MARSHALLTOWN - Fort Dodge muscled up for its first football victory of the season here Friday, returning to a trademark physical style of play to defeat Marshalltown 27-13 on a gorgeous evening at Leonard Cole Field.
The Dodgers (1-2 overall) dominated at the point of attack on both sides of the ball, rushing for over 200 yards while holding the Bobcats (0-3) to just 117 yards of total offense. The end result was a victory on Marshalltown's home turf for the first time since 2000.
"We felt like we could have an advantage up front and wanted to set the tone (at the line of scrimmage)," said senior offensive lineman Jake Porter, a three-year starter. "We knew we'd have to bring our A-game obviously, being on the road. Once we got the ball rolling, we were able to establish ourselves and move the chains when we needed to.
"I thought the focus and effort was there from the start. It feels great to get that first win - now we can get back to work and focus on cleaning things up a little more for Mason City (next week)."
Despite the game developing into a complete statistical mismatch, Fort Dodge wasn't able to completely put the Bobcats away until the closing minute of the contest. Senior quarterback Andrew Stover found junior fullback Austin Halligan for a 14-yard touchdown strike - Stover's fourth scoring pass of the night - to cap a methodical 17-play, 81-yard drive that milked away almost all of regulation's final six minutes.
Continuing a theme, the Dodgers regularly converted on both third and fourth down - often on simple sneak runs by Stover. Sophomore Sam Cook broke free for three rushes of more than 12 yards on the closing possession, capping his 34-carry, 149-yard performance.
First Downs 21 9
Rushes-Yards 54-205 28-63
Passing 11-20-0 7-18-2
Passing Yards 171 54
Total Offense 376 117
Punts-Avg. 4-36.1 5-35.2
Fumbles-Lost 4-2 2-1
Penalties-Yards 13-132 5-50
Fort Dodge 14 7 0 6 - 27
Marshalltown 7 6 0 0 - 13
Marshalltown - Grant Thimesch (12-yard pass from Dylan Diveney), 10:25 left first. Austin Kluver kick.
Fort Dodge - Spencer Barber (10-yard pass from Andrew Stover), 4:15 left first. Ethan Schwendemann kick.
Fort Dodge - Sam Cook (32-yard pass from Stover), 0:28 left first. Schwendemann kick.
Fort Dodge - Barber (30-yard pass from Stover), 4:56 left second. Schwendemann kick.
Marshalltown - Austin Lovin (5-yard pass from Diveney), 1:00 left second. Kick blocked.
Fort Dodge - Austin Halligan (14-yard pass from Stover), 1:02 left fourth. Kick failed.
Rushing - Fort Dodge: Sam Cook 34-149, Andrew Stover 14-40, Austin Halligan 5-14, Brandon Archibald 1-2. Marshalltown: Dylan Diveney 17-46, Joe Rebik 11-17.
Passing - Fort Dodge: Andrew Stover 11-20-0-171. Marshalltown: Dylan Diveney 7-18-2-54.
Receiving - Fort Dodge: Spencer Barber 6-87, Austin Halligan 2-41, Sam Cook 1-32, Brian Murman 1-7, Zach Anderson 1-4. Marshalltown: Austin Lovin 3-19, Austin Sowers 2-18, Grant Thimesch 1-12, Austin Kluver 1-5.
"Our line just took over down the stretch," Stover said. "They gave me time (to throw) all night long, and on that last drive, they were opening up huge holes for Sam and me. You don't expect to get four, five, six yards on sneaks, but I was able to do that because the line did an incredible job."
Stover and Porter also tipped their hat to the defense, which forced three turnovers and allowed only two total plays over 10 yards. Marshalltown's longest gain from scrimmage was a 12-yard touchdown pass less than two minutes into the game, which was set up by a fumble. From that point on, Fort Dodge out-scored the Bobcats 27-6.
"Our defense needed this kind of confidence boost," FDSH head coach Matt Miller said. "It's no secret that we're playing a ton of kids on that side of the ball with very little varsity expereince. And they were rattled a little by what happened against (Urbandale and Sioux City East). But they came to play (Friday). It was a terrific showing: to give up (117 total yards) is something they can really be proud of, along with pitching that shutout in the second half."
Stover's main target in the first half was junior Spencer Barber, who had all six of his catches for 87 yards before the intermission. Barber hauled in TD strikes of 10 and 30 yards, and nearly had a third score before officials ruled he didn't quite have possession in-bounds on a long toss from Stover into the endzone.
Sophomore Kole Kampen and senior Brandon Archibald recorded interceptions for the Dodgers, while senior Riley Prescott came up with a pair of sacks. Halligan recovered a fumble.
While the execution improved, Fort Dodge didn't exactly clean up its act when it came to penalties. The Dodgers were whistled for 13 infractions spanning 132 yards; they accumulated more penalty yardage than Marshalltown had in total offense both in the first half and overall.
"A lot of really dumb, senseless things that we aren't going to get away with if we want to win more ballgames," Miller admitted. "I'll have to look at the tape, but I'd guess that at least eight of those penalties could've easily been avoided. We have to get sharper and more consistent mentally. No question about it.
"I thought we were more aggressive, which was great to see, but you have to pick and choose your spots and do it within the context of the ballgame. I know we were tired of getting pushed around and wanted to push back, but it can't be of the extra-curricular variety and it can't lead to mistakes that kill drives. We were doing that too much (last night)."
Fort Dodge improved to 11-7 on the road since 2010 with Friday's triumph. The program's last win at Cole Field came 13 years ago by a 34-14 count. Marshalltown had taken six straight from FDSH here since, with five victories coming by 10 points or less.
"The guys got a taste. It's always fun and you can always exhale a little when you get that first win out of the way," Miller said. "Now what are we going to do with it? Let's build from it. Let's keep it going. We still have a lot of potential if these kids keep working and stay focused on getting better every day, every week."
The Dodgers will face Mason City (0-3) this Friday night at home. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The Mohawks lost to Waukee last night, 56-20.