FDSH tackles unbeaten Mason City

The wins – 12 in a row, to be exact – against Mason City have come from all directions in a wide variety of ways. But to the 2016 Fort Dodge football team, the Decker Sporting Goods Trophy is more about history and tradition than anything they’ve accomplished to date.

That could all change here tonight, when head coach Matt Miller’s squad faces the unbeaten Mohawks for the 102nd time on the gridiron. Varsity kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. inside Dodger Stadium.

By and large, these Dodgers (1-1 overall) are relatively new to the rivalry’s scene. Only six current players started against Mason City (2-0) here a year ago, when Fort Dodge posted a 56-6 victory.

”We take a great deal of pride in the series and respecting what (prior Dodger squads have accomplished), but that’s all in the past to this group now,” said Miller, who has never lost to the Mohawks during his 13-year tenure. ”This is their time to step up and take ownership. That’s what we’ve been fortunate enough to experience (in recent memory) – our guys making the most of an opportunity when their number was called.

”We haven’t been the better team for 12 straight years. We’ve been the more opportunistic team. This isn’t about who’s better overall – it’s about who is better on the given night we play.”

The Dodgers have prevailed 22 times in the 28 meetings with Mason City since 1988, including all 11 matchups with the DSG traveling hardware on the line. During the most recent 12-game victory stretch, Fort Dodge has surrendered more than 14 points just twice.

As Miller points out every fall, though, none of that matters on Friday.

”The guys we talk about – the ones who embraced their roles and did what it took to push us over the top – are great motivation in (preparation) for the game,” Miller said. ”But once 7:30 rolls around, it’s up to the coaches and players in our locker room today and no one else.

”We know (the Mohawks) are 2-0, their confidence is soaring, and they are hungry for that trophy. When we ask the kids what the word ‘rivalry’ means to them, ‘Mason City’ is almost always their first response. I think when you’ve faced a team over 100 times for over 100 years and not much has changed in terms of the types of towns we are and the types of kids we produce – there’s something very special about the longevity in that.”

Both programs have prided themselves on defense in the early stages of the campaign, with Fort Dodge ranking seventh in Class 4A for fewest points allowed and the Mohawks 11th. The Dodgers pitched a shutout at Sioux City North last week, 16-0, while Mason City took a 15-9 slugfest at Marshalltown thanks to a late goal-line stand.

”They have some really solid defensive players, and their linebackers are very experienced,” Miller said. ”(Weston) Schultz, (Isaac) Bartel and (Carter) Roberts have all been playing for a while now.”

The Mohawks’ linebackers alone have accounted for 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks in wins over Clear Lake and the Bobcats.

FDSH sophomore quarterback Drake Miller has completed 40 of 64 passes for 367 yards and no turnovers in his first two varsity starts. Senior Jonathan Bowser has 14 receptions for 135 yards, with seven catches in each contest.

Seniors Keaton Jones and Colin Leonard and junior Cayd Lara have been the squad’s leading tacklers.

Thanks to their recent string of success, the Dodgers now hold a 52-41-8 advantage overall in the series.