Le Mars beats Fort Dodge, reaches playoffs for first time since 2013

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

FORT DODGE — The Le Mars Community football team finished the regular season with a Class 4A district contest at Fort Dodge on Friday. After securing a 44-16 win, the No. 10 ranked Bulldogs had to wait a little longer to confirm their status as playoff qualifier through one of the four at-large spots given to the next-best RPI ranked teams among the non-district champions or runners-up.

Once it was confirmed that the Bulldogs had finished No. 14 in the RPI rankings and secured the third of the four at-large bids, Le Mars Head Coach Ken Vigdal said it was a happy bus ride back home to Le Mars.

“I think it means the world to our kids,” Vigdal said. “Back in April when we have our Peak Performance program that we run for three to four weeks and we talked about things and one of the major goals that came out of that was we want to make the playoffs.”

The playoff appearance comes in the second season with Vigdal as leader of the program and ends the second-longest stretch in school history without a playoff berth. The longest stretch came after the team’s 1973 state championship, just the second year of the playoff format, as the Bulldogs waited until 1985 before making the playoffs again.

Vigdal put an emphasis on the program’s culture for helping to get the team back to the postseason.

“They like being around each other and we do a lot of things together,” Vigdal said. “The big thing is, when you’re a family, and we talk about playing for the guy beside you all the time, all those things accumulate into all the things we do. It’s not one thing, it’s the hundreds of things that we do. We have our kids go to the elementaries on Thursday morning and open the doors for the elementary kids. We have lots of kids that read to sixth graders and stuff like that. It’s just all of those things that build a program.”

Le Mars scored a touchdown in each of the first two quarters before doubling their lead to 28-0 with two more touchdowns in the third quarter. Both teams scored 16 points in the final quarter.

Elijah Dougherty 150 combined yards with touchdown on offense; Team-high 5 tackles and interception on defense

“I think the big play of the game was when we scored in the second half to make it 21-0,” Vigdal said. “It kind of steamrolled for us and we were able to put some points on the board.”

Beau Wadle 84 combined yards with 2 receiving and 1 rushing touchdown on offense; Interception on defense

Le Mars got three touchdowns on the ground and three more through the air. The running game accounted for 288 yards on 43 carries. The team broke free on long runs for each of their touchdowns. Connor Jalas had the longest scoring rush, a 76-yard play, as he finished with 94 yards on eight carries. Elijah Dougherty ran for a 65-yard score as part of his 116 yards on 18 carries. Beau Wadle added a 34-yard touchdown run as he ended with 50 yards on four carries.

In the passing game, quarterback Teagen Kasel completed 7-of-14 passes for 106 yards and three touchdowns. Wadle had two of the touchdown grabs as the only player on the team with multiple receptions. He caught three passes for 34 yards. Alex Allen had the other touchdown grab on a 27-yard play. The team’s longest pass play of the game went to Elijah Dougherty on a 34-yard play.

Vigdal said his team was able to exploit some of the looks the Dodgers were giving.

“They tried to overload some of the sides where we traditionally run,” Vigdal said. “They overloaded and so we were able to run sweep to the weak side. That’s how Connor got on the board early on. They blitzed on our sweeps to blow those up and we were able to get Elijah down the field as a lead blocker and then he turns into a receiver and so we were able to get a big play there. They put pressure on us all night long and we were able to just get some big plays on them. I think overall, we were able to throw the ball, we ran the ball well.”

Fort Dodge got their two touchdowns in the final quarter on pass plays from Connor Carver to Javion Jondle. Carver finished with 230 passing yards while completing 18-of-34 attempts as he was also the team’s leading rusher with 95 yards on 18 carries. Jondle was the leading receiver with 12 catches for 155 yards.

Along with the two touchdown passes, Carver also threw a pair of interceptions. Wadle and Dougherty each picked off a pass. Jalas added a fumble recovery for the Le Mars defense. Dougherty led the team with five tackles.

“They throw the ball all over. Everything went through their quarterback,” Vigdal said. “I thought our D-line played a really solid game. He had some big yards, but really had very few yards until our younger guys went in.”

Le Mars added a 21-yard field goal and five PAT kicks from Jovany Kabongo in the contest.

Fort Dodge finishes the season with a 4-5 record and 2-3 record in district games.

Le Mars ends with a 3-2 district record. The Bulldogs (6-3) will play at defending champion and top-ranked Lewis Central (9-0) in a Class 4A Round of 16 game on Friday.

After facing must-win scenarios at the end of the regular season to get to the playoffs, Vigdal said his team is prepared for another win-or-go-home situation in the Round of 16.

“It’s kind of a confidence thing. You have to win and we went out and did it last week and did it this week,” Vigdal said.

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