Perplexed Dodgers fall
INDIANOLA — Another bizarre trip to Indianola ended in similar gut-wrenching fashion for the Fort Dodge football team here on Friday night.
Despite completely dominating the game statistically down the stretch for the second consecutive season, the 10th-ranked Dodgers left the field with the same bewildered feeling as a year ago after dropping a 27-21 decision to the unbeaten Indians.
A combination of costly mistakes and timely Indianola stops were flanked by a number of questionable calls, and that all added up to doom for Fort Dodge (2-1 overall). Head coach Matt Miller — left crestfallen a year ago here after Indianola rallied from a double-digit deficit in a furious last-ditch rally — was more indignant this time around, trying his best to keep feelings of frustration in check despite what had just transpired.
“It’s hard to overcome being penalized (15 times for 146 yards) more this week than we had in the first two games combined (14 for 131),” Miller said. “When you’re on the road, you can’t hurt yourself with (self-inflicted) mistakes and you can’t have special teams breakdowns. We couldn’t get out of our own way, apparently, given what was going on (with the flags).
“I don’t know. You can’t take two steps forward and five back over and over again. It seems like we were doing that all night, and that’s happened to us a few times now down here (during the program’s three trips in four years to Indianola). Maybe we’re just committing that many more penalties here compared to everywhere else. But the bottom line is we came up short and we weren’t good enough or consistent enough to get the job done.”
The Dodgers trailed 20-14 at halftime, and never did manage to make up that six-point deficit despite a 235-72 yard advantage in the second half. Fort Dodge ran 30 more plays from scrimmage and had 10 more first downs in the third and fourth quarters combined, but the visitors were whistled for eight penalties and 85 yards during that stretch.
Miller’s squad has now accumulated 37 infractions spanning 392 yards during its three contests at Indianola since 2015.
Even so, the Dodgers were their own worst enemy on the plays that did count.
A snap that sailed and rolled 30 yards behind the line of scrimmage on a failed punt attempt set up Indianola’s lone second-half touchdown on the first play of the fourth period, which ended up being the final points of the evening.
Fort Dodge also reached the red zone on two of its last three possessions down the stretch, but came up empty both times.
The Dodgers’ go-ahead score was wiped out by a holding call midway through the fourth quarter, and the interrupted drive eventually ended on a 4th-and-28 turnover on downs. Fort Dodge then marched from its own 18-yard line to the Indianola 10 as regulation whittled away, but senior quarterback Drake Miller was sacked on 4th-and-3 to end it.
Miller completed a career-high 35 passes in 55 attempts for 374 yards. Junior Tysen Kershaw — like Miller, already the state’s yardage leader before Friday — added 15 more catches for 181 yards and a touchdown.
Classmates Russell Potratz (8 receptions for 73 yards) and Brycen Bell (5 for 70) were also favorite targets of Miller, who eclipsed Randy Reiners’s total career school yardage record last night.
Coach Miller lamented the lack of balance in the FDSH offense, though, pointing to the team’s 64 net rushing yards.
“You can’t throw the ball 50-some times on the road and expect to win without establishing a ground game,” Miller said. “We have to do that if we want to reach our potential.
“We moved the ball but didn’t cash in on some scoring chances, either because of penalties or other problems. Our defense did its job (Indianola had 256 total yards, compared to the Dodgers’ 438). But that special teams breakdown can’t happen. We handed them that last touchdown. And we didn’t force any turnovers. Indianola isn’t as big as they’ve been (recently), but they’re still a tough, physical opponent.”
In addition to littering the field with laundry — there were 23 total penalties that covered 249 yards — the officials also made an unusual call that created a touchdown swing late in the first quarter. Indianola tailback Dylan Hildreth — who had 136 yards on 30 carries and all four of his squad’s scores — lost the ball on a fumble while fighting for the end zone on 1st-and-goal from the 3-yard line. Despite never blowing the whistle to signify the end of the play, the referees ruled Hildreth down just as Potratz scooped the ball up and had an uncontested lane to return it the other way.
Hildreth scored on the next snap.
Junior Brycen Opande had two sacks for the Dodgers, while linebacker Austin Lee — also a junior — added one.
Fort Dodge returns to action on Friday at home against Carroll (1-2) at 7 p.m.
First Downs 26 16
Rushes-Yards 24-64 41-153
Passing 35-55-0 7-13-0
Passing Yards 374 103
Total Offense 438 256
Punts-Avg. 4-32.0 6-32.5
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 15-146 8-63
Fort Dodge 7 7 7 0 — 21
Indianola 14 6 0 7 — 27
Indianola — Dylan Hildreth (6-yard run), 9:51 left first quarter. Parker Hansen kick.
Fort Dodge — Tysen Kershaw (3-yard pass from Drake Miller), 6:13 left first. Ben Nebel kick.
Indianola — Hildreth (1-yard run), 1:42 left first. Hansen kick.
Fort Dodge — Dayson Clayton (4-yard run), 10:04 left second. Nebel kick.
Indianola — Hildreth (4-yard run), 6:35 left second. Kick blocked.
Fort Dodge — Miller (5-yard run), 5:16 left third. Nebel kick.
Indianola — Hildreth (6-yard run), 11:56 left fourth. Hansen kick.
Rushing — Fort Dodge: Dayson Clayton 15-63, Drake Miller 8-26, Bryer Nelson 1-5. Indianola: Dylan Hildreth 30-136, Kolby Kolarik 6-36, Peyton Boozell 1-4, Quinn Vesey 4-(minus-23).
Passing — Fort Dodge: Drake Miller 35-55-0-374. Indianola: Quinn Vesey 7-13-0-103.
Receiving — Fort Dodge: Tysen Kershaw 15-181, Russell Potratz 8-73, Brycen Bell 5-70, Dayson Clayton 6-44, Jace Peterson 1-6. Indianola: Dylan Hildreth 1-50, Grant Hixson 1-21, Brennan Mecham 1-9, Kolby Kolarik 1-9, Brayden Wireman 1-7, Peyton Boozell 1-6, Blake Kennedy 1-1.