Decker Sporting Goods trophy on the line

By now, every Dodger and Mohawk knows all about ”the streak.”

Fort Dodge and Mason City have met 98 times on the prep gridiron since 1912. The series has always been balanced and competitive, with plenty of close games and no true sign of long-term superiority or dominance by one program over the other.

Then the Decker Sporting Goods Trophy became a part of the rivalry. For whatever reason, from that point in 2005 until today, the balance of power has shifted in the Dodgers’ favor – and stayed there.

Head coach Matt Miller’s squad will try to extend their stranglehold to 10 full seasons and keep the DSG hardware in the only home it’s ever known here tonight as Fort Dodge welcomes the Mohawks to Dodger Stadium for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

While Miller is proud of his program’s recent success against Mason City, he knows that track record will mean absolutely nothing when the game begins on Friday.

”What’s past is past – what’s done is done,” said Miller, who has never lost to the Mohawks in nine tries at the helm. ”We emphasize that to our kids every year. A win in 2004, or 2007, or even last year won’t guarantee us anything (tonight).

”We have to be as ready physically and mentally as ever. That I know for sure. Because despite their record (0-3), I think Mason City has a lot of talent and is as good as they’ve been in quite some time.”

Fort Dodge (1-2) earned its first victory of the season last week at Marshalltown, 27-13. The Dodgers controlled the Bobcats from start to finish, accumulating 205 rushing yards and 171 more through the air while surrendering only 117 total yards defensively.

The Mohawks’ losses have come to No. 9 (Class 4A) Waukee (2-1), sixth-ranked (3A) Clear Lake (3-0), and Waverly-Shell Rock (2-1).

”They’re five-wide from the get-go,” Miller said of Mason City’s spread attack. They like to put the ball up let their receivers make plays, and they have some really good ones led by (sophomore Wyatt) Cooper.”

Mason City has only run the ball 43 times, with 38 of those rushes coming from quarterback Matt Meyer. The 6-foot-5 senior is 68 of 134 passing for 725 yards.

Cooper, who is also 6-5, has eight catches for 224 yards and a pair of scores. Jared Litchman (20 for 139) and Austin Hemmen (13 for 122) are the other top receiving options for the Mohawks.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, have balanced out their offense. Senior quarterback Andrew Stover (427 passing yards, six touchdowns) and sophomore Sam Cook (72 rushes for 420 yards) are leading the way through the air and on the ground, respectively.

Stover now ranks fourth in school history with 2,431 passing yards, and third with 20 career touchdowns.

”It’s no secret that the team that establishes the tempo and makes the fewest mistakes will be in the driver’s seat,” Miller said. ”We have to limit their big plays and establish ourselves early on both sides of the ball. I’d like to see us come out and set the tone right away.”

Fort Dodge is also hoping for a cleaner effort in the penalty department, as is Mason City. Both teams are averaging double-digit penalty numbers through three weeks, and last year, the rivals combined to commit 32 infractions in a 28-17 Dodger victory.

”It’s always a tense, competitive atmosphere, but things got a little out of hand (in 2012),” Miller said. ”We’re not at a point where we can back ourselves into a corner with senseless personal fouls, false starts, and other avoidable mistakes and expect to win. I’m sure they feel the same way.”

Miller emphasized the fact that ”in every game during this current streak we’re on, we’ve had someone step up big and have a defining moment.”

”Whether it was Matt Halverson making a huge catch for a long touchdown, Eric Niesen with an interception in the end zone to seal it, Jericho Habben’s two picks up there, Austin Anderson’s 100-yard fumble return last year – we’ve had so many guys deliver in the clutch. That’s what it takes. Oftentimes, it’s one or two plays that make all the difference in a Fort Dodge-Mason City game.”