Bodholdt (back) are giving it a go despite being significantly hampered by recent injuries as well.

Miller (1,621 yards) now ranks sixth on the program’s single-season passing charts, while junior Trey Mosley is seventh in receiving yards (683). Mosley (fifth, 999 yards) and Boswer (12th, 643 yards) are both climbing the career list as well.

Mosley also needs five catches to break Sam Kolacia’s FDSH record for receptions (82 in 2014 and ’15).

Southeast Polk has won its last two games with ease, drubbing both Newton (34-0) and Marshalltown (41-13). The Rams’ four setbacks have been to opponents with a combined record of 25-7, including ranked foes West Des Moines Valley (No. 1), Ankeny Centennial (No. 3) and Iowa City West (No. 10).

SEP senior Grant Gossling has rushed for 498 yards and five touchdowns, with junior Jake Meyer (610 yards passing, 343 yards rushing) serving as a dual-threat quarterback.

Senior Jeran Proctor is the Rams’ big-play receiver, with 12 catches for 254 yards.

”They’re big and strong up front like usual,” Miller said. ”They actually have some really good sophomores in the mix, including three linemen.

”They look a lot like they have the last few years – just a little younger.”

The Rams ended both the Dodgers’ 2014 and ’15 campaigns in the playoffs.

”We want to come out and play loose – free and easy,” Miller said. ”Have fun in our last time on the field together with this group. For a lot of the seniors, they’ll never put on a football uniform again (after Friday). I hope we make the most of it.”