A HIGHER STANDARD
Fort Dodge's gridiron consistency continues to impress
Slowly but surely, the Fort Dodge football program has established an impressive level of consistency under the direction of head coach Matt Miller.
Since the 2009 season kicked off, the Dodgers have an overall record of 44-38. While that may not mistake FDSH for West Des Moines Valley or Dowling, a closer look at this recent eight-plus year stretch speaks volumes to just how competitive the Dodgers have been in an ever-changing Class 4A landscape.
Friday’s electrifying 62-52 victory over Ames was the third consecutive win for Miller’s squad, and marked the fourth straight season Fort Dodge has started either 3-1 or 4-0. It was the fifth triumph against the Little Cyclones in seven meetings since ’09; by contrast, from 1995-2008, Ames had beaten the Dodgers in all 14 meetings.
Fort Dodge is 24-8 against old Big 8 rivals during this recent run: 9-0 versus Mason City, 5-2 vs. Ames, 4-4 vs. Marshalltown, 2-0 vs. Waterloo East, 2-0 vs. Waterloo West, 2-0 vs. Newton, and 0-2 vs. Cedar Falls. Its overall record is the program’s best period since 1974-81, when the Dodgers were a combined 45-30 on the gridiron.
Now consider this: FDSH currently ranks as the 40th-biggest school in 4A. Valley, by comparison, is No. 1 at nearly three times its size. Southeast Polk is eighth and virtually twice as big. The Tigers and Rams are both in the Dodgers’ district.
In the win over Ames, Fort Dodge’s mettle was on full display. Down five starters on its defense from the beginning of the season — four of them seniors and two all-district honorees from a year ago — the undersized, overmatched Dodgers relentlessly pursued the Little Cyclones until star quarterback Joe Evans’ attack finally cracked and turned the ball over three times.
That was more than enough for FDSH’s well-oiled machine of an offense, which has wowed fans to the tune of 1,128 yards, 14 passing touchdowns and 118 total points in its first two home games of the season alone.
There are playmakers all over the field for junior quarterback Drake Miller to consider: seniors Trey Mosley and Tyrnan Lara, sophomores Tysen Kershaw and Brycen Bell, and freshman Dayson Clayton have all taken turns with quick strikes or deep balls, and that’s not even mentioning senior tailback Savion Poe or junior receivers Jace Peterson, Drew Callon and Anthony Wagner. They’re all capable of burning an opponent in different ways.
Miller is 70 of 100 for 1,076 yards, 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions through the first four weeks — an equivalent quarterback rating of over 200. While those video game-like numbers are simply not sustainable, the 6-foot, 200-pound left-hander has the intelligence and the weapons to continue to give opposing defenses fits well into the future.
Combined with an ever-improving offensive line — the quintet of seniors Aaron Porter and Dakota Stenzel, juniors Logan Finowski and Dalton Schmidt, and sophomore newcomer Bryson Opande played every single down on Friday in 80-degree heat — and Fort Dodge could further cement its reputation as an elite 4A offense in the weeks to come.
Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, the Dodgers won’t soon forget the comeback win over Ames, the wild locker-room celebration afterward, or the trip to Buffalo Wild Wings at 11 p.m. to celebrate. It was a long week of illness, injury and more adversity. Sometimes, that will break a team. Miller’s 2017 team seems to be galvanized by it.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK: St. Edmond racked up a season-high 468 yards in its 34-7 win at South O’Brien on Friday night.
The Gaels were balanced, with junior quarterback Andrew Gibb breaking a school record for passing and the run game churning out 213 yards. Gibb had 233 yards through the air, which topped St. Edmond’s 51-year-old mark by a single yard.
Rookie head coach Jon Borer’s offense has 390 rushing and 392 passing yards in the last two weeks, and the Gaels have rebounded accordingly with a pair of victories. Seniors Isaac Lursen (27 catches, 430 yards) and Cade Naughton (42 carries for 281 yards) have been productive catching and running the ball, respectively, while sophomores Charlie Shelly and Jackson Bemrich are precocious playmakers.
Gibb has thrown for 607 yards, which is already triple his total from a year ago in less than half of a full season. He’s getting more comfortable by the week, and so is his supporting cast.
Like the Dodgers, the Gaels will inevitably face some rough moments in the weeks to come. But like FDSH, St. Edmond is exponentially better now than it was less than a month ago.
Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org