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SWEET 16

Dodgers extend long win streak over Mason City with historic rout

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Asle Thorson of Fort Dodge stiff arms Mason City Jeffrey Skogen on Friday inside Dodger Stadium. For more photos, please visit CU.messengernews.net

The Fort Dodge football team let loose in a rowdy postgame celebration following Friday’s historic victory over Mason City.

Make no mistake about it, though: in order for the Dodgers to finally exhale and enjoy the fruits of their labor, they knew they had to be all business first.

Showing a laser-like focus and playing with the energy of a caged beast finally set free, Fort Dodge exploded on its arch rival in the 2019 debut for both programs and sent the Mohawks home with the most lopsided loss in the 107-year history of the series.

Head coach Matt Miller’s squad was all over the field on both sides of the ball in overhwhelming Mason City for the third consecutive year, 65-0. The victory stretched the Dodgers’ streak over the Mohawks to 16 games and kept the Decker Sporting Goods Trophy in the only case it’s ever rested: FDSH.

“I thought we were about as physically and mentally prepared for an opener — both because of our players and the coaching staff — as we’ve been in a long time,” said Miller, who is 16-0 against MCHS as the school’s gridiron leader. “It started with our new ‘Spirit Walk’ beforehand (sponsored by the Dodger Gridiron Club)…we had probably 200 people show up and really get our guys ready on the way into the stadium.

“We weren’t going to take anything for granted, and we weren’t going to leave any detail out. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect about how things would go up front, given they had a pretty big size advantage on us. But my assistant coaches had a tremendous gameplan, and our kids deserve a lot of credit for putting in the work so that they could go enjoy themselves after it was all said and done.”

Fort Dodge racked up 515 yards of offense by using virtually every card in the deck. The Dodgers pounced with 36 first-quarter points, and they were equally impressive running (288 yards) and throwing (249) the ball in 42 efficient snaps from scrimmage.

The statistics and execution were impressive, but the defense stole the show. FDSH forced five turnovers — which led to 37 points — and surrendered just 58 total yards. Mason City completed three total passes for two yards, misfiring on 10 of 13 attempts through the air.

“We talked all week about reaching our potential, both for the first game and — eventually — this season,” said Dodger senior linebacker Austin Lee, the leading tackler Friday and a returning first team all-district performer. “We’ve reminded each other to ‘be nasty’ all week. Our defense wanted to come out and set a tone.

“It always gives you confidence when you line up next to guys who are good enough to make plays (on a given snap or during a specific series). And on this defense, we have a lot of them.”

Returning to the field after a long rehabilitation stretch following a torn ACL last fall, senior linebacker Levi Egli recovered a fumble. Junior brothers Sam and James Daniel also pounced on loose balls, as did Eagle Grove transfer Reco Jolly — another junior.

Meanwhile, senior cornerback Brycen Bell returned an interception 59 yards for a touchdown during the Dodgers’ avalanche of first-quarter points. Fort Dodge led 36-0 less than nine full minutes into the contest, and Bell had two of the scores — the pick-six and a hook-and-lateral TD run on a pitch from Russell Potratz.

“We’ve been working really hard to get to this point, both in the offseason, and really since we were kids first getting started (in football),” said Bell — like Lee, a three-year starter. “It’s a tremendous feeling to do this with my senior brothers and all of our teammates. This could be the fastest team top to bottom we’ve had here in a while, and we wanted to get out in space and make some things happen on both sides of the ball. We were able to accomplish that.”

Asle Thorson’s first start as the varsity quarterback couldn’t have gone much better. In barely over two full quarters of work, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior accounted for five touchdowns — three passing and two rushing — while throwing for 216 yards and scampering for 45 more.

“Coach (Nik) Moser (the team’s offensive coordinator and Thorson’s uncle) just kept reminding us that it’s not about one player — that the more we spread things out and find balance in the offense, the tougher we’ll be to prepare for,” said Thorson, the grandson of FDSH football legends Sherwyn Thorson and Sam Moser and the son of former first team all-state linebacker Tjeran Thorson. “My job (as quarterback) is to find the hot hand and get him the ball.

“I’m just lucky that there are so many great players around me in this offense. I don’t feel like there is pressure (in his family legacy or replacing 2018 Class 4A player of the year Drake Miller) because I have such talented teammates and a really good offensive line blocking for us. We’re close friends and we’ve been doing this a long time together. I think that (established) trust makes a big difference.”

Returning first team all-state receiver Tysen Kershaw had five receptions for 74 yards and a pair of scores in limited action. Senior Nick Bice also hauled in a 40-yard TD strike from Thorson.

Junior Tyler Schreier racked up 69 yards on three jet sweep touch passes.

With a 43-0 halftime advantage and a continuous mercy-rule clock ahead in the third and fourth quarters, Miller gave his reserves plenty of opportunities to shine. Sophomore tailback Jon Presswood rushed six times for a team-best 95 yards, and sophomore quarterback Carson Peterson scrambled 54 yards on the second-to-last play in regulation down to the 1-yard line.

Instead of punching it into the end zone to top the 70-point barrier and earn the largest win in school history over any opponent, the Dodgers took a knee to end it.

“I think we started to establish some depth (last night), which is going to be huge for us if we want to reach our full potential,” Miller said. “I liked what we got out of some of our sophomores. I think that guys like Jace Yoder, Geoff Astor, the Daniel boys, Dalton Summers, Tyler Nichols, Reco Jolly, Jerry Chada and Gavin Schillerstrom, who were seeing their first real full-time action at this level, did a really nice job; we actually have a lot of new players out there getting used to as many snaps as they saw.

“I’m really proud of our returning players. Tysen, Austin, Levi, Brycen, Nick, Russell, Tyler, Shane (Halligan), Dayson (Clayton), Sawyer (Springer), Brandon (Porter) … they all know what to do and how to get the job done. Our line didn’t blow them off the ball, but again, we’re a little undersized. Given that, they really got after it and showed it’s more about the fight. And Asle just gives us a different look and another dimension with his size and athleticism. Just top to bottom, I couldn’t be more pleased with our effort and intensity.”

Preswood and junior Bradley Vodraska added second-half touchdowns. Vodraska’s came on a sweep pitch from junior quarterback Dylan Zimmermann.

Fort Dodge has now out-scored Mason City 160-6 over the last three years, and shut the Mohawks out in consecutive seasons. The Dodgers won 48-0 last August and 47-6 in 2017.

Friday marked the 70th win of Miller’s career, which ranks him second on the school’s all-time charts to Forrest Marquis (74).

Fort Dodge returns to action on Friday at Ames.