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Dodgers back on the road at Marshalltown

-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Javion Jondle

MARSHALLTOWN — As is the case with current series trends against their main rivals, the Fort Dodge football team has enjoyed an impressive stretch of recent success versus Marshalltown.

It hasn’t come easy, though.

The No. 7 (Class 4A) Dodgers head back to Leonard Cole Field for a second consecutive season on the school’s Homecoming night Friday, taking on the Bobcats. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Head coach Nik Moser’s squad is 3-0 overall, and FDSH has taken seven of its last eight decisions from Marshalltown (1-2). The Dodgers escaped by the skin of their teeth in both 2019 and last season, though, prevailing 21-17 and 35-28.

“(The Bobcats) always play us tough,” Moser said. “It’s been a close series for as long as I can remember (26-26-1 all-time), and this is a tough place to play. Marshalltown has pushed us and played us tougher than Mason City or Ames (over the last 10-15 years).

“We need to be ready to go from the start. We weren’t when we went down there (last fall; Fort Dodge had to rally from a 14-0 deficit), and we weren’t last week. It’s on us as coaches to have them physically and mentally prepared.”

The Dodgers shook off an avalanche of penalties to pull away from Waterloo East last Friday, 36-6. Marshalltown, meanwhile, dropped a 42-7 decision to unbeaten Newton.

The Bobcats were edged by Ames in their season opener, and they defeated East by a final of 33-14.

“They’re a program that will want to establish the run (offensively) and stop the run (on defense),” Moser said. “They’re solid up front and have two good running backs in (Malachi) Holmes and (Dominick) Garth (who have a combined 60 carries for 285 yards and four touchdowns).

“(Gannon) Williams is a tough football player, too. We’ll see him at tight end and on defense. And (Nick) Rebik is very active on defense.”

Marshalltown trailed 13-7 at halftime at Newton before things fell apart.

Fort Dodge went with its passing attack to defeat the Trojans, as junior Connor Carver threw for 371 yards — the fifth best single-game output in program history — and four touchdowns. Senior Bradley Vodraska and junior Javion Jondle combined for 16 catches and 259 yards.

“We did some things well,” Moser said. “Connor played his best game yet; he’s showing growth every week. We protected well in the passing game. Bradley, Javion and Carson (Peterson) all took turns and had big catches.

“We didn’t run the ball particularly well, so that’s something we need to re-establish. We have to get Jon Jon (Presswood) going and balance things out.”

The Dodger defense, which has helped establish the team’s plus-four turnover margin to date, limited East to a single score.

“We’re getting there defensively,” Moser said. “Creating the five turnovers was great, but we need to be better and more consistent tacklers.

“No one’s reading their own press clippings (on being ranked and undefeated). We’re not worried about any of that. Our focus has to be on Marshalltown and nothing else, and the fact that we’ve got a lot of improving to do if we want to reach our goals (in late-October). We know there are tougher challenges than what we’ve seen (through the first three weeks), so we have to keep progressing and evolving. It all starts (tonight).”

Fort Dodge and Marshalltown played every season from 1967 through 1990. After a one-year hiatus, when the Bobcats first left for the CIML in 1991, the programs resumed their rivalry and have squared off again annually ever since.

The Dodgers are attempting to start a campaign 4-0 for just the fourth time since 1984. The 2005 (5-0), 2015 (7-0) and 2019 (4-0) Dodgers were able to complete the first month of their respective seasons unbeaten.

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