BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Despite more than 300 yards in total offense, the Fort Madison Bloodhounds couldn’t find a way to keep Mt. Pleasant out of the endzone Friday night as the Hounds dropped their second game of the season 44-16 to the visiting Panthers.
The Hounds found themselves in trouble early on when junior quarter back Zach Beason found the Panther’s Jordan Magnani open down the right side on the third play from scrimmage for a 55-yard touchdown. The Hounds put together a decent drive on their first possession converting two third downs and moving the ball to the Panthers’ 44 before having to punt away.
The Panthers took over at their own 37 and marched 12 plays in the other direction and settled for a Donald Blancas extra point to make it 10-0.
The Hounds went four and out on three carries by senior Alex Gully, who finished the game with 33 carries for 194 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers went four and out on the next series and the Hounds took over at their own 42. Senior quarterback Lennon Barker hooked up with Logan Allen for 22 yards and then Gully carried for 28 yards on the next two carries. Barker got taken down for a loss on 1st and 10, but Gully carried the next two snaps for 14 yards total for another Hound first down at the 9-yard line.
Barker missed on a toss to Allen and the Hounds had to settle for a 14-yard field goal from AJ Nolting to make it 10-3.
Beason completed a couple passes on the next series for Mt. Pleasant but the drive stalled and the Panthers’ punt sent the Bloodhounds deep into their own territory. Barker lost 8 on 1st and 10 and two incomplete passes gave the ball back to Mt. Pleasant in good field position. Just four plays later, Beason broke free for a 13-yard scamper to make it 16-3.
Senior Shance Redd-Donald brought the ensuing kickoff back to the 27 and Gully took the first snap 21 yards to the 40. Two more Gully carries for six yards had the Hounds at 3rd and 4 when Head Coach Tony Shiffman called a time out. Barker missed senior Lorenzo Riles II and brought up 4th and 4. Shiffman gambled and Barker hit Redd-Donald on a 16-yard pass to get to the Panther 29.
After a Barker incompletion in Riles’ direction again, Gully pushed his way for four yards to the 25 and a Mt. Pleasant penalty on a Diego Lozano carry put the ball just outside the Hounds 14′ yard line, where Barker hooked up with Redd-Donald in the back of the endzone for a touchdown. A two-point conversion pass failed and the Hounds were down 16-9.
The next drive, Beason hooked up with senior Keiran Kohorst on a 26-yard pass play and then three Fort Madison penalties, including a personal foul on 3rd and 10 that gave Mt. Pleasant a 1st and 10 at the 22 yard line. A holding penalty and an offsides put the ball at the 7 and Beason found Levi Puig in the back of the endzone tangled up with Lorenzo Riles and Puig held onto the ball as he fell out of the back of the endzone resulting in a touchdown and the Panthers were up 23-9.
The Panthers squib kicked a low bouncing ball that was recovered at the Fort Madison 29. Gully took the first two snaps headed west for 24 yards and then Barker found Redd-Donald behind the safeties for a 47-yard pass play to the FMHS 2, where Gully took the next carry into the endzone. Nolting added the extra point and the Hounds were within a score at 23-16 at halftime.
The Hounds got the ball in the 2nd half and got a first down on the first series. Gully rushed for 35 yards before Lozano was tackled for a two-yard loss which brought up 4th and 2 at the Panthers’ 31. Shiffman went for it on 4th, but the Panthers stuffed the play at the line and took over on downs at their own 31. The Panthers picked up four first downs on the way to a 17-yard touchdown toss from Beason to Magnani and the extra point made it 30-16.
Fort Madison continued to move the ball on their possessions but couldn’t seem to get the key first downs when they needed them the rest of the way through the game.
Mt. Pleasant would get another touchdown on an 8-yard run by Beason with about 3 minutes left in the third quarter to make the score 36-16 and they got their last score on another Beason touchdown strike.
The Bloodhounds committed seven penalties on the night, but missed tackles were probably the biggest factor in the game as several times Panthers were able to shuck off one-on-one’s aside from some thundering hits from Redd-Donald coming up from the secondary.
“You can’t make mistakes like that against a team like Mt. Pleasant because they are going to capitalize on it like they did,” Shiffman said after the game. “This is the same situation as Osky, they are not 28 points better than us. We’re just making too many mistakes and our kids are still learning to play in the face of adversity.”
Shiffman said going into halftime the Hounds had the momentum.
“We came out and we were ready to go, but we didn’t get that first down we needed and you could see the kids hang their heads.”
He said now is not the time for the Hounds to forget how well they can play with Solon coming up next week and FMHS fighting for a winning season.
“They can’t hang their heads. There are still too many winnable games and now they’re fighting for a winning record. So we just have to regroup, get things going better, and keep moving forward.
Barker finished the game 12 of 26 for 170 yards, 1TD, and 1 interception. Redd-Donald dropped a couple balls in the first quarter but settled in with five catches on the night for 107 yards and a score. Logan Allen had four catches for 40 yard and Riles II caught 3 balls for 21 yards.
Sheymouhr Redd-Donald led the Hounds on defense with five tackles and four assists.
The Hounds take their 3-2 record to Solon Friday. The Spartans knocked off Oskaloosa 43-7 Friday night.