Dodgers look for new life in 4A state playoffs
Fort Dodge visits Waterloo West in matchup with old Big 8 rivals
WATERLOO — A rejuvenated Fort Dodge football team looks to extend its season here on Friday, as the Dodgers face Waterloo West in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
Kickoff at Memorial Stadium on the West High campus is set for 7 p.m.
Hardened by a schedule that included losses to four Top-10 opponents with a combined regular-season record of 23-4, head coach Nik Moser’s squad has worked to regain the momentum it had built from a 3-1 start to the year. The Wahawks (3-4) are in the same boat, also saddled with a three-game losing streak but showing a renewed sense of optimism as the postseason gets under way.
“We’re looking forward to wiping the slate clean and getting back on track, and I’m sure they’re thinking the same,” Moser said. “We needed to spend some time healing up physically, but also, taking a look at what’s worked for us (on the field) and what hasn’t. We spent last week simplifying our approach — getting back to competing, and having fun doing so.
“It was nice to readjust and focus on the basics. We gave the kids a few days off, and the staff, too. That’s rare at this time of year, but having the Thursday (finale at seven-time defending state champion West Des Moines Dowling) allowed us a little more flexibility. Once this week rolled around, we really got back to work in focusing on and preparing for this specific game.”
Fort Dodge is expected to be near full-strength for the first time since Week 3. Senior tailback Dayson Clayton is “close to 100 percent,” according to Moser, and both senior linebacker Dylan Zimmermann and senior defensive lineman Reco Jolly are returning as well.
“Dayson is rested and ready to go,” Moser said. “Getting Dylan back from a broken ankle wasn’t anticipated, but time has allowed for it to happen. We need all the depth we can get, so it’s great to see what amounts to a full lineup on the field. It feels like we’re in the same shape as August for the most part.”
Clayton rushed for 679 yards and nine touchdowns during the first two weeks of the season, but has just 222 yards and zero scores since. He injured his ankle on Sept. 18 at Marshalltown, and has been limited over the last month while recovering.
West defeated Waterloo East, Anamosa and Cedar Rapids Jefferson, with losses to Cedar Falls (4-2), Dubuque Senior (4-3), Cedar Rapids Kennedy (2-3) and sixth-ranked Dubuque Hempstead (6-1).
“Offensively, they remind me a lot of Sioux City East,” Moser said. “They have a solid quarterback, a quicker back and a bigger back they use interchangeably, and some playmakers on the outside. On defense, they have some active linebackers and good athletes in the secondary.
“It’s a really well-coached team. Lonnie Moore does a terrific job with them.”
Senior Carter Schulte has thrown for 1,516 yards and 12 touchdowns. Classmate Tay Norman has 41 receptions for 640 yards and four scores, while senior Nate Ewell has 19 catches for 366 yards and four TDs as well.
Ewell is also the Wahawks’ leader in tackles and tackles for loss as a linebacker.
Norman and FDSH senior Tyler Schreier are tied for the 4A state lead in receiving yards. Schreier is first in receptions, while Norman ranks third.
Dodger senior safety Sam Daniel continues to top all of Iowa with his seven interceptions on defense.
Fort Dodge and West are old conference rivals, with a series that technically dates back to 1912. The Dodgers and Wahawks squared off every season from 1925 until the Big 8 disbanded in 1991.
West holds a 36-34-4 all-time edge. The Dodgers defeated the Wahawks in their last meeting, 47-7 in 2015.