The Fort Dodge football team got back to basics in preparation for their game with Marshalltown this week.
The Dodgers (0-2 overall) returned to the drawing board on both the physical fundamentals of the game and their mental approach to Friday's contest against the Bobcats (1-2), which kicks off here at 7 p.m.
Head coach Matt Miller has been just as disappointed by his squad's effort in early losses to ninth-ranked (Class 4A) Urbandale and Sioux City East as the execution. Fort Dodge has been maddingly inconsistent, hanging tough with both the J-Hawks and Black Raiders throughout the first half before surrendering a combined six touchdowns in the third quarter alone.
''I thought we stopped competing. That has to change immediately,'' Miller said. ''I'd say more than anything, that's what we've focused on this week. This isn't just about wins and losses right now. It's about taking pride in giving everything you have on every play. If you do that, the record takes care of itself.''
The degree of difficulty doesn't change much for the Dodgers this week. Marshalltown doesn't sport a glossy record after losses to second-ranked Ankeny (49-14) and Waukee (49-35), but Miller said they're ''every bit as talented'' as FDSH's first two opponents.
They have three kids - (quarterback Blake) Gimbel, (receiver Tad) Steffensen and (defensive tackle Pedro) Gomez - who are as good as anyone in the state at their (respective) positions,'' Miller said. ''They're going to throw about 85 percent of the time, and they're a very senior-dominated lineup with a lot of varsity experience.
LT: Jake Porter, 265, jr.
LG: Michael Carlson, 280, sr.
C: Kyle Johnson, 220, sr.
RG: Carlos Rocha, 230, jr.
RT: Connor Hubbard, 260, sr.
SE: Tyler Vaughn, 170, sr.
SE: Keegan Jones, 175, sr.
WB: Zach Anderson, 150, jr.
HB: Tommy Halligan, 180, sr.
TB: Austin Halligan, 170, so.
QB: Andrew Stover, 175, jr.
DE: Riley Prescott, 220, jr.
NG: Marquan Clayton, 295, jr.
DE: Skyler Harris, 210, so.
LB: Adrean Johnson, 180, sr.
LB: Sam Cook, 200, fr.
LB: Brandon Archibald, 175, jr.
LB: Austin Anderson, 170, sr.
LB: Wesley Castro, 155, sr.
CB: Brandan Schoenfeld, 165, jr.
''It's no different than it has been: we have to be ready. Show the kind of intensity that our program has been known for through the years.''
Lineup changes dotted the Dodger board this week. Miller will continue to use a few players both ways, but will only start two - seniors Tyler Vaughn and Keegan Jones - on offense and defense.
As a result, senior Austin Anderson (linebacker), junior Zach Anderson (receiver), junior Brandan Schoenfeld (cornerback) and sophomore Skyler Harris (defensive end) will make their first starts of the young season.
''It's no slight on how our (one-platoon) players are performing, but I think we're wearing them too thin,'' Miller said. ''We're just not getting enough out of everyone individually. It's time for some of these young men to step up and make the plays necessary to stop that avalanche from occurring.
''One thing you can't simulate in preseason and practice is adversity. Well, we're going through the real thing now. I truly believe we'll respond the right way.''
Gimbel has thrown for an all-class high 1,166 yards, with seven touchdowns and a 63 percent completion rate. Steffensen (31 catches, 397 yards) and teammate De'Quan McDowell (29-388) rank first and second in the state for receiving.
''Their offensive numbers are off the charts so far - even for them,'' Miller said. ''We've played Marshalltown well in recent years, so I'm hoping that trend continues and that we're ready to get back and play well in front of our fans.''
The Bobcats defeated Pella 31-7 between the two setbacks.
Fort Dodge has been paced offensively by junior Devon Kirby (106 yards rushing) and sophomore Austin Halligan (101). The Dodgers have surrendered 599 yards rushing, though, and have been out-scored in the second half, 62-7.
''Football is just as much about how you handle yourself when things go wrong as when things go right,'' Miller said. ''It's a challenging game both physically and mentally. It's time we prove we can accept that and overcome it.''