As the Dodger Stadium lights darkened for the final time in 2017 here on Friday, Fort Dodge senior Tyrnan Lara quietly camped out on the sidelines he’s called home for his entire high school career.
Thirty minutes earlier, the Dodgers had dropped a 52-7 decision to Class 4A District 4 runner-up and playoff qualifier Southeast Polk to end their campaign. And 15 minutes after the final horn, FDSH head coach Matt Miller talked at length with his players in an emotional locker room about the pride and value that comes with finishing what they’d started — especially in this day and age.
Many Dodgers took Miller’s words to heart, revisiting the field to say their final goodbyes and search for some sense of closure as the reality of their last game began to sink in. Lara in particular struggled with the moment, keeping his jersey and even his helmet on long after the end had officially arrived.
Lara and his teammates had finished. And though their last game didn’t go the way they had hoped, they weren’t ready to let go.
”What they have done is uncommon,” Miller said. ”It’s a lot easier to choose a different sport, or cave in to peer pressure and give up on football altogether. We’re seeing it more and more everywhere — even at bigger schools where numbers have never been a problem before.
”I’m incredibly proud of them for putting in the work and getting to this point. All of them. Football can be a grind, especially when things don’t go your way. But instead of giving up on themselves or each other, they gave us and their school everything they had. That’s something we should all respect from a 15, 16, 17 or 18 year old young man in today’s world.”
The Rams (6-3 overall, 4-1 in the district) were simply too big, too fast and too deep for the hobbled Dodgers (4-5, 1-4), who were already playing without a slew of starters and saw a handful more sidelined during last night’s action. Southeast Polk distanced itself from FDSH with an avalanche of second-quarter points, registering four touchdowns and a safety to quickly pull away.
Miller’s squad came up short in their bid to finish with a winning record for the fifth time in the last nine years, but many individual records were established on Friday. Senior receiver Trey Mosley and junior quarterback Drake Miller both became the school’s single-season leaders for yardage, passing Mark Wills (1994) and Randy Reiners (1994) for receiving and passing, respectively.
Lara tied Sam Kolacia for the runner-up spot on the program’s career reception charts at 82. Lara and Mosley also joined Alonzo Clayton (1992) on the single-season touchdown receptions list with 11. And Miller passed Reiners with his 39th overall TD of the year on a late scoring strike to Lara.
”I’ll give those three a lot of credit. They all put in the time, pushed each other and made each other better,” Coach Miller said of Mosley, Lara and Miller. ”Trey is as dynamic of a player as we’ve ever had here. He broke every receiving record we had — topping numbers that had lasted a long time — and will end up as one of the Top-10 receivers (for yardage) in 4A history. That’s saying something.
”Tyrnan had a great senior year. He’s put himself in our program’s elite company as well, and he became a very steady, consistent player for us. Both Trey and Tyrnan attack the ball. They’ll be tough to replace.”
Miller, who often shies away from commenting on his son, then added, ”Drake sees and feels the pressure of a coach’s kid, and he handles it well. He takes everything in stride — the good and the bad. I’m damn proud of him and the man he’s becoming both on and off the field. This has been a terrific group to work with, and I’m thankful for each and every one of them. They were put in tough spots, played out of position, and had to make up for the fact that we had 10, 11, 12, 13 guys on the sidelines at the same time. With a program our size, that really took its toll.”
Miller threw for 172 yards, with Mosley (6 catches, 72 yards) and Lara (8 for 70) again serving as his main targets. Fittingly, seniors Joe Artis and Luke Jacobson had tackles for loss on the final two plays of the game.
Southeast Polk sophomore tailback Gavin Williams, who already has an offer from Iowa State University and continues to draw interest from other Div. I schools, rushed for 110 yards and added 61 more receiving. Shane Starcevich was 9 of 13 for 177 yards. The Rams finished with exactly 400 yards of offense in winning for the sixth time in the last seven weeks.
”Like I said before the game, they’re big, strong, fast, physical and nasty,” Miller said. ”If they’re not the best team we’ve faced (alongside No. 2 West Des Moines Valley and fifth-rated Cedar Falls), they’re definitely in the conversation.”
Sixteen Dodger seniors were in uniform for the final time on Friday: Mosley, Lara, Jacobson, Artis, Brayden Bell, Damond Lockner, Savion Poe, Bowyn Hennings, Alec Crimmins, Aidan Simonson, Mitch Glass, Dakota Stenzel, Chase Tepfer, Aaron Porter, Ethan Graves and Tyler Meriweather.
”I love them like my own,” Miller said. ”They’ll have a bond and a brotherhood that will last beyond this game, this season and these walls. Us coaches and the community need to take the time to appreciate not just their performance (this year), but their level of commitment and loyalty. It’s truly special.”
FD SEP First Downs 16 21
Rushes-Yards 19-99 39-223
Passing Yards 172 177
Comp-Att-Int 16-40-2 9-13-0
Total Offense 271 400
Punts-Avg. 2-22.0 1-17.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 5-45 4-40
SE Polk 7 31 0 14–52
Fort Dodge 0 0 0 7– 7
Southeast Polk — Nate Flynn (4-yard run), 2:02 left first quarter. Luke Williams kick.
Southeast Polk — Gavin Williams (8-yard run), 11:17 left second. L. Williams kick.
Southeast Polk — Shane Starcevich (1-yard run), 8:12 left second. Flynn run.
Southeast Polk — Safety (ball snapped out of end zone), 6:40 left second.
Southeast Polk — Nathan Marchand (13-yard run), 6:01 left second. L. Williams kick.
Southeast Polk — G. Williams (17-yard run), 5:23 left second. L. Williams kick.
Southeast Polk — Marchand (4-yard run), 10:00 left fourth. L. Williams kick.
Southeast Polk — Jackson Schneider (4-yard run), 6:10 left fourth. L. Williams kick.
Fort Dodge — Tyrnan Lara (5-yard pass from Drake Miller), 2:02 left fourth. Ben Nebel kick.
RUSHING — Fort Dodge: Dayson Clayton 10-52, Drake Miller 5-25, Savion Poe 2-15, Joe Artis 2-7. SE Polk: Gavin Williams 18-110, Nathan Marchand 7-32, Shane Starcevich 4-31, Nate Flynn 3-34, Josiah Cole 1-12, Jackson Schneider 2-11, James Simon 4-(minus-7).
PASSING — Fort Dodge: Drake Miller 16-39-2-172, Tyrnan Lara 0-1-0-0. SE Polk: Shane Starcevich 9-13-0-177, Josiah Cole 0-0-0-0.
RECEIVING — Fort Dodge: Trey Mosley 6-72, Tyrnan Lara 8-70, Tysen Kershaw 2-30. SE Polk: Nate Flynn 6-98, Gavin Williams 2-61, Nathan Marchand 1-18.