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No. 8 Dodgers head to Ames

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Austin Lee of Fort Dodge tackles Mason City Chris Keller last week inside Dodger Stadium.

AMES — Fort Dodge and Ames have combined to score 190 points in their last two meetings on the gridiron, with 114 of the points and both victories going to the Dodgers.

Eighth-ranked (Class 4A) Fort Dodge has the pieces in place to put huge dents in the scoreboard this season, and the Dodgers are hoping to do so again on Friday in a non-district contest on the road against the Little Cyclones.

But head coach Matt Miller spent most of his pregame talk touting an FDSH defense that pitched a shutout in last week’s lopsided season-opening win over Mason City.

“In watching the film, I can’t say enough about our linebackers especially. They set the tone and just kind of took over the game,” Miller said. “We obviously want to continue to move forward in terms of consistency on offense, but if we establish ourselves up front and in the middle with our physicality on defense…that should just balance us out even more.”

Fort Dodge and Ames meet for the 66th time in a series that actually dates back over 100 years. The momentum in the matchup has shifted dramatically in recent seasons, with the Dodgers taking three in a row and six of eight from the Little Cyclones since 2009.

Ames previously owned a 14-game win streak from 1995-2008.

Like last week’s message for the Mohawks, Miller all but dismissed the current run of success as “virtually irrelevant.”

“Different teams, different situations. Those games are in the past,” Miller said. “These kids know each other well, just like (with Mason City). They compete in everything, and have since middle school. They had the upper-hand on us for a long, long time, but we’ve been fortunate enough to find some success against them lately.

“It’s our first road test, so we’ll have to be sharp right out of the gate. And special teams always play a huge factor when you’re trying to steal one on the road.”

The Little Cyclones were silenced last Friday by defending 4A state runner-up Cedar Falls, 39-3. Miller knows Ames will be out to shift the momentum back in its home debut.

“They’ll be hungry,” Miller said. “(Cooper) Downs is a solid quarterback who is a returning starter, and they have some athletes who make things happen in space in (Gabe) Ante and (Jonah) Strawhacker. They also have a few guys back up front, and their tight ends are big.

“Cedar Falls is going to do that to a lot of teams. I’m not going to read too much into that (result).”

A year ago, the Dodgers defeated the Little Cyclones, 52-24. Senior quarterback Drake Miller threw for 481 yards, and Tysen Kershaw — who is back this season — had 274 yards receiving. Both were school records.

In three career starts against Ames, Miller was 85 of 117 passing for 1,265 yards and 15 touchdowns as FDSH went 3-0.

“We had a great week of practice; we were physically and mentally sharp,” Coach Miller said. “Again, it’s a new team and a new year. We need to stay hungry and continue to prove ourselves, and so far, our guys have really embraced that concept.

“We have a lot of deep threats, but we still have to prove we can sustain drives and get those consistent 5, 6, 7 yard chunks without turning the ball over. They’ll do some things in the flat; our defense needs to concentrate on trying to get pressure up front and keep their (receivers) contained to shorter yardage instead of home-run plays.This will be a test for our defensive backs especially. Every (Friday), our opponents are going to be more physical than they were the week before.”