Fort Dodge travels to meet Storm Lake
STORM LAKE — Four weeks ago, the Fort Dodge football team desperately fought back from a season-opening loss to avoid an 0-2 start to their season.
The Dodgers will attempt to repeat that feat on Friday night and avoid a much more critical 0-2 hole.
Head coach Nik Moser’s squad heads to Storm Lake for a matchup with the much-improved Tornadoes. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Fort Dodge (2-3 overall, 0-1 in Class 4A, District 1) was edged by Denison-Schleswig in an anticlimactic Homecoming contest last week, 15-12. The loss forced the Dodgers into district desperation mode, given consecutive setbacks would be nearly impossible to recover from in the postseason chase.
“Our kids understand we can’t afford any more hiccups from here on out,” Moser said. “Our backs are against the wall. We only have four games left, so we have to play with a heightened sense of urgency now.
“This is a big week. We can’t erase what happened (last Friday) and we can’t get it all back at once. Just take it one game at a time the rest of the way and see what happens.”
Storm Lake (3-2, 1-0) has already earned as many victories this year as it did in the previous three seasons combined. The Tornadoes had dropped 19 consecutive decisions heading into 2023, but they’ve defeated Saydel, Perry and Sioux City West thus far.
“They’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Moser said of Storm Lake. “You can see it on film. (New head) Coach (Drake) Curry has them believing. It’s been a while since they’ve gone into Week 6 with a 3-2 record, so it’s a real credit to both their kids and coaches that they’ve turned things around.”
The biggest change in the Tornadoes’ approach has been offensively. In a rare and unusual position change, Carson Lullmann – last year, a 235-pound right tackle wearing No. 62 – is now Storm Lake’s starting quarterback.
The move has paid huge dividends under Curry’s revamped system. Lullmann has thrown for 1,354 yards and 18 touchdowns while completing 63 percent of his attempts. He is the 4A leader in TD passes, and ranks second in yards through the air.
“He’s impressive,” Moser said. “He’s about 6-2 (tall) and just very tough to contain. You can tell he put a ton of time in with his receivers this summer to get to this point.
“You obviously don’t see an offensive lineman move to quarterback very often, but he’s done so with a lot of success and the team has really bought in.”
A pair of sophomores – Cameron Boyd and Rylan Richardson – have been Lullmann’s main targets. Boyd has 36 catches for 614 yards; Richardson, 29 for 320. Both have caught five touchdown passes.
Storm Lake opened its district slate with a 28-19 road victory over West last Thursday.
The Dodgers are facing some adversity on the injury front as well. Senior co-captain Grant Williams – a two-way starter at receiver and cornerback – is out indefinitely with an injured elbow. Senior Ty Adams, another captain, suffered a broken bone in his hand. He will continue to play, but is wearing a protective cast.
“Grant suffered a fluky injury – just a tough break, and it’s a big loss for us,” Moser said. “We’re hoping to get him back at some point…if it’s possible, he’ll be out there again.
“Ty’s good to go. We’re making it work. We’ll just need (sophomores) like Dalton Eckley and Taevon Feely ready. It’s just like other teams with injury situations at all levels – next man up.”
Moser is pleased with the way his squad responded to last week’s disappointment.
“We’ve had a good week of practice,” Moser said. “The kids have bounced back and gotten into a normal routine again. We’re ready to go.”