Excruciating road loss for Fort Dodge
INDIANOLA — It was a long, quiet walk back to the visitors locker room for the Fort Dodge football team here on Friday.
With just 155 seconds left in regulation, the Dodgers were well on their way to a postgame celebration for a winning season they would have rightfully earned. Those 155 seconds proved to be an eternity for Indianola and a nightmare for FDSH, though, which saw an 11-point lead slip away in a gut-wrenching 35-32 loss.
“It’s hard to look our kids in the eye right now,” crestfallen Dodger head coach Matt Miller said. “They played their hearts out. We weren’t perfect, but we gave maximum effort and had the win in our grasp.
“Sports can be like that sometimes, unfortunately. It’ll bring you moments of celebration, but it can and will break your heart, too. We’ve had it happen in our (last two road games) now, which is really painful to accept. I figured this would be a 48-minute fight to the end. For 46, we had it.”
The improbable Indian rally crushed the FDSH’s playoff hopes in a particularly cruel way. The Dodgers (4-4, 1-3) completely dominated the tail end of the third quarter and almost all of the fourth, appearing to salt the victory away on a workman-like 18-play, 92-yard touchdown drive that made it 32-21 with 2:35 remaining.
That’s when things began to unravel in rather bizarre fashion.
Indianola (5-3, 2-2) quickly marched down the field thanks in large part to a trick play — a halfback pass — that put the Indians in a goal-to-go situation. They scored to make it 32-27 at the 1:43 mark, but still needed to convert an on-side kick to have a chance.
Parker Hansen bounced a ball that three different FDSH players touched and had a chance at recovering before Indianola came up with it. Even amidst the scrambling chaos, the Dodgers were still a snap away from sealing the deal when Indian quarterback Joe Jensen hit 6-foot-5 wideout Cole Scott for a 20-yard gain to keep the winning drive alive on 4th and 7.
“We recover the on-side kick or get that fourth down stop and it’s over,” Miller said. “Like (the 71-70 setback at Newton), we were a play away. That’s what makes this so hard to take. Excruciating.”
The Indians gained the upper-hand on a Dylan Hildreth touchdown run moments after the 4th-down pass, and a two-point conversion run suddenly made it 35-32 Indianola.
Fort Dodge was able to get to midfield in the waning seconds, but junior quarterback Drake Miller was intercepted as time winded down.
Miller had five more touchdown passes, becoming the school’s career TD leader, and seniors Tyrnan Lara and Trey Mosley combined for 20 receptions, 222 yards and all five scores. Miller was picked off twice — he had thrown only one interception in 188 attempts this year before Friday — but he still went 25 of 39 for 256 yards.
The junior signal-caller has now thrown for 30 TDs this season.
The teams traded punches and yards for most of the contest, until Fort Dodge separated itself with a pair of scoring drives and two forced Indianola punts down the stretch.
“I can’t fault our defense at all,” Miller said. “They took it to us to start the second half (with an 11-play, 68-yard scoring possession that consisted of all rushing plays), but after that, we really buckled down. Even on (the go-ahead TD drive), our ‘D’ had us in position to win. We needed one more stop.”
Lara set a career-high with 11 receptions. He finished with 135 yards and two touchdowns. Mosley added 9 catches, 87 yards and three scores, including a beautiful fade route to the back of the end zone on 3rd-and-goal to make it 32-21.
The Dodgers converted five consecutive third downs on that possession, which Miller said “would’ve been a perfect one to look back as the signature drive.”
“We didn’t let up after that,” Miller promised. “We didn’t assume it was over. Indianola made some incredible plays in that last two minutes, they got some favorable bounces, and we couldn’t catch a break ourselves. Unfortunately, it goes that way sometimes. Not very often, but twice now to us (in as many road games).
“It sure would nice to be sitting here at 6-2. We’re painfully close, but that’s why they call football a game of inches.”
Hildreth had 29 carries for 196 yards, and Jensen threw for 150 yards despite completing only 10 of 22 passes.
Senior Mitch Glass recovered a fumble for FDSH, and classmate Damond Lockner batted down a pass on a fake punt attempt.
Miller rushed for 60 yards, but the Dodger ground game struggled to gain traction, finishing with only 94 yards on 30 carries. Indianola nearly doubled that total up.
“We needed it and we had it,” Coach Miller said. “There are a lot of crushed young men in that locker room. We have to rally the troops and get ready for Southeast Polk (5-3) this week in our seniors’ last home game.”
First Downs 21 20
Rushes-Yards 30-94 35-186
Passing 25-39-2 11-24-0
Passing Yards 256 187
Total Offense 350 373
Punts-Avg. 2-35.0 5-32.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 2-1
Fort Dodge 7 12 6 7 — 32
Indianola 7 7 7 14 — 35
Indianola — Cole Scott (20-yard pass from Joe Jensen), 5:47 left first quarter. Parker Hansen kick.
Fort Dodge — Trey Mosley (25-yard pass from Drake Miller), 1:39 left first quarter. Ben Nebel kick.
Indianola — Dylan Hildreth (12-yard run), 11:06 left second. Hansen kick.
Fort Dodge — Tyrnan Lara (4-yard pass from Miller), 7:01 left second. Kick blocked.
Fort Dodge — Lara (25-yard pass from Miller), 0:44 left second. Pass failed.
Indianola — Hildreth (2-yard run), 6:07 left third. Hansen kick.
Fort Dodge — Mosley (25-yard pass from Miller), 2:06 left third. Pass failed.
Fort Dodge — Mosley (8-yard pass from Miller), 2:35 left fourth. Nebel kick.
Indianola — Hildreth (3-yard run), 1:43 left fourth. Run failed.
Indianola — Hildreth (5-yard run), 0:26 left fourth. Hildreth run.
Rushing — Fort Dodge: Drake Miller 17-60, Dayson Clayton 13-34. Indianola: Dylan Hildreth 29-196, Kolby Kolarik 1-5, Jay Hale 3-0, Joe Jensen 2-(minus-15).
Passing — Fort Dodge: Drake Miller 25-39-2-256. Indianola: Joe Jensen 10-22-0-150, Dylan Hildreth 1-1-0-37, Cooper Huff 0-1-0-0.
Receiving — Fort Dodge: Tyrnan Lara 11-135, Trey Mosley 9-87, Dayson Clayton 3-19, Tysen Kershaw 2-15. Indianola: Cole Scott 5-101, Dylan Hildreth 2-36, Brandon Newman 2-25, Kolby Kolarik 1-17, Evan Gauger 1-8.