Dodgers push record to 4-0
CARROLL — Fort Dodge’s Matt Miller didn’t want to sound ungrateful after his sixth-ranked (Class 4A) Dodgers remained undefeated by posting what appeared to be a relatively easy 26-point road victory at Carroll on Friday.
Miller wasn’t going to dwell on the negatives after a 36-10 triumph, which again saw the defense take center stage as Fort Dodge improved to 4-0 for just the fifth time since 1946.
The veteran head coach just knows the stretch that lies ahead for his squad, as the schedule’s degree of difficulty takes a sharp turn and will demand much more from the Dodgers than what they’ve shown during recent stretches of inconsistency.
Three different players returned interceptions for touchdowns, and Fort Dodge put the clamps on another opponent down the stretch to pull away from the Tigers (1-3) — a perennial 3A playoff qualifier.
“We’re just kind of out of sync right now,” said Miller, who pulled within a single win of tying Dodger legend Forrest Marquis as the school’s career leader last night. “It’s not that we’re playing poorly or doing a ton of things wrong, but when you go up against programs like (No. 7) Southeast Polk or (second-rated) Ankeny Centennial, if you want to contend for a district title, you have to be much more physically and mentally sharp than we’ve been at times these last two weeks.
“Our defense was terrific. They gave us 21 points, which is something you don’t see every day. We still have to shore things up offensively and focus on getting on the same page, though. The potential is definitely there, but (the Class 4A, District 2 field) isn’t going to just sit around and wait for us to find a rhythm. We need to do that ourselves.”
Sam Daniel, Brycen Bell and Tyler Nichols all took interceptions back to the house for an FDSH defense that pitched a second-half shutout and allowed just 15 total yards after the intermission. Daniel is a junior safety; Bell — a cornerback — and Nichols — a linebacker — are both seniors.
Carroll had only 181 yards of total offense, though the Tigers did run for 124 yards on 26 carries in the first half when they were still within striking distance.
“We gave up some yardage, but we kept them off the scoreboard,” Miller said. “The defense keeps rallying to the ball and showing up at critical moments. They were bending some in that first half; give (the Tigers) credit for being physical up front and kind of controlling the line of scrimmage. But our guys buckled down and really took control when it mattered most late, similar to what happened (the week before in an overtime victory over Indianola).”
Senior all-state receiver Tysen Kershaw, who had gone relatively unnoticed through the first three weeks, came to life with a vintage 6-catch, 179-yard performance. The University of South Dakota recruit hauled in an 87-yard touchdown pass from Asle Thorson to give the Dodgers some breathing room late in the first half when it was only 15-7.
Junior tailback Dayson Clayton rushed 15 times for 104 yards. Thorson threw for 214 yards and a pair of scores, finding Kershaw and junior Tyler Schreier.
“It’s not that our offense didn’t have its moments. I thought our first drive in particular was great, even though it stalled out, and Tysen and Dayson had some big plays,” Miller said. “But again, we have to be more consistent. And the penalties (Fort Dodge had eight more infractions for 74 yards) will really cost us against teams like we’re facing these next three weeks (the Rams, Des Moines Roosevelt and the Jaguars are a combined 9-3 so far this season).”
Daniel got the ball rolling when he jumped the route on a Colby Vincent pass and returned it 18 yards to paydirt with 8:11 left in the first period. The pick-sixes by Bell and Nichols came less than two minutes apart late in the third period; Bell read a slant route to perfection and weaved his way 28 yards to the end zone, while Nichols snagged a screen pass and rumbled 26 yards for a touchdown.
Nichols also had a sack, and senior Bryson Opande recovered a fumble. Carroll didn’t have a single play go for more than nine yards in the second half, punting four times and completing only one pass.
Tiger punter Ty Nissen, the son of FDSH graduate Lance Nissen, was a bright spot for the home squad, with six punts covering 278 yards for a 46.3-yard average. Nissen, a junior, boomed kicks of 65, 58 and 52 yards.
Fort Dodge now shifts its attention to district action beginning with Southeast Polk on Friday inside Dodger Stadium. The Rams routed Des Moines East last night for their third consecutive victory, 42-0.
Since a 31-20 season-opening loss to No. 1 West Des Moines Valley, Southeast Polk has beaten Waukee (38-35), Iowa City West (23-21) and the Scarlets.
FDSH’s only other 4-0 starts in the last 73 years were in 1978 (5-0), 2005 (5-0), 1984 (6-0), and 2015 (7-0). The Dodgers have four or more victories in six consecutive years for the first time since 1929-34.
“We struggled with continuity in practice this week, with injuries and kids being sick,” Miller said. “I think it kind of showed (Friday). We had a lot of guys sit out on different days.
“It’s good to be able to work through all of this at 4-0, though. Our district has been impressive, with five of the six (teams at either 3-1 or 4-0 so far). It’s an exciting opportunity for our program.”
First Downs 12 14
Rushes-Yards 26-114 47-138
Passing Yards 214 43
Comp-Att-Int 13-22-1 7-14-3
Total Offense 328 181
Punts-Avg. 5-27.0 6-46.3
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 3-1
Penalties-Yards 8-74 5-40
Fort Dodge 8 14 14 0–36
Carroll 7 3 0 0–10
Fort Dodge — Sam Daniel (18-yard interception return), 8:11 left first quarter. Brycen Bell run.
Carroll — Korey Nieland (4-yard run), 1:57 left first. Elijah Lee kick.
Fort Dodge — Tyler Schreier (13-yard pass from Asle Thorson), 10:00 left second. Gavin Schillerstrom kick.
Fort Dodge — Tysen Kershaw (87-yard pass from Thorson), 4:07 left second. Schillerstrom kick.
Carroll — Lee (36-yard field goal), 0:19 left second.
Fort Dodge — Brycen Bell (28-yard interception return), 3:02 left third. Schillerstrom kick.
Fort Dodge — Tyler Nichols (26-yard interception return), 1:19 left third. Schillerstrom kick.
RUSHING — Fort Dodge: Dayson Clayton 15-104, Asle Thorson 9-6, Jon Presswood 2-4. Carroll: Korey Nieland 18-106, Ryan Johnston 12-32, Colby Vincent 6-15, Luke Woosley 5-7, Cade Schable 1-4, Caden Kock 1-4, Kelin Jones 3-(minus-14), Team 1-(minus-16).
PASSING — Fort Dodge: Asle Thorson 13-22-1-214. Carroll: Colby Vincent 7-14-3-43, Kelin Jones 0-0-0-0.
RECEIVING — Fort Dodge: Tysen Kershaw 6-179, Tyler Schreier 3-28, Russell Potratz 3-7, Dayson Clayton 1-0). Carroll: Luke Woosley 1-7, Ryan Johnston 4-15, Tory Feldman 2-11.