4 all-staters for FDSH

Miller, Kershaw land on first team; Clayton, Opande also honored

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Drake Miller of Fort Dodge throws a pass against Dowling during the playoffs in Des Moines.

They’ve been close friends for over a decade, teammates all the way and Dodgers to their core.

Very little separates Fort Dodge’s Drake Miller and Tysen Kershaw on or off the field. Fittingly, the duo both landed Iowa Print Sports Writers Association Class 4A first team all-state football honors on Monday.

Junior Bryson Opande and sophomore Dayson Clayton each garnered third-team recognition for Fort Dodge, which went 7-3 overall and had four players reach all-state status in the same season for the first time since 1984.

“This really means a lot,” said Miller, who was a second-team quarterback selection a year ago. “I was grateful to be on the all-state team (in 2017), but I wanted to make sure I did everything I possibly could to earn that first team spot (as a senior).

“I want to first thank my teammates for making this season a great one. We put in countless offseason hours to prepare ourselves to do something special this year. I would also like to thank every single one of our coaches for pushing us to be our best. Coach (Nik) Moser (the offensive coordinator) and I were able to form a great relationship over the last three years, and he put myself and the rest of the offense into a position to do tremendous things.”

Miller and Kershaw — a 6-foot-3 junior receiver — shattered every single-season record in program history and led all of Class 4A in the same respective categories, becoming the Dodgers’ first QB/WR tandem on the top all-state squad since Randy Reiners and Mark Wills in 1994.

“My coaches kept telling me that if I worked hard and kept going with the process, who knows where I would be by the end of the year,” said Kershaw, who caught 71 passes for 1,206 yards. “They really believed in me, even in times where I didn’t believe in myself.

“It was also important that my teammates helped push me in practice as well. Every day, there was a competition against the defensive backs. That helped to keep me motivated throughout the year, just wanting to get better.”

Miller, both a team and district captain, threw for 2,972 yards and 28 touchdowns as the Dodgers won seven regular-season games for just the seventh time since 1950. The 200-pound left-hander finished his career ranked second all-time in 4A for completions (544) and yards (7,100), and fourth in TDs (74).

Miller had five games with four passing touchdowns or more this year, and 11 in his 28-start career. He accumulated at least 330 passing yards on five separate occasions this season, and nine times overall as FDSH’s three-year starter.

“It says a lot about both Drake and Tysen that they were so well-respected — not just in or around our district, but with coaches and writers from all over the state,” said Dodger head coach Matt Miller, Drake’s father. “It’s just a great way to cap their seasons and bring a certain sense of closure to what they accomplished.

“If you look at the first-team list in 4A, the talent is pretty incredible top to bottom. Drake and Tysen are in elite company.”

The 207-pound Clayton eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on the ground — with 1,087 rushing yards — and added 390 more as a sure-handed receiver out of the backfield. Clayton scored 17 times — 12 on the ground and five on passes from Miller — and now ranks seventh in school history for rushing despite being just a 10th-grader.

“Dayson could have easily been on the second team, but to get any kind of all-state recognition as a sophomore is very rare,” Miller said. “This is a great starting point, setting him up for bigger and better things. Like Tysen, for as much progress as he’s made, Dayson knows there is still work to be done.

“He was such a valuable, consistent weapon, both with his feet and his hands.”

The Miller (2,814)/Clayton (1,058)/Kershaw (1,166) trio was the closest to a 3,000-yard QB/1,000-yard RB/1,000-yard WR regular season in state history. The Dodgers finished a single yard shy of the school record for total offense, with 4,569 yards compared to the 4,570 in 2015.

The 220-pound Opande was on the field for almost every down — FDSH ran 637 plays from scrimmage — and still graded out as the Dodgers’ top offensive and defensive lineman. Opande also led the team in sacks.

“Bryson just had an outstanding year,” Miller said. “He was consistent and relentless. This sets him up to take that next step in the offseason and into his senior (campaign).

“We couldn’t be prouder of these four guys. They represented Fort Dodge the right way on and off the field. We’re fortunate to have three of them coming back, and it’s also great for Drake to represent his hard-working senior class in this way.”

Drake Miller added, “I would also like to thank my family and Dodger Nation for their tremendous support. None of this would be possible without teammates, coaches, and everyone who supported us along the way.”