URBANDALE — For the second time in three weeks, the Fort Dodge football team faces a legitimate state championship contender as the Dodgers head to second-ranked (Class 4A) Urbandale on Friday.
Kickoff at Frerichs Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. This is the J-Hawks’ Homecoming contest.
Fourteen days after squaring off with now-No. 4 Ankeny, head coach Nik Moser’s squad tackles another opponent loaded with elite talent. Urbandale (4-0) is anchored by a pair of University of Iowa defensive recruits — four-start end Max Llewellyn and three-star linebacker Jaden Harrell — and a productive offense that is averaging nearly 40 points per game.
“They’re just a good, tough football team,” Moser said of the J-Hawks. “Well-coached as always. (Head coach) Sam Anderson always does a terrific job of having them ready and physical. It all starts with Llewellyn and Harrell on defense, but there’s plenty of talent on both sides of the ball.
“Like Ankeny, they were a preseason Top-5 team for a reason.”
Urbandale, a state quarterfinalist in 2019, has already secured a winning campaign for the 10th consecutive season. Senior Tucker Langenberg has rushed for 721 yards at nearly 10 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Peyton Rottinghaus has thrown for 515 yards and six scores without an interception.
“Langenberg is a really good football player,” Moser said. “Both sides of the ball. Like Llewellyn and Harrell, he definitely fits the mold.
“Rottinghaus has done a solid job of managing the offense and not making mistakes despite being just a sophomore.”
Harrell (282 rushing yards) is also a tailback, and Llewellyn (260 receiving yards) lines up at tight end.
Harrell and senior Caleb Hoyt are the squad’s leading tacklers. Hoyt has also recorded four sacks.
The Dodgers (3-1) staged a spirited second-half rally at Marshalltown last Friday, wiping out a 14-0 deficit with five touchdowns in the game’s final 24 minutes to win, 35-28. Moser knows his squad won’t be able to get away with a similar slow start on the road this week.
“We talked about that multiple times on Friday, and again on Sunday during the film session,” Moser said. “We have to be ready to go just in general, but especially given who we’re facing. We can’t afford to decide to show up halfway through the game. It’s on myself and the coaching staff to have us physically and mentally prepared from the first snap on.
“This doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything, but I feel like we’ve had a much better week of practice than (before the Marshalltown trip).”
Fort Dodge will be without senior co-captain Sawyer Springer, who has an injured shoulder. Junior Jonny Astor will start in his place.
“We’re obviously going to miss Sawyer. He’s been through so much the last two years, with injuries and everything else,” Moser said. “Hopefully we’ll have him back soon, because he is one of our leaders. But he’ll do whatever it takes to be there for the team from the sidelines.”
With Marshalltown bottling up the Dodgers’ run attack last week, junior quarterback Carson Peterson and the passing attack emerged. Peterson completed 22 of 28 passes for 239 yards and four touchdowns, with junior Tyler Schreier (14 catches, 116 yards, two TDs) and sophomore Javion Jondle (4-66-2) having breakout performances on receiving end.
“We’re going to have to be balanced, because this Urbandale defense is relentless and really has no weaknesses,” Moser said. “We’ll need to be able to consistently move the ball as much as possible, but teams have struggled to put sustained drives together against them. So we’ll have to hit some home runs, so to speak, and execute some big plays.”
The J-Hawks have defeated Johnston (50-34), Ames (40-13), Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln (36-0) and Indianola (28-27) in consecutive fashion to start the year.