Fort Dodge had the heart and desire needed to send its seniors out with a victory in their home finale.
Football is a numbers game, though. Despite a spirited effort in an attempt to will them away from the contrary, the Dodgers succumbed to the ill-effects of both injury and lack of depth as Friday’s game progressed against Indianola.
The Indians caught, then passed, then grinded Fort Dodge down in a 27-20 victory that eliminated head coach Matt Miller’s squad from playoff contention here last night.
Using a punishing ground attack behind 6-foot-4, 275-pound paver Eagan Lickess up front, Indianola (4-4 overall, 2-2 in Class 4A, District 4) churned out 246 rushing yards to play keep away from the Dodgers 4-4, 1-3) down the stretch. Fort Dodge jumped ahead 14-0 in the first quarter and still led 20-13 at halftime, but as the evening wore on and emotions wore out, it became painfully obvious that the Indians could control the line of scrimmage enough to eventually turn the tide in their favor for good.
”Physically speaking, we had an awfully tough time sustaining and keeping up with what we wanted to accomplish,” Miller said. ”After what happened at Marshalltown, we asked the kids to come out and hit, hustle and compete. They did that. I’m proud of the way we responded; we showed the energy (necessary to) get out in front.
”Unfortunately, as things developed, we didn’t have enough healthy bodies to execute our gameplan or disrupt theirs. They just got after us with some good, old-fashioned smashmouth football.”
The Dodgers immediately marched 80 yards and scored on a Trey Mosley touchdown reception on the opening drive. Senior Noah Nafe then recovered a fumble, which led to a reverse pass to Damond Lockner for another score and a two-touchdown advantage not even seven minutes into the ballgame.
Indianola quickly answered with a long TD of its own, but Dodger senior A.J. Ruge booted a field goal to make it 17-7. Ruge would add another triple on a 37-yard boot following a Mosley interception for a 20-13 advantage with 3:13 left in the first half.
Fort Dodge never dented the scoreboard again.
Behind Lickess – a South Dakota State University recruit – and bruising back Kade Kolarik, the Indians punched in a pair of third-period touchdowns to first knot the score and then take their initial lead. The TD drive to open the second half was a 13-play, 59-yard tone-setter, which featured 13 consecutive rushes.
Twenty-eight of the Indians’ 31 snaps after the intermission were run calls. The Dodgers, meanwhile, had a net four yards on the ground in the second half after piling up 130 before the break – including 102 in the first quarter alone from junior tailback Joe Artis.
Kolarik methodically rushed 32 times for 185 yards in the win.
”We’re not making excuses for being short-handed, but we practiced without 16 different kids at times this week,” Miller said. ”And that takes its toll on what you can ask from a team at the 4A level over four full quarters of play. Even the guys we have out there right now are really banged up. We lost (starting safety) Angel (Guitron). (Lineman) Aaron (Porter) and (receiver) Tyrnan (Lara) are both playing with a broken foot. It’s really piling up on us.”
Sophomore quarterback Drake Miller gutted his way through 21 completions and 142 yards, though an injured groin and ankle from a week ago severely hampered his ability to step into throws. Indianola sacked Miller five times in the second half, including three tackles for loss with Fort Dodge attempting to piece together a last-ditch drive late.
”Drake battled through the pain. I’m proud of him, just like I’m proud of all of our guys for giving it all they had,” Miller said of his son and his teammates. ”No one’s going to feel sorry for us. No one is going to give us a pass because we’re less than 100 percent. I’m just disappointed that we weren’t able to send our 15 seniors out on a high note for their last game at Dodger Stadium.”
Artis finished with 137 yards on 18 carries. Mosley caught nine passes for 96 yards.
Fort Dodge closes its season at Southeast Polk (4-4, 3-1) on Friday. The Rams routed Marshalltown last night, 41-13.