Champs take down Dodgers
Quick start fuels No. 4 Dowling vs. FDSH
WEST DES MOINES — The Fort Dodge football team is battered and bruised from the back end of its demanding schedule, but head coach Nik Moser hopes two full weeks of rest and practice will help the Dodgers catch a second wind in time for the Class 4A playoffs.
Seven-time defending state champion West Des Moines Dowling planted a 49-14 jab on FDSH’s kisser at Valley Stadium on Thursday, handing the Dodgers their third consecutive loss to end the regular season. The fourth-ranked Maroons (5-1 overall) were the third Top-5 opponent Moser’s squad has faced in 2020.
All four programs Fort Dodge (3-4) has come up short against currently reside in 4A’s Top-10: No. 2 Ankeny (5-1), third-ranked Urbandale (6-0), 10th-rated Sioux City East (5-1) and No. 4 Dowling, with a combined record of 21-3.
“We’re still standing, but we’ve got to get healed up and rally the troops,” Moser said. “The schedule didn’t do us any favors, which we knew was tough coming in but only got tougher. We lost Des Moines North and Mason City, and picked up Marshalltown and Sioux City East a second time. When you combine that with Ankeny, Urbandale and Dowling…it’s been challenging to say the least to stay healthy physically. We’re banged up. It’s taken its toll.
“I still think we’re a good football team. There are a cluster of solid programs out there, like Johnston, (West Des Moines) Valley and (Ankeny) Centennial, who are in a similar boat (record-wise) because they’ve gone through a gauntlet as well. Now it’s going to be up to us to get back on track.”
The Dodgers were again short-handed on Thursday, playing without star tailback Dayson Clayton and three key defensive starters. The Maroons methodically opened up a 35-0 halftime advantage and never looked back, even after Fort Dodge finally cracked the scoring ice with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns.
Moser’s team turned the ball over five more times, with a pair of fumbles and three interceptions. After committing only four turnovers in starting 3-1, the Dodgers have coughed the ball up 15 times total during their current three-game losing streak.
“We were able to get into their territory (on three separate occasions) in the first half, but made more avoidable mistakes,” Moser said. “Between the turnovers and the penalties (eight in the first half alone), it’s the kind of inconsistency that will turn what could be a competitive game lopsided in a hurry.”
Dowling marched 55, 60 and 73 yards for TDs on its opening three possessions in the first quarter. The Maroons didn’t do anything particularly flashy, racking up 18 first downs and 272 yards of offense – including 199 through the air – in building a dominant first-half edge.
“It’s just a typical, physical Dowling football team,” Moser said. “Hat’s off to them. They play fast and are fundamentally sound. We couldn’t get anything going on the ground, and their quarterbacks did a nice job of keeping our defense honest.”
Maroon senior Jake Steingreaber was 10 of 15 for 151 yards and three touchdowns, while his sophomore sidekick, Jaxon Smolik, went 6-for-8 and had 98 yards with a TD of his own in the first half alone.
Dowling didn’t do much damage on the ground – just 121 yards on 38 carries – but its 253 passing yards balanced out the attack and then some.
Sophomore Connor Carver threw for 143 yards and a pair of scores in the second half for FDSH, hitting Javion Jondle (48 yards) and Tyler Schreier (54) for touchdowns in the third period. Schreier (117 receiving yards) and Jondle (73) were Carver’s favorite targets.
Junior Bradley Vodraska added a season-high six catches for 50 yards. Carver and junior Carson Peterson combined for 223 yards through the air. Fort Dodge had only 39 net rushing yards, however.
Senior defensive back D’Arien Calahan intercepted a pass for the Dodgers, but the team was still a minus-four in the turnover department.
Junior Jake Erickson returned a kickoff 45 yards in the first half.
Fort Dodge will almost assuredly receive a first-round postseason bye next Friday, meaning its playoff opener will likely be Oct. 23.
“We challenged the kids at halftime to keep fighting, and they did,” Moser said. “There’s still something left in the tank here if they want it. I thought we played hard in the second half especially, but you have to give Dowling credit for taking us out of it early.
“We just have to stick together and keep working our way back between now and (the postseason, which will include every program in 2020 due to the changes from COVID-19).”
First Downs 11 23
Rushes-Yards 24-39 38-121
Passing 15-34-3 17-28-1
Passing Yards 240 253
Total Offense 279 374
Punts-Avg. 3-34.0 4-44.5
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 0-0
Penalties-Yards 11-60 4-60
Fort Dodge 0 0 14 0 — 14
Dowling 21 14 0 14– 49
Dowling — Khameron Middleton (1-yard run), 9:27 left first quarter. Diego Leon kick.
Dowling — Zach Schwager (3-yard run), 5:38 left first. Leon kick.
Dowling — Andrew Lentsch (41-yard pass from Jaxon Smolik), 0:35 left first. Leon kick.
Dowling — Mack Anderson (18-yard pass from Jake Steingreaber), 3:24 left second. Leon kick.
Dowling — Schwager (3-yard run), 0:20 left second. Leon kick.
Fort Dodge — Javion Jondle (48-yard pass from Connor Carver), 3:12 left third. Tyler Schreier run.
Fort Dodge — Schreier (54-yard pass from Carver), 1:38 left third. Pass failed.
Dowling — Louis Brooks (6-yard pass from Steingreaber), 10:09 left fourth. John Koll kick.
Dowling — Keegan Bekish (4-yard run), 1:55 left fourth. David Roberts kick.
Rushing — Fort Dodge: Jon Presswood 13-23, Taden Hooper 2-12, Carson Peterson 8-5, Connor Carver 1-(minus-1). Dowling: Khameron Middleton 15-50, Keegan Bekish 9-34, Blake Anderson 3-22, Zach Schhwager 6-16, Ben Faber 1-2, Louis Brooks 1-0, Jaxon Smolik 1-0, Adam Townsend 2-(minus-3).
Passing — Fort Dodge: Connor Carver 7-16-1-143, Carson Peterson 7-17-2-80, Bradley Vodraska 1-1-0-17. Dowling: Jake Steingreaber 10-15-1-151, Jaxon Smolik 6-8-0-98, Jake English 1-5-0-2.
Receiving — Fort Dodge: Tyler Schreier 5-117, Javion Jondle 4-73, Bradley Vodraska 6-50. Dowling: Koah Thompson 4-85, Andrew Lentsch 3-66, Louis Brooks 7-62, Mack Anderson 3-38.