FDSH’s Homecoming date: Marshalltown

Dodgers look to get back on track

The Fort Dodge football team is keeping its routine as simple as possible in preparation for Friday’s Homecoming contest against Marshalltown.

Varsity kickoff, weather permitting, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

The Dodgers (3-3 overall, 0-2 in Class 4A, District 4) were undoubtedly entertaining in the month of September, as they scored a staggering 249 points in five games. Head coach Matt Miller’s squad only prevailed in three of those five matchups, though, which included last week’s historic 71-70 setback at Newton — an instant classic that broke both records and the Dodgers’ hearts.

Style points and gaudy statistics are bringing Fort Dodge plenty of attention. Miller’s players would trade it all in for a better record from here on out.

”Every guy in our locker room would gladly give up their (individual stats) for a few more ‘W’s,”’ Miller said. ”That’s all we’re focusing on at this point: getting a victory (on Friday), regardless of how it comes or what we have to do to get (back on track).

”Obviously, when you score 10 touchdowns in a game and lose, it’s natural to feel like you let one slip away. We made enough mistakes on both sides of the ball (at Newton), and it wound up being the difference. We just have to move on and take care of business against (an opponent) that took it to us a year ago.”

The Dodgers scored an emotional win over the Cardinals last season, then went to Marshalltown and fell flat in a surprising 34-7 drubbing the next week. Instead of falling into a letdown trap, Miller is hoping the roles will be reversed and Friday becomes a rally point for his program moving forward.

”It’s a completely different situation, and Marshalltown has an entirely new coaching staff and approach, so there really isn’t (a revenge factor) this time around,” Miller said. ”But I know (the 2016 performance) will be in the back of our minds a little — that’s only natural — so there is some motivation for us from an (internal standpoint) to play better, sure.

”We always talk about keeping the main thing the main thing during Homecoming week. Distractions and everything else aside, our No. 1 job as a team is to win this football game. The more we can stay focused on that, the better.”

Fort Dodge’s three losses have been against opponents with a combined record of 16-2 (Newton 6-0, Cedar Falls 5-1, Valley 5-1). The Dodgers’ much-maligned defense has faced some of the better quarterbacks in the state — Luke Gillett of Cedar Falls, Joe Evans of Ames and Garrett Sturtz of Newton are among the top signal-callers statistically speaking in 4A — and they’ll be confronting another good one on Friday in Marshalltown’s Sam Irwin.

Irwin, who directed the Bobcats’ victory over FDSH a year ago, has thrown for 1,108 yards and rushed for 344 more. The 180-pound senior has 11 total touchdowns in six games for MHS (1-5, 0-2).

”I’m really impressed by Irwin,” Miller said. ”He does a lot of good things with both his arm and his feet. He definitely fits the diverse mold of the other quarterbacks we’ve seen and, quite honestly, struggled against.

”We were our own worst enemy against them (in 2016) with the turnovers (5) and penalties (14), but when push came to shove, Irwin did a lot of things to just plain beat us.”

Dodger junior quarterback Drake Miller, who now ranks second on the school’s career charts for both passing yards (3,369) and touchdowns (35) behind only Randy Reiners (4,385 and 39, respectively), became FDSH’s single-season TD record-holder with last week’s performance. Miller had four of his five touchdowns passing and both of his rushing scores in the second half, where he accumulated over 400 yards from scrimmage.

Miller is completing 62 percent of his attempts for 1,592 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has been intercepted only once.

Senior Trey Mosley, the program’s universal all-time receiving leader, has 43 catches for 612 yards and seven scores. Classmate Tyrnan Lara (22-332-6) and sophomore Tysen Kershaw (23-258-3) have also put up big numbers, as has freshman tailback Dayson Clayton (619 yards rushing and 7 TDs). Clayton has topped the 200-yard mark from scrimmage in three of the last four weeks.

The Dodger defense hopes to welcome senior Mitch Glass and junior Mason Bodholdt back to the lineup at close to full strength this week. Glass and Bodholdt were the fifth and sixth different FDSH linebackers to miss time in 2017 when both suffered injuries a week ago at Newton.

Marshalltown holds a 26-22-1 edge in the all-time series, which dates back to 1967. No team has taken more than three consecutive decisions since the Bobcats prevailed four straight times from 1970-73.

”We’ve had a lot of close, hard-fought games with Marshalltown through the years,” said Miller, who is 6-7 against the Bobcats. ”I wouldn’t expect anything different this time around.”

Rain is in the forecast for most of Friday, with anywhere from 1-3 inches expected to fall in the Fort Dodge area.

The Dodgers are 12-5 in Homecoming contests since 2000, which includes four consecutive victories most recently.