At a crossroads

With his team suddenly finding itself on shaky mental ground, Fort Dodge head coach Matt Miller wanted his players to take one important point away from Friday night’s 44-7 loss to Sioux City East.

”A house divided won’t stand for long,” Miller said. ”We’re in this together, and we have to fix it together. If that doesn’t happen – if the team starts pointing fingers, turning on each other, playing the blame game – we’re in deep trouble. So we need to make sure that, right now, we all accept responsibility for these first two weeks. Across the board. And that starts with me.

”I said, ‘fellas, do you believe in your own character more than what others say and think outside of our locker room?’ Because if you want to be successful, you have to trust yourself and each other above all else. The minute you start to let outside influences affect your attitude and steer you in different directions, the problems multiply. Our issues now are still physical and correctable. We have to make sure it stays that way.”

For the second consecutive week, the Dodgers (0-2 overall) had no answers for the speed and overall talent of their opponent. The Black Raiders (1-1) accumulated 269 of their 349 rushing yards in the first half in building a decisive 34-0 advantage heading into the intermission.

Fort Dodge moved the ball effectively on the ground themselves – sophomore Sam Cook had 135 yards for the second straight week – but senior quarterback Andrew Stover and the Dodger passing attack struggled to off-set East’s pressure defense.

”They got after us, which was no surprise,” Miller said. ”We’ve played two very good ballclubs so far. There’s no question about that. But that’s not an excuse for the bad habits and fundamental breakdowns we’re experiencing. We have to clean it up no matter who we’re lining up with (the rest of the season).

”It’s my job to make sure we get better from here. Better execution, better effort, better attitude. It has to change. It will change.”

Junior Austin Halligan and senior Cory Alexander recovered fumbles for the Dodgers, who had five different drives stall in East territory before they finally broke the scoring ice on an 18-yard pass from Stover to junior Spencer Barber with 8:25 left in regulation.

Cook had 85 of his yards on 16 carries in the first half, giving him 189 total first-half rushing yards against the starting defenses of Urbandale and East.

”If we had a highlight, it was definitely Sam Cook,” Miller said. ”He’s showing the kind of aggressiveness that we’re missing as a whole right now.

”Sam was working his tail off. We need more of that from somebody. If it’s a bunch of sophomores, so be it. We’ll put our nose to the grindstone and see what we come up with between now and (Friday at) Marshalltown. We don’t need to panic and we don’t need to hang our heads. We just need to regroup as a family.”

Senior quarterback Greg Kirwan and speedy classmate Ronald Carter both had 114 rushing yards for the Black Raiders, who went 8-3 a year ago and lost 27-22 to top-ranked (Class 3A) Sioux City Heelan last week. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Kirwan scored three times on keepers.

Junior Alex Stueve added 86 yards on just three carries with a TD. Carter also hit paydirt early on.

Fort Dodge now has consecutive contests against the winless Bobcats and winless Mason City coming up. Marshalltown lost 62-6 to Waukee last night; Mason City was defeated by Waverly-Shell Rock, 21-9.


Rushing – Fort Dodge: Sam Cook 25-135, Andrew Stover 11-50, Brian Murman 1-(minus-4), Team 1-(minus-20). SC East: Ronald Carter 14-113, Greg Kirwan 14-113, Alex Stueve 3-86, Cole Schoenfeld 12-31, J.J. Stephens 2-6, Team 1-(minus-9).

Passing – Fort Dodge: Andrew Stover 9-27-2-85. SC East: Greg Kirwan 8-13-0-98, J.J. Stephens 0-0-0-0.

Receiving – Fort Dodge: Spencer Barber 4-54, Zach Anderson 2-16, Sam Cook 3-15. SC East: Austin Ahrendt 7-91, Grayson Brower 1-7.