Dodgers stress importance of trip to North

SIOUX CITY – Fort Dodge’s next two football games won’t define the season, or even make a bit of difference in the playoff picture down the road.

Even so, head coach Matt Miller and his Dodgers are putting an added emphasis on the next eight days of their 2016 campaign, beginning Thursday with a trip to Sioux City North.

Kickoff at Olsen Stadium is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Fort Dodge opened the year with a 20-6 home setback against Cedar Falls last Friday night. There were definite bright spots for the Dodgers, who had the ball trailing only 12-6 with a little over four minutes left in regulation.

Miller knows that moral victories will only take his squad so far, though.

”Non-district games aren’t always prioritized the same way for every program season after season, but for us, in 2016, Sioux City North and Mason City (next Friday) are big ones,” Miller said. ”They’re important for our growth and our mindset moving forward.

”With as many new players as we have in the lineup, we have to show progress and get much better from Week 1 to Week 2.”

The Stars scored twice late in their debut against cross-town rival Sioux City West last week, winning 27-13. Senior quarterback Alex Tillo threw for 111 yards and ran for 57 more, scoring three times on the ground. Max Vollmer caught five passes for 91 yards.

”They’re a lot like us: good skill kids, a few players going both ways, and they’ll spread us out and try to get the ball to their athletes in space,” Miller said. ”Tillo, Vollmer and (linebacker Noah) Weeter are all solid athletes. There have some weapons that we’ll have to try and keep corralled defensively.”

Fort Dodge held Cedar Falls in check a week ago, surrendering just 245 total yards and pitching a first-half shutout. Meanwhile, sophomore quarterback Drake Miller was active in his first varsity start with the ball in his hands, completing 25 of 38 passes for 213 yards and carrying the ball 22 more times on the ground.

Those numbers need to be much more balanced for the Dodgers to have a chance tonight, coach Miller readily admitted. And FDSH must find its run game, which was stuffed for negative-17 yards in 26 carries against the Tigers.

”For as good as our offense looked in the preseason, we found out we still have a ways to go,” Miller said. ”Part of that is our youth and inexperience. Part of that was Cedar Falls being so talented up front. And part of that was not being at full strength.”

Fort Dodge does welcome back junior wingback and cornerback Trey Mosley, who missed the squad’s opener. Mosley will virtually be filling in for sophomore burner Bryer Nelson, though; Nelson, also a two-way player, tore his ACL late in the Cedar Falls contest and is out for the remainder of the season. He will have surgery on Friday.

”We were really looking forward to getting Trey and Bryer on the field together; that was going to be a lot of speed and playmaking ability,” Miller said. ”Bryer’s a very talented kid, and we’re undoubtedly going to miss having him out there. We don’t have the depth to just absorb that kind of loss and move on without skipping a beat.”

Mosley accumulated 608 yards from scrimmage a year ago in earning second team all-district honors.

Miller was pleased with his receivers in Week 1; senior Jonathan Bowser (7 catches, 66 yards), junior Tyrnan Lara (7-59) and Nelson (6-44) were all productive. The Dodgers only turned the ball over once, and committed just four penalties for 30 yards.

”’I still think we can do some things offensively, but it’s going to come down to execution,” Miller said. ”Our defense played with an edge and was really flying to the ball. We hope that continues. The offense just needs to get into a rhythm, and we do need to establish and mature in the run game.”