The news of Fort Dodge’s recent defensive struggles — more a product of their schedule and injuries than entirely based in reality — reached the Marshalltown community this week.
Instead of letting the Bobcats continue the trend, the Dodgers were inspired to take momentum back both on that side of the ball and in the rivalry.
That sense of urgency was palpable on Saturday.
Head coach Matt Miller’s squad surrendered only 41 rushing yards and two immaterial touchdowns late during a 49-12 Homecoming rout inside Dodger Stadium.
In a game delayed nearly 21 hours by a steady barrage of storms that soaked the area with over four inches of rain, Fort Dodge (4-3 overall, 1-2 Class 4A, District 4) was more than ready to wash away the memory of last season’s loss at Marshalltown and restore its maligned defensive reputation in a rare afternoon opportunity.
”I thought we really came together and were making plays (as a unit),” said senior linebacker Mitch Glass, who returned a fumble 66 yards for a score. ”That was the biggest difference (compared to the last two weeks) — we weren’t doing things individually (on Saturday) the way we have at times before. It was more about being on the same page and swarming the ball with all 11 guys.”
Meanwhile, junior quarterback Drake Miller and FDSH’s dynamic offense was its usual imposing self. Miller threw for 320 yards and four touchdowns, completing all but three of his 16 pass attempts and spreading the wealth to five different receivers.
Miller has now tied FDSH legend and former Iowa Hawkeye quarterback Randy Reiners as the program’s all-time leader for TD passes at 39. Reiners reached the mark in 29 career games; Saturday was Miller’s 16th. The left-handed coach’s son now has a 4A-best 25 touchdowns in 2017, with just one interception in 188 attempts.
Reliable seniors Tyrnan Lara (6 catches, 101 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Trey Mosley (3-153-1) were again Miller’s main targets.
”There are always a lot of distractions and things going on around (the game during Homecoming week), so we wanted to stay focused and take care of business here,” Lara said. ”It’s kind of surreal when I think about this being (the seniors’) last Homecoming game, but it means a lot to go ring that victory bell (a senior tradition) and get the job done against a team that beat us (34-7) last year.
”We saw a headline in their newspaper (”Bobcat football team hoping to exploit Fort Dodge defense”), and I know our defensive guys kind of felt like they were getting called out. They took it to heart and executed. When they play like that, it makes us a dangerous team.”
The Dodgers led 42-0 at halftime, with Miller hitting Mosley (86 yards), Lara (53) and sophomore Tysen Kershaw (23) on big touchdown strikes. Miller and senior Savion Poe also had rushing scores.
The Bobcats (1-6, 0-3) managed just 88 yards of total offense in the first half, including only 19 rushing yards on 16 carries.
”Our guys in the front seven really set the tone,” coach Miller said. ”Joe Artis was all over the place. Carson Spiker was (a student) at Marshalltown last year. He wanted to play well against his former teammates and he did. Alec Crimmins is playing hurt. Dakota Stenzel and Ethan Vinson did a nice job. Our (defensive line) was getting a good surge.
”And then (linebackers) Luke Jacobson, Mitch, Mason (Bodholdt) and Austin (Lee) were everywhere, too. We know what’s happened both (statistically and on the scoreboard) recently. But we’ve played some pretty darn good offenses, and we’re not at full strength on that side of the ball. So I give our guys credit for responding and handling all of the strange things that happened (over the 24 hours prior to kickoff) with maturity and focus.”
Bobcat senior quarterback Sam Irwin did finish with 206 passing yards, but most came in the fourth quarter against Dodger reserves. He completed only 16 of 31attempts, and had negative-19 yards rushing.
Irwin had 1,452 yards from scrimmage in MHS’s first five games.
Jacobson recovered an on-side kick. Vinson and sophomore Tyler Gehlhausen had sacks in the second half, which was played under the 35-point continuous clock rule.
Coach Miller thanked both the school’s administrators and FDSH band director Al Paulson for ”patiently adjusting” the schedule to make Saturday’s game work.
”(Superintendent) Dr. (Doug) Van Zyl, (principal) Dr. (Ken) Hayes and (athletic and activities director) Matt Elsbecker were really on top of things with the weather. It was the right decision to make (to postpone) and it worked out well (sunny skies and a healthy-sized crowd arrived by kickoff),” Miller said. ”And Mr. Paulson worked everything out with the state marching band competition (on Saturday morning at Dodger Stadium). He was very cooperative about us moving the game, and the band even stayed to play after a long day.
”We appreciated that a great deal. All of it.”
Fort Dodge heads to Indianola (4-3, 1-2) this Friday in a District 4 elimination contest. The winner will technically stay in playoff contention heading into the final week of the regular season; the loser’s chances end.
First downs 11 14
Rushes-yards 21-71 21-41
Passing 13-16-0 16-31-0
Passing yards 320 206
Total offense 391 247
Punts-avg. 3-37.3 5-34.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 3-1
Penalty-Yards 10-97 6-60
Fort Dodge 13 29 7 0 –49
Marshalltown 0 0 0 12 –12
Fort Dodge — Tyrnan Lara (53-yard pass from Drake Miller), 10:51 left first quarter. Ben Nebel kick.
Fort Dodge — Trey Mosley (86-yard pass from Miller), 7:25 left first. Conversion failed.
Fort Dodge — Miller (16-yard run), 5:38 left second. Lara pass from Miller.
Fort Dodge — Tysen Kershaw (23-yard pass from Miller), 4:00 left second. Nebel kick.
Fort Dodge — Savion Poe (4-yard run), 3:18 left second. Nebel kick.
Fort Dodge — Mitch Glass (66-yard fumble return), 0:45 left second. Nebel kick.
Fort Dodge — Lara (3-yard pass from Miller), 0:53 left third. Nebel kick.
Marshalltown — Alex Rockingham (15-yard run), 9:05 left fourth. Kick failed.
Marshalltown — Jonathan Hernandez (30-yard pass from Sam Irwin), 7:11 left fourth. Run failed.
RUSHING — Fort Dodge: Dayson Clayton 15-54, Drake Miller 5-13, Savion Poe 1-4. Marshalltown: Alex Rockingham 7-31, Giorgio Dilorio 10-29, Sam Irwin 4-(minus-19).
PASSING — Fort Dodge: Drake Miller 13-16-0-320. Marshalltown: Sam Irwin 16-31-0-206.
RECEIVING — Fort Dodge: Trey Mosley 3-153, Tyrnan Lara 6-101, Tysen Kershaw 2-30, Drew Callon 1-21, Dayson Clayton 1-15. Marshalltown: Jonathan Hernandez 5-81, Noah DeVenney 4-50, Josh Melde 2-49, Tyler Reeder 2-22, Dylan Eygabroad 2-13, Alex Rockingham 1-(minus-9).