Focusing on doing what they do best and doing it better this Friday than last Friday are Newton High’s Cardinals. The Cardinals move forward into the second week of Class 4A District 4 football play knowing they have to play better as the season progresses.
“It comes down to us doing what we do and Fort Dodge doing what they do. The team with the least amount of mistakes on Friday night should win the game,” Newton head coach Ed Ergenbright said. “That sounds simple and it is.”
On Friday at Newton’s H.A. Lynn Stadium, the 5-0 Cardinals play the Fort Dodge Dodgers (3-2) at 7:30 p.m. Newton is 1-0 in district play with a 49-28 win over Marshalltown. Fort Dodge lost 59-14 to No. 3 West Des Moines Valley to go 0-1 in district action.
Friday’s game pits the Class 4A’s top rushing team, Newton, against the 4A’s third-ranked passing team, Fort Dodge. The Cardinals and Dodgers lead District 4 teams in each offensive category.
The Cardinals have rolled up 2,034 yards on 255 carries in their first five games. They have four players with more than 300 yards rushing apiece led by senior quarterback Garrett Sturtz, 62 carries for 532 yards.
Senior running back Jaron Roush had 410 yards on 39 carries. Junior running back Josh Miller has 28 carries for 370 yards and senior Josh Miravalles has gained 327 yards on 57 carries.
Fort Dodge comes in with the second-leading passing quarterback — junior Drake Miller — at the helm of its offense. The Dodgers have 1,273 yards passing this season and Miller has completed 87 of 136 passes for 1,233 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Dodgers have had eight different players catch at least one TD pass.
A year ago the teams battled to a 20-13 Fort Dodge halftime lead then the Dodgers outscored Newton 23-8 in the second half for a 43-21 win. The Cardinals rushed for 284 yards in that game and had 147 yards passing. but they allowed the Dodgers 538 yards of total offense.
“We moved the ball well last year. We didn’t finish drives and left points on the table. Our job No. 1 Friday night is to finish drives and put points on the board. Our best defense is to mount drives, score on every opportunity we have and control the ball offensively to keep their offense on the sideline,” Ergenbright said.
When the two teams met last year in Fort Dodge, the Dodgers gashed the Cardinal defense with a running back, then junior Joe Artis, who hadn’t carried the ball much at all for the team. Newton has prepared for better for Fort Dodge’s running game this season.
The Dodgers are led by freshman Dayson Clayton this season, who has 436 yards on 67 carries and scored five TDs. Miller has scored four rushing touchdowns. Senior Savion Poe had 95 yards on 16 carries.
“We work on tackling every day. We didn’t tackle very well against Marshalltown. It comes down to putting yourself in the right position to make the plays and recognizing the situations on the field and using the techniques you’ve been coached to use,” Ergenbright said. “Offenses like Fort Dodge’s create situations for defenders to make open field tackles against good athletes. We have to recognize those, break down and have our bodies in position to tackle people.”
Ergenbright said the Cardinal defense has been working on putting pressure on Miller and not allowing receivers to run past our defensive backs to get open. Containing Miller in the pocket and not allowing him to scramble and make plays is a priority for the Cardinals, Ergenbright said.
Fort Dodge has senior receivers Tyman Lara and Trey Mosley who have five receiving TDs apiece. Mosley has 36 catches for 446 yards and Lara has made 19 catches for 307 yards. Sophomore Kershaw Tysen had two TD catches and Clayton has two TD receptions.
Newton has outscored its opponents 254-89 this season while Fort Dodge has scored 186 points and given up 172 points. The Dodgers won a 62-42 shoot-out game with Ames on Sept. 15.
The Cardinal defense has 11 takeaways — six interceptions and five fumble recoveries. Fort Dodge had four fumble recoveries and one interception this season.
“Ball security is important and so is eliminating mistakes such as penalties. We throw a lot at our kids on offense with all the motion we use and we change our snap count throughout the game. We don’t want defenses to get a running start on us, so we change the cadence,” Ergenbright said.
The motion and changing of snap count does create penalties for the Cardinal offense at times. Ergenbright said the penalties are a concern. Newton has had 49 penalties for 309 yards this season.
“We’ve been able to overcome a lot of those this season, but there are going to be teams we face which will not allow us to overcome those mental mistakes. The positive of the motion we use on offense presents adjustment issues to defenses,” Ergenbright said.
Ergenbright is also concerned about the health of his players, especially the running backs for the Cardinals. Roush and Miller are nursing injuries. Senior Carson Cazett will not play on Friday with an injury.
On defense, injuries forced in personnel switches a week ago. Ergenbright said they are hoping players are able to settle into their new spots and do better this week.
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at 641-792-3121 ext. 6535 or email@example.com