BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Despite a lopsided 63-15 loss to visiting Washington, the Fort Madison Bloodhounds ended their season on a couple high notes.
Senior running back Alex Gully set a new single-season rushing record with 1,355 yards on the season and senior Caleb Gehle, who typically gets around with leg and/or arm braces, a walker or wheelchair, but has been on the sidelines all year, took a handoff and shuffled into the endzone for a 2-point conversion.
After Alex Gully bulled his weigh in from two yards out for the Hounds first score of the night in the first quarter, Gehle came onto the field in the backfield. Quarterback Lennon Barker handed Gehle the ball with Bloodhound fans cheering him on and he moved in over the right tackle for the score, with his father Mike standing behind the west endzone, and his teammates coming out and surrounding him.
The Hounds kicked off and the Demons returned the ball to their own 41 and then Garrett Ikerd took the next handoff down the left sideline for a touchdown. But the Hounds weren’t going to be done as Gully still had some work to do to get the record and Head Coach Tony Shiffman left him in.
“I told the kids before the game we we’re going to play the seniors and he was close,” Shiffman said.
Gully carried on six of the next seven plays with the clock in continuous mode due to Washington having a 35-point lead or larger. Gully carried for 52 yards on the six carries to notch the record and put the Hounds at the Demons’ 7, After two incompletions, Barker hooked up with Trey Kuntz on the left sideline and Kuntz was able to fight into the endzone for the Hounds final score of the season.
Gully said reaching the record was important to him, but he said finishing the game with the players he has played with since he was a kid was more important.
“I knew it was close and I wanted to get it because I hope to keep playing football somewhere, but I was just happy to be able to finish with these guys I’ve been playing with all this time,” Gully said.
Gehle said he was confused throughout the season as to whether or not he’d get in a game, but was told this week that they would try to get him in if an opportunity presented itself.
“This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I’m really happy that it worked out. I was confused up until this week but then they fitted me for a helmet and I put the pads on. It was just awesome.”
Washington, who will make the playoffs after going 8-1 on the season with the only loss coming to Solon, showed how good they were in the first half when 6’4″ Jaivonn Willis stole a high toss over FMHS’s Shance Redd-Donald and scampered 45 yards for a touchdown on the third play from scrimmage.
The Demons were able to score on the ground and through the air on each possession and didn’t have a single punt in the game, but did turn the ball over on downs on one occasion.
Senior Ryan Reighard scored on the ground three times for the Demons. Reighard has been off the offense since fracturing his forearm early in the season. Sophomore Luke Turner threw for three touchdowns, two to Willis, and Jack Redlinger also scored on a long run. Senior linebacker Tanner Murphy scored on a 36-yard fumble recovery to round out the scoring for the Demons.
“This is just a very good, very fast football team,” Shiffman said. “You look at their first two or three scores we had someone right there, we just didn’t make the plays. This team just needs to learn how to make those plays in games like this. I’ve been saying it all year.”
Gully finished with 233 yards on 41 carries to lead the Hounds offensively. Barker finished 7 of 22 for 38 yards and a touchdown. For the year he went 95 of 204 for 1,228 yards, 13 TDs and six picks. Harley Pennamon had seven tackle assists and a solo tackle to lead the Hounds defensively. Sheymouhr Redd-Donald and Nick Carter each had three solo tackles for Fort Madison.
The Hounds end the season at 4-5.