DES MOINES - Fort Dodge football coach Matt Miller thinks his team will be physically ready for their Class 4A, Division 2 game at Des Moines North here tonight.
The mental preparation is Miller's main concern.
Despite dealing with typical Week 6 bumps and bruises, Miller feels the Dodgers (1-4 overall, 0-1 in the division) match up well at the line of scrimmage with the Polar Bears (1-4, 0-1) for their contest inside Grubb Stadium on the North High School campus.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
''We're just not quite sure what to expect,'' Miller conceded. ''In five games, they've run variations of three different offenses. They have a new coach and a new system and we haven't played North in almost 10 years, so we have to be ready for anything.
''On top of that, we can't get caught up in looking at what's happened to them so far (the Polar Bears have surrendered 187 points in their four losses). We have identical records right now. Our program is in no position to be overconfident or assume anything. The winner has a chance at making the playoffs down the road. The loser probably doesn't. It's a big game, so we have to be as mentally sharp as we've been.''
LT: Jake Porter, 265, jr.
LG: Michael Carlson, 280, sr.
C: Kyle Johnson, 220, sr.
RG: Marquan Clayton, 295, jr.
RT: Connor Hubbard, 260, sr.
SE: Tyler Vaughn, 170, sr.
SE: Keegan Jones, 175, sr.
WB: Wesley Castro, 155, sr.
HB: Riley Prescott, 220, jr.
TB: Austin Halligan, 170, so.
QB: Andrew Stover, 175, jr.
NG: Gavin Thomas, 220, sr.
DE: Skyler Harris, 210, so.
LB: Adrean Johnson, 180, sr.
LB: Sam Cook, 200, fr.
LB: Austin Anderson, 170, sr.
LB: Anthony Credit, 185, sr.
LB: A. Halligan
CB: Brandan Schoenfeld, 165, jr.
Fort Dodge's offense put up 28 points and a school-record 362 passing yards a week ago in a home loss to Ames. Senior receiver Tyler Vaughn hauled in the most receptions (19) in school and Class 4A west state history, while accumulating 234 yards.
Miller will go with what works again this evening, though he'd like to see the Dodgers kickstart a struggling ground attack that has produced just 212 yards on 91 carries in the last three weeks.
''We really need to establish the run,'' Miller said. ''It's been inconsistent at best, and both our linemen and our backs have to answer the bell.
''Austin (Halligan), Devon (Kirby), Anthony (Credit) - even (sophomore) Jerique (Bryson) and (freshman) Sam (Cook) need to be ready if and when their number is called.''
North dropped its divisional opener to Sioux City North last Friday, 53-14. Junior Shymere Williams had three catches for 76 yards. Williams and classmate Kajuan Davenport scored the Polar Bear touchdowns.
''Williams and Davenport are their playmakers, and (junior quarterback Terrance) Bush can make some things happen,'' Miller said. ''They have a lot of big-play ability.''
Bush has thrown for 551 yards and six scores. Senior K.P. Hanks - the son of first-year head coach Keith Hanks Jr. - is North's top receiver with three TD receptions.
Fort Dodge junior quarterback Andrew Stover has thrown for 912 yards and eight touchdowns. Stover set program records for completions (29), attempts (47) and yards (362) last Friday.
Vaughn is up to 31 catches for 475 yards, and he now ranks 11th in school history with 42 receptions for 631 yards.
Senior Tommy Halligan, who will likely miss tonight's game with an injured ankle, has 16 catches for 176 yards and four TDs.
Junior lineman Carlos Rocha (shoulder) is out again. Senior wingback and defensive back Wesley Castro is probable.
The Dodgers have 28 points in each of their last two contests after tallying only 36 combined points in their first three setbacks.