Dodgers head to Webster City for area clash
No. 4 Fort Dodge faces Lynx for first time since 1965
WEBSTER CITY — Fort Dodge has an undefeated record, a rare Top-5 ranking in Class 4A, and the opportunity to start 5-0 for just the fifth time since World War II.
In the eyes of head coach Nik Moser, though, the road to the District 1 championship still goes directly through Webster City.
That’s where the Dodgers are headed on Friday night, as Moser’s squad will visit Lynx Field for a relatively historic modern-day matchup of area schools on the gridiron. Not only are the programs resurrecting a series which has sat dormant for 56 years, but Fort Dodge is facing its first Messengerland opponent of any kind since last squaring off with Humboldt in 1969.
A shift at the top of Iowa’s largest high school class this past offseason left the Dodgers in 4A and bumped Webster City up and into both the same category and district as FDSH. With the addition of a 5A class to the landscape, Fort Dodge went from one of the 10 smallest 4A programs to the fourth biggest. WCHS, meanwhile, ranks 30th out of 36 in 4A enrollment.
That doesn’t mean anything to Moser, and won’t matter at all when the Dodgers try to corral a Webster City program that is 52-15 since 2015.
“They are the team to beat in the district,” Moser said. “I made that statement back in the preseason, and I stand by it today. Until one of us knocks them off, they deserve that title. They’re the only program among the six of us (in District 1) to win one last year, and they have a lot of key components back from that ballclub.
“This is a really exciting opportunity for us. Playing an area school for the first time in over 50 years, knowing it’s an important piece to the (district race) and how good Webster City is…I would say it ranks as one of the bigger regular-season games we’ve had in quite some time. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Fort Dodge kept its unbeaten mark intact at 4-0 by closing the pre-district portion of its schedule with a narrow 22-21 victory at Marshalltown last week. The Lynx, meanwhile, evened their record at 2-2 by blasting Mason City, 36-3.
Webster City’s only losses thus far have been to opponents ranked in the Top-5 at the time: Humboldt (3A) and Waverly-Shell Rock (4A).
“They’re a tough, physical bunch — typical Bob Howard team,” Moser said, giving a nod of respect to the legendary head coach. “The track record speaks for itself. Bob Howard has been around for a long time (45th season as a head coach). He’s a Hall of Famer with multiple state championships on his resume, and he’s done it the right way.
“It’s the kind of coach and program you look to as a successful barometer.”
Howard, a native of Madrid, took the Webster City job in 2007 after a legendary 27-year stint at Sigourney-Keota. He won 229 games and three state titles at S-K.
Howard is 101-51 with the Lynx. Adding the 22 victories from early in his career at Scranton, Howard’s 352 career wins are sixth in Iowa high school history.
Webster City and its vaunted single-wing offense blends deception with decisiveness. The Lynx aren’t flashy, looking to wear opponents down in the trenches.
They did just that to the Mohawks last Friday, grinding out 295 of their 330 total yards on the ground. Wingback CJ Hisler finished with 99 yards rushing, followed by spinback Ty McKinney (69 yards), tailback Connor Hanson (64) and tailback Jaxon Cherry (63).
The Webster City defense, meanwhile, surrendered only 151 yards to Mason City — just 23 on the ground — while recording five sacks.
“We’ll have to take what the defense gives us,” Moser said. “Fortunately, we’ve been relatively balanced so far this year. We have options. And I’m sure we’ll have to make some adjustments.
“Defensively, this is going to be a test. It’s smashmouth football.”
Howard shared similar sentiments — and compliments — when it came to the Dodgers.
“This is a huge challenge and (the players) know what the deal is. We shouldn’t have to rely on fire-up speeches,” Howard said. “They certainly should be the favorites and they’re essentially twice as big as we are. We’re 2-2, so we ought to be the underdog every week. Plus, they’ve got a lot of nice skill kids and a lot of one-way players.”
The Lynx see plenty of layers to Fort Dodge’s attack. Senior Jon Presswood has rushed for 540 yards and five touchdowns, with junior quarterback Connor Carver throwing for 798 yards and completing over 62 percent of his passes.
“The bigger scare for me is Presswood, who carried the ball 37 times against Marshalltown (for 189 yards last week). So we need to be able to stop the run first,” Howard said. “(Junior Javion) Jondle (23 catches, 288 yards) is a very good receiver on the outside, but our first challenge is limiting their running game.”
Hisler, a junior, has 339 yards on just 43 carries. Cherry, just a sophomore, leads Webster City with four rushing touchdowns. He’s rushed 36 times for 192 yards.
Junior quarterback Ty McKinney has 250 yards passing and 160 rushing. He’s thrown four TD passes, and has yet to be intercepted.
Senior Devon Stokes is the Lynx’s leading tackler. Sophomore Keegan Hisler has 4.5 sacks.
Fort Dodge, which currently has its highest ranking since 1984, leads the all-time series, 19-2-1. Webster City took the last meeting in 1965 by a 21-6 final at Dodger Stadium.
All but three games between the programs came before 1934.
Dodger caravan to Webster City planned
The Fort Dodge football program is planning a caravan to Webster City for the game on Friday night.
The team will leave Dodger Stadium at 5:20 p.m. All families, friends and fans are encouraged to join and follow the squad to Lynx Field.
“The kids are really excited about this idea,” FDSH head coach Nik Moser said. “I’d love to see thousands of Dodgers make the trip. It’s only 25 miles. We timed it: 28 minutes and 30 seconds.
“This is kind of a sleeping giant of a rivalry. I think it’s great. Fort Dodge hasn’t played a road game this close in over 50 years. I hope as many people as possible will take advantage.”
Please be at the Stadium prior to 5:20 p.m. in order to get in line. The buses, vans and cheerleaders will lead the way to Webster City High School.
Kickoff between the No. 4 Dodgers (4-0) and Lynx (2-2) is set for 7 p.m. Fort Dodge and Webster City are squaring off in football for the first time since 1965.