MASON CITY - The Decker Sporting Goods trophy brought much-needed beauty to a game that was everything but here Friday.
In the end, it was more of the same for the Fort Dodge football team.
The Dodgers defeated Mason City for a ninth consecutive time last night, surviving a slugfest marred by penalties and mistakes to prevail, 28-17.
The traveling hardware for the state's oldest gridiron series again returns to Fort Dodge, where it has resided since its introduction in 2005. Order was restored just in time for the Dodgers (1-3 overall), who earned their first victory of the year in a tense contest that often looked more like a backyard brawl than a football game between storied rivals.
There were 32 penalties between the two squads spanning 329 infraction yards, and many were of the extra-curricular variety. Fort Dodge was out-gained by nearly 100 yards from scrimmage, but senior Austin Anderson's back-breaking 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown was the turning point of both the evening and possibly the entire season for the Dodgers.here were 32 penalties between the two squads spanning 329 infraction yards, and many were of the extra-curricular variety. Fort Dodge was out-gained by nearly 100 yards from scrimmage, but senior Austin Anderson's back-breaking 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown was the turning point of both the evening and possibly the entire season for the Dodgers.
"This just feels great," said Anderson, who scooped up the loose ball from a pile right at the goal line and sprinted from endzone to endzone untouched as a potential 17-14 deficit late in the third quarter suddenly became a 21-10 lead. "We took advantage of our opportunities and fed off the energy of our fans and each other.
Fort Dodge 0 14 14 0 - 28
Mason City 0 10 0 7 - 17
Mason City - Miguel Arcinos (23-yard field goal), 8:00 left second.
Fort Dodge - Devon Kirby (5-yard run), 6:57 left second. Tyler Vaughn kick.
Fort Dodge - Kirby (17-yard run), 4:00 left second. Vaughn kick.
Mason City - Matt Meyer (5-yard run), 0:55 left second. Arcinos kick.
Fort Dodge - Austin Anderson (100-yard fumble return), 4:01 left third. Vaughn kick.
Fort Dodge - Keegan Jones (5-yard run), 0:38 left third. Vaughn kick.
Mason City - Meyer (10-yard run), 4:38 left fourth. Arcinos kick.
Rushing - Fort Dodge: Devon Kirby 21-103, Keegan Jones 4-14, Austin Halligan 3-8, Andrew Stover 5-8. Mason City: Austin Voves 11-57, Lucas Mariner 10-37, Matt Meyer 10-25, Will Slaven 4-17, Stone Sturges 3-13.
Passing - Fort Dodge: Andrew Stover 7-19-0-119. Mason City: Matt Meyer 12-25-2-151, Stone Sturges 1-1-0-49.
Receiving - Fort Dodge: Tyler Vaughn 3-81, Tommy Halligan 2-32, Keegan Jones 2-6. Mason City: Colin Halfpap 6-124, Brad Petersen 3-34, Wyatt Cooper 2-28, Alec Watson 2-14.
"It wasn't pretty, but to earn win No. 1 on their homecoming night and keep that trophy on our side - it's an amazing thing for our team to experience. This is the best rivalry there is. To have such a momentum-shifting play like that happen to me in it is something I'll always remember."
Fort Dodge forced five turnovers in all, recovering three fumbles and picking off a pair of passes. Head coach Matt Miller called that "without question the difference not just (Friday), but the one constant" during the recent domination of the Mohawks (0-5).
"It seems like we've been winning the turnover battle year in and year out against them," Miller said. "If you can do that, and have the confidence we've been able to build over the course of this nine-year stretch, it makes all the difference.
"When you're plus-three in turnovers like we were (last night), you're going to typically be in pretty good shape. We had some kids step up and make huge defensive plays, which to me is a recurring theme in this series."
Junior tailback Devon Kirby had the first 100-yard effort of his career, finishing with 103 yards on 21 carries and a pair of scores. Junior quarterback Andrew Stover threw for 119 yards, with 81 of those going to senior Tyler Vaughn.
Junior cornerback Brandan Schoenfeld recovered a fumble and picked off a pass. Vaughn also intercepted Mason City's Matt Meyer, while senior Anthony Credit had the other fumble recovery for FDSH.
The Dodgers twice forced Mohawk turnovers inside their five-yard line. Sophomore Austin Halligan stripped 6-foot-3 Mason City freshman receiver Wyatt Cooper on the fumble that Schoenfeld pounced on, and Anderson had the other goal-to-go turnover that went Fort Dodge's way.
"Austin's play was symbolic in that it showed the fight and resilience that helped get us through," Miller said. "We forced a field goal and two turnovers inside our 10-yard line. Given the way things had gone so far this season, that says a lot about our kids' refusal to pack it in."
Senior Keegan Jones had the other touchdown on a five-yard scamper, and juniors Riley Prescott and Brandon Archibald recorded Dodger sacks. Fort Dodge, which had been out-scored 63-0 by Urbandale, Sioux City East and Marshalltown in the third quarter before Friday, turned the tables for a 14-0 advantage over the Mohawks last night.
The penalties were a black-eye on the entire affair, as both teams were flagged 16 times for nearly identical lost yardage. There were three unsportsmanlike conduct whistles in the final minute as the Dodgers ran out the clock on the win in the 98th meeting all-time between the programs.
"I'm proud of our effort, but I'm not proud of our actions at times," said Miller, who has still never lost to Mason City. "Both teams lost control and didn't do a good job of keeping their composure.
"This is a storied rivalry, and also an intense one. The extra-curricular stuff wasn't necessary. There is enough to prove on the field - there's no reason to take it beyond that. We should've kept our emotions more in check."
Miller and Mohawk head coach Justin Penner met by the FDSH locker room afterward and exchanged apologies. Penner said, "That's not football. It's just not. I'm not proud of that. There's a way to conduct yourself. We didn't show class and we needed to."
Many Dodger players held up "nine" hand symbols after the final horn, representing Fort Dodge's win streak over Mason City. The team then flocked to the DSG Trophy that made the trip with them on the bus, and a familiar celebration ensued.
The Dodgers return to action