MARSHALLTOWN - Fort Dodge and Marshalltown find themselves in similar positions heading into Friday's football contest at Leonard Cole Field.
By the end of the night, one program will be much more sure of itself moving forward. Head coach Matt Miller hopes his Dodgers are the team with more answers than questions when all is said and done.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Bobcats and FDSH are both 0-2 overall with a pair of lopsided losses on their early-season resumes. Marshalltown has been whipped by No. 7 (Class 3A) Pella (38-13) and Waukee (62-6), while the Dodgers were no match for Urbandale (63-21) and Sioux City East (44-7).
The playing field is much more level this evening, with both squads desperate for a stopgap victory that could potentially right the ship as district play approaches.
''All we can do is look forward,'' Miller said. ''We can't do anything about what's happened the past two weeks. I told the kids we are only able to control our actions and our effort in the present and future.
LT: Riley Prescott, 220, sr.
LG: Carlos Rocha, 240, sr.
C: Jake Porter, 275, sr.
RG: Marquan Clayton, 295, sr.
RT: Kit McCarville, 270, so.
SE: Zach Anderson, 150, sr.
SE: Spencer Barber, 185, jr.
or Kole Kampen, 160, so.
Z: Brian Murman, 160, jr.
FB: Austin Halligan, 165, jr.
TB: Sam Cook, 190, so.
QB: Andrew Stover, 190, sr.
K: Ethan Schwendemann, 150, jr.
DE: Skyler Harris, 210, jr.
OLB: Cory Alexander, 150, sr.
ILB: Brandon Archibald, 185, sr.
ILB: Jonah Egli, 150, so.
CB: Berch Fritz, 160, sr.
CB: Gunner Conrad, 145, sr.
''We can't wipe the slate clean (at 0-2), but we can put it behind us and focus on getting better. I'm sure Marshalltown feels the same way. There's plenty of room for improvement on both sidelines - the question is, who responds and shifts momentum back in their favor? We'll find out.''
Fort Dodge identified itself as a quick-strike, no-huddle offense in the preseason, but the Dodgers have struggled to keep up with faster opponents to date. While the Bobcats will certainly be a step behind the J-Hawks and Black Raiders, Miller isn't ready to scrap the program's original 2013 strategy.
''We've definitely seen good things from our running game, thanks to the play of our offensive line and Sam Cook,'' Miller said of the sophomore, who has rushed for 271 yards at 7.1 yards per carry so far. ''I just think that makes us more versatile; if the ground game is working, we'll go to it. If (senior quarterback) Andrew (Stover) and our receivers are clicking, we'll get into a rhythm that way.
''Our offensive line play has been pretty steady for the most part. Long-term, I'm not concerned about our offense as a whole. I still see plenty of potential there. What we can't have, though, are the penalties and mental mistakes that kill drives.''
The defense, meanwhile, is still licking its wounds after surrendering nearly 900 total yards and 76 first-half points to Urbandale and East.
''We're trying to get settled in defensively; we have quite a few kids who had never seen varsity action before the season started, and they've had to dive head-first into the deep end so far given the teams we've faced,'' Miller said. ''(The J-Hawks and Black Raiders) won 15 games between the two of them last year, and they'll get to at least that number this season. They're both worthy of being ranked in the Top-10. So we have to be realistic about what we've seen so far and what we have ahead of us.
''I'm not concerned yet given all of that, but we do have to start to move forward in finding an identity (tonight). It's going to be interesting to see how everything develops from here on out.''
The Dodgers are relatively healthy, with sophomore offensive lineman Kit McCarville (ankle) listed as probable. Two-way junior starter Austin Halligan and senior defensive back Kody Linder are nursing minor injuries as well.
Marshalltown, which leads the all-time series against Fort Dodge 25-19-1, is led by senior quarterback Dylan Diveney (243 yards passing, 48 yards rushing). The Bobcats went 7-4 last fall, but lost 17 of their 22 starters to graduation.
The Dodgers' last victory at Cole Field came in 1999 - a span of six consecutive contests. Five of those setbacks have been by 10 points or less.
Fort Dodge has squared off with Marshalltown on the gridiron every season but one - 1991 - since the 1967 campaign.