BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Coaches regularly say you need to leave it all on the field, and Friday the Fort Madison Bloodhounds and West Burlington Notre Dame did just that with the Hounds coming up with a big win at home.
Fort Madison knocked off visiting WBND 21-17 in a game that came down to the last two minutes of play.
The Falcons had the Hounds backed up to their own 8 yard line and were staring at 1st and goal after WBND quarterback Drake Day pitched to Darius Whaley going right who threw to Colten Hohenthaner who was open down the right sideline. Hohenthaner was able to get a step on Fort Madison’s speedy Alex Gully who bit on the pitch, but Gully was able to track him down and tackle him at the 8-yard line.
The Hounds, with the crimson and black faithful on their feet, stopped the Falcons on four straight running plays out of the veer offense Head Coach Jay Ehlers installed about two weeks ago. The drive was capped by Tyler O’Tool who came up to make a big stop on 4th down with about three other Hounds in tow.
The Falcons were without a timeout remaining and the clock was able to tick off with the Hounds giving the ball to Gully out of the shotgun. The first carry was for no gain, but on second down from the eight Gully got outside and raced 22 yards down the left sideline to seal the win.
Head coach Tony Shiffman said he put all his faith in defensive coach Luke Rickelman, who went out to talk with the defense on a WBND timeout with 1:49 left.
“We had a couple of amazing, amazing goal line stands tonight,” Rickelman said. “These guys realized they didn’t have the ball in the end zone and we knew we could stop them.”
The Hounds took their first possession down to the 2-yard line highlighted by a 35 yard pass from Lennon Barker to senior Shance Redd-Donald that had the Hounds at 1st and 10 at the Falcons’ 14. Barker then connected with O’Tool on another 5-yard strike before Barker took a keeper to the right and hopped out of bounds at the 2. A bad exchange on the next handoff to Gully resulted in a fumble recovered by the Falcons.
Neither team would mount any kind of an attack the rest of the way through the first quarter.
Fort Madison took possession to open the 2nd quarter and marched 73 yards in eight plays for a score when Barker hooked up with Lorenzo Riles II on a 34-touchdown to put the Hounds up 7-0.
The Falcons returned the favor on the next possession. The Falcons’ Darius Whaley returned the kickoff to the 40 and the Falcons went to work on the ground game churning out 11 plays including a Hound offside penalty on 4th and 3 that kept the drive alive. Tanner Snodgrass would escape for a 31-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7s.
The Hounds were stopped on the next series and were forced to punt. The punt died at about the 23 yard line and the Hounds Sam Hayes slid past the ball and touched it down but didn’t take possession of the ball. No whistle was blown and the Falcons’ Jamar Lewis scooped it up and ran it into the endzone in a bazaar play that left the Hounds down 14-7.
The Hounds went 4 and out on the next possession and the Falcons drove the 11 where Slater Gifford converted the field goal to the WBND at 17-7 advantage. The Hounds took a knee on the next possession to head to the locker room.
The second half saw a ramped up defense take over the game for the Hounds. WBND took the kickoff back to their own 29. Snodgrass got a couple yards on the next play and then Redd-Donald put pressure on Day who made a bad pitch and the Hounds went scrambling after the ball. O’Tool was able to scoop it up on the run and outrun the Falcons into the endzone.
“Shance made a great play and forced the pitch and they made a bad pitch and I just scooped it up. I thought about falling on it, but I wanted to score so I just picked it up and ran,” O’Tool said after the game.
Shiffman said the Hounds showed some thicker skin this week after a big loss last Friday to Oskaloosa.
“We made plays when we needed to make plays and we handled that adversity for the first time this year,” Shiffman said.
After the kickoff, the Hounds and a more uptempo defensive unit sent the Falcons on a 4 and out on the next possession. After a punt that went out of bounds the Hounds got 35 quick yards on two carries for Gully, his first real running room all night. Then Barker hit Riles II again on a 26 yard completion. Diego Lozano went for a hard-earned seven on 1st and 10. Barker hooked up with Redd-Donald for a couple yards to get to the Falcons’ 12-yard line. Barker carried on the next play for 8 and then another short carry for one, before Gully bulled in from one yard out for the final score of the game.
Redd-Donald had four catches for 32 yards and was held scoreless for the first time this year. Riles II had four catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. Redd-Donald was leading the state in Class 3A receiving touchdowns coming into the game with six. That drew some attention from the Falcons defense and left Riles II in man-on-man coverage most of the night.
Shiffman said it’s been the Hounds goal to use all their offensive weapons and with Redd-Donald drawing attention other receivers will be open.
“That’s what I’ve been telling you guys. We have a lot of weapons. That’s going to open it up for our other guys and we’re just now learning how to use that. But it’s a process. Game by game…brick by brick,” Shiffman said.
Gully finished the game with 15 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown. Barker rushed for 36 yards on seven carries and 9 of 24 for 127 yards, 1 TD and no interceptions.
Rickelman said the Hounds were a different team defensively in the second half.
“Basically in the second half we got very aggressive running a man defense and running different blitzes at them. We had six men blitzing almost every time. Mabeus did a great job, Diego Lozano was running downhill and making huge hits, and Tyler O’Tool did just a tremendous job of sealing and containing and forcing the plays inside where we had success.”
Mabues said the defense played well together and basically shut the run game down outside of the one touchdown. When asked what the play was at 4 and goal, Mabeus replied.
The Hounds play host again next Friday to Mt. Pleasant with a 7:30 game time.