BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – After a 58-14 drubbing last Friday in Oskaloosa, the Fort Madison Bloodhounds football team will be trying to recapture the energy and success of the first two games of the year.
The 1-2 Falcons from West Burlington-Notre Dame-Danville will be coming into an evergrowing sea of red and black as the 2-1 Hounds wipe off the dust from last week’s loss.
The Falcon started the season 0-2 with losses to Mediapolis and West Branch, but put a new veer offense last week and rushed for over 300 yards as a team splitting carries between two juniors Tanner Snodgrass and Darius Whaley and sprinkling in a few carries by quarterback Drake Day.
Day only threw five times completing three for 66 yards and a TD. Whaley broke off a 60-yard touchdown run in a 34-21 win at home. Whaley finished with 155 yards on 21 carries. Snodgrass has 133 on 23 carries and a score. Day rushed for 59 yards and a score on 10 carries.
“They changed their offense from their first two games,” said FMHS head coach Tony Shiffman. “They were a spread offense and then came in against Fairfield last week in a split-back veer. So that’s a big change for them.
Shiffman said Day doesn’t throw a whole lot, but then again he doesn’t have to. Day was a member of the West Burlington state track team last year. He said the Falcons pose a speed threat and the Hounds have to be ready for that.
“We’re going to have to contain them and not let them break a big one,” Shiffman said.
The Falcons leading rusher senior Brian Brem didn’t have a carry last week, but has 140 yards on 41 carries through the first two games. It’s not known if he will be in the lineup this week.
The Hounds will again look to a balanced offense mixing up throwing and running downs. Last week, Quarterback Lennon Barker through 31 times completed 16 for 237 yards and one touchdown to Shance Redd-Donald. Barker also through his first two picks of the year.
Senior Alex Gully had his roughest outing of the year against the physical Indians, but still plowed for 91 yards on 17 carries including a 43-yard run in the fourth quarter where he was caught at the one-yard line.
“He got beat up a lot,” Shiffman said. “It was tough game for him. I think there was one stretch where he had nine carries for like a yard.”
Redd-Donald is obviously attracting a lot of attention from opposing defenses and quietly caught seven passes for 71 yards and a touchdown last week. He also had a 35-yard interception, his second of the year tying him with Tyler O’Tool for the team lead.
This week, Shiffman said the Hounds will have to continue to fly to the ball with the Falcon’s speed.
“They’re gonna try to run the ball… run the ball… run the ball,” he said.
The Hounds have seven players with more than 10 tackles in the three games and two more just over nine total tackles. Shiffman said it’s a mentality that’s engrained in practice.
“We preach that every day, we’ll blow a whistle to end a play and there’s three seconds that everyone has to get to the ball,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of bodies on defense that can play and with our numbers and having to go both ways we have to be able to give a break and it’s good we’ve got people that can get to the ball.
He said last week’s loss was tough to take, but he said it helped the Hounds realize that they aren’t the team they were last year, but they still have to learn to deal with adversity.
“If you look at the film we get the ball on our first drive and on first down we miss a play that could have been for a touchdown, and then we go and snap the ball over our heads and things got a little chippy from there,” Shiffman said.
“We’re just not used to being able to play in those types of big games. That was a good football team but I don’t think the score tells a true picture of who we are. I do think it wakes them a bit shows them that we need to perform if we want to have success.”
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Richmond Stadium.