Dodgers open at Urbandale

URBANDALE – The element of surprise should be on Fort Dodge’s side here Friday as the Dodgers open the 2013 football campaign against Urbandale.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

While the J-Hawks are a consensus Top-10 preseason pick in Class 4A with a nationally-ranked Div. I recruit lining up on both sides of the ball, they aren’t quite sure what to expect from FDSH tonight.

Frankly, Dodger head coach Matt Miller isn’t either.

”We’re diving head-first into this adventure,” Miller said of his team’s revamped offense. ”It’s going to take some patience. We’re going to make some mistakes. I’m really curious to see how this develops, though, and I think it will be fun to watch as the season progresses.

”This is quite the first test for us – we are well aware of that. Urbandale should be outstanding this year, and let’s face it: (J-Hawk senior) Allen Lazard is probably the best overall athlete this state has to offer. So we’re in for a stern challenge.”

Fort Dodge is planning on keeping the pedal to the metal offensively with an up-tempo, pass-heavy approach centered around Andrew Stover. The quarterback threw for a junior program-record 2,004 yards last fall, and despite the fact that the vast majority of his receiving corps graduated, Miller is expecting another productive season from Stover and returning offensive linemen Jake Porter, Marquan Clayton and Carlos Rocha.

”We need to make sure we make the routine plays and execute the simple things without any unforced errors,” Miller said. ”That’s going to be the biggest step early: can we make the short throw? The easy catch? Can we avoid procedure and holding penalties? I think the potential is there for Andrew and this offense to really flourish, but it’s still a pretty rough draft until we get some game time under our belt.”

Senior split end Zach Anderson and junior fullback Austin Halligan join Stover, Porter, Clayton and Rocha in the group of players back with regular varsity experience.

Six starters also return on the defensive side of the ball for the Dodgers: seniors Riley Prescott (LB) and Brandon Archibald (LB), junior Skyler Harris (DE), sophomore Sam Cook (LB), Halligan (LB) and Rocha (DE).

Lazard has verbally committed to Iowa State, but the four-star Rivals recruit is still drawing interest from the likes of Notre Dame, Nebraska and Stanford. The 6-foot-5, 204-pound standout will be a receiver, defensive back, punter, punt returner and kick returner for the J-Hawks, who went 7-3 a year ago and welcome 15 starters back to the lineup in 2013.

Lazard is already a two-time all-state elite team defensive back and a Top-50 national prospect according to Rivals.

Quarterback Logan Augustine (1,548 yards passing, 583 yards rushing, 24 total touchdowns) and tailback Toren Stewart (534 yards, 8.8 yards per carry) flank Lazard (40 catches, 928 yards, 11 TD) in Urbandale’s returning stable of offensive weapons.

The J-Hawks’ experience concerns Miller, and so does the weather. The temperature is expected to still be above 90 degrees when the game gets under way, with a heat index hovering in the 95-100 degree range.

”(The forecast) isn’t exactly ideal for our gameplan, both in the pace we want to set and our lack of depth,” Miller said. ”But it is what it is. We’ll adjust accordingly as much as we can, but we have four guys starting both ways (Rocha, Prescott, Cook, Halligan) so we’ll just have to be very alert to the situation and get our guys as many breathers as possible.”

Urbandale pulled away to win last year’s matchup inside Dodger Stadium, 42-14. The J-Hawks led just 7-6 at halftime.