Dodgers try to rebound vs. Ankeny

Fort Dodge football coach Matt Miller was disappointed with his team’s effort last Friday at Johnston.

The Dodgers’ attitude took a turn for the better during practice this week, though, which Miller hopes will carry over into tonight’s Class 4A, Division 2 home game against Ankeny.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

”We had to reboot a little after (the 55-15 Johnston setback),” Miller said. ”We were just going through the motions (last Friday), and if you do that against a good opponent, you’re going to pay the price. We did.

”With that being said, we had three very good days of practice to start this week. That was an encouraging sign. I saw a night-and-day difference in the approach of our kids. I think (the Johnston trip) was kind of a wake-up call for us.”

Fort Dodge (3-4 overall, 1-2 in the district) must win one of its last two contests to secure a substate berth for the sixth straight year. The Hawks (2-5, 1-2) would be virtually eliminated from postseason contention with a loss.

Ankeny is still technically the defending state champion in 4A, though the school split into two programs for the 2013 campaign. The Hawks have felt the ill-effects of the change, with defeats at the hands of top-ranked West Des Moines Dowling, No. 3 Ames, Johnston, Southeast Polk and new cross-town rival Ankeny Centennial – opponents with a combined record of 26-9.

”They’ve played a very tough schedule, without question,” Miller said of the Hawks. ”I think we saw what they are still capable of last week (a 45-7 victory over Sioux City North). There are a lot of things that make them a typical Ankeny squad: they have playmakers, good overall speed, and they’re solid defensively.”

Fort Dodge will welcome quite a few athletes back to their lineup this evening after being short-handed a week ago. After being sidelined with an illness that caused him to shed 20 pounds, senior lineman Carlos Rocha returns. Senior defensive back Brandan Schoenfeld (ankle) and junior Josh Diosdado (nose guard) are also back, and junior Konner Pirie (mononucleosis) makes his season debut at linebacker.

”We’re closer to being 100 percent – at least as close as possible for now,” Miller said. ”(Junior defensive end) Skyler (Harris) is still out, as is (sophomore linebacker) Cainen (Hiracheta), but we’re getting there.”

Tailback Sam Cook continues his climb up FDSH’s program’s rushing charts. The sophomore has already established a new 10th-grade varsity record for yards (1,191), which is also the fourth best single-season mark in school history. Cook has topped the 100-yard mark six times in seven games, and his 352 yards against Des Moines North still stands as the best individual performance in 4A this year.

Cook currently sits behind only Ames standout Clifford Kwaw-Mensah (1,539) among 4A rushers. The Dodger standout ranks first in carries (174).

Senior quarterback Andrew Stover is 46 yards shy of becoming the second Dodger player ever to throw for 3,000 yards in his career.

Ankeny counters with junior quarterback Cole Whitaker. The left-hander tossed four touchdown passes in last week’s lopsided win over North.

”Whitaker’s versatile – he can throw and he can run,” Miller said. ”(Dan) Lenzini and (Riley) Newberg are good backs, and (P.J.) Carey and (Chris) McLeod are both playmakers with the ball in their hands.

”This is a tremendous challenge for us to right the ship and try to build some momentum for the last two weeks at home. We’ll definitely have to be at our best both physically and mentally.”