No. 10 Fort Dodge visits Indianola

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Tysen Kershaw of Fort Dodge scores a touchdown against Ames inside Dodger Stadium last week.

INDIANOLA – Successful football teams focus on the present rather than looking too far back or forward.

No. 10 (Class 4A) Fort Dodge will concentrate on the task at hand here Friday against fellow unbeaten Indianola. Head coach Matt Miller has stressed the importance of this particular game to his squad, which is off to a promising start after lopsided victories over Mason City and Ames.

The here and now could be critical for down the road. But Miller understands if the 13 returning starters on the field also try to exorcise some demons after what happened here a year ago.

Down 32-21 with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, the Indians staged an improbable rally with a pair of late touchdowns to defeat FDSH, 35-32, and secure a winning season the Dodgers desperately wanted for themselves.

“I think it’s only natural for the juniors and seniors who went through that,” Miller said. “That was a particularly devastating loss. A painfully reminder that you have to finish games, even if you think you have it won.

“What’s done is done. We haven’t talked about it at all this week. But I wouldn’t blame our guys for finding a little motivation and keeping that game in the back of their minds.”

The Dodgers make the 115-mile trip south for the third time in the last four seasons. The last two meetings at Indianola have been wild, with Fort Dodge prevailing 49-36 in 2015 before last year’s barnburner.

The Indians have dominated in 2018 so far as well, posting double-digit victories over Norwalk (24-7) and Des Moines Hoover (44-13). Senior tailback Dylan Hildreth, who flirted with 200 yards against FDSH last season, returns after a 1,353-yard, 21-touchdown junior campaign on the ground.

“It’s a typical Indianola ballclub — they run the ball right at you and downhill,” Miller said. “They’re tough, and Hildreth is one of the better backs returning (in 4A).

“We’re not going to stop them, necessarily, but we do have to find a way to slow them down (the Indians had 186 yards rushing and 187 yards passing against the Dodgers last season).”

Fullback Kolby Kolarik, who is also a defensive back, is a veteran two-way player. The Indians have rushed 87 times in two games, compared to just 21 pass attempts by senior Quinn Vesey.

FDSH senior quarterback Drake Miller has thrown for a state-best 859 yards and nine touchdowns through the first two weeks, with junior receiver Tysen Kershaw (19 receptions, 420 yards) sitting atop Iowa’s prep receiving charts in the early going.

Sophomore Dayson Clayton has rushed 39 times for 188 yards. Junior Brycen Bell has six catches for 218 yards.

“We’re trying to look at things in three different three-game seasons,” Miller said. “It would be nice to finish the (first leg) at 3-0. I like how focused we’ve been so far, and that’s going to have to continue if we want to get the job done on the road against a very solid opponent.”

All three Dodgers who left with injuries last week — Clayton (shoulder), senior offensive lineman Logan Finowski (ankle) and senior nose guard Carson Spiker (ankle) — are all expected to play.