Dodgers face Indianola in home finale

The Fort Dodge football team is collectively shouldering the blame for last week’s surprisingly-lopsided loss at Marshalltown.

There’s no sense in pointing fingers now. The Dodgers still have plenty to play for heading into Friday’s home finale against Indianola.

Fort Dodge (4-3 overall, 1-2 in Class 4A, District 4) faces the Indians (3-4, 1-2) in a playoff elimination game of sorts inside Dodger Stadium here tonight. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

Despite the sudden and bitter dose of adversity, head coach Matt Miller’s squad hasn’t fumbled away its opportunity to make a push for the postseason. A win this evening would set up a showdown with Southeast Polk (3-4, 2-1) next week for the district’s runner-up position behind top-ranked West Des Moines Valley (7-0, 3-0).

”We just have no margin for error now; our playoffs start with Indianola,” Miller said. ”They’re a very good ballclub, with three losses coming to ranked teams. They seem to be getting better with each week.

”I expect our kids to come out with a heightened sense of urgency, wanting to erase the feeling (from last Friday’s setback). It’s the last home game for our seniors. The weather is going to be great and the crowd should be big. We’ve worked hard to get past the physical and mental errors that cost us (against the Bobcats). Believe me, we were all responsible for that performance, from the coaches on down.”

The Indians, who suffered a 49-10 loss to Valley a week ago, are led by quarterback Joe Jensen. The junior has thrown for 1,297 yards and 12 touchdowns, completing 53 percent of his passes.

”He’s a really solid quarterback who has a lot of different receivers to choose from,” Miller said. ”He works the play-action well. Other than running different (offenses), I’d say we’re very similar.”

Fort Dodge sophomore quarterback Drake Miller has 1,490 passing yards and 11 touchdowns at a 62-percent completion clip. Miller is nursing an injured leg and ankle, but he’ll give it a go tonight.

”We’re banged up,” Matt Miller said. ”It’s that time of year, where we just have to play through it and keep battling.

”I expect their defense to put a lot of pressure on us, so we’ll have to execute much better than we did (versus the Bobcats). Our backs are against the wall, but it’s still a great position for a young team to be in for Week 8.”

After accumulating a plus-five turnover ratio in the first six games of the season, Fort Dodge coughed the ball up five times last week without forcing a single Marshalltown miscue.

”We did a lot of things wrong, but you’ll never win being that lopsided in the turnover battle,” Miller said. ”We did a nice job of taking care of the ball up until that point, so I’m not overly concerned. That’s typically the difference when two even teams match up.”

The Dodgers defeated Indianola in 2014 (31-13) and 2015 (49-36), though very few current players participated in either contest. Both Fort Dodge and the Indians lost 17 senior starters to graduation from a year ago.

The FDSH freshman squad (6-1, 2-1) takes on Indianola at 4:45 p.m. before the varsity tilt.