BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DONNELLSON – For the second year in a row, the Fort Madison Bloodhound football team is starting 1-0. And for the second year in a row, the Hounds opened with a shutout win.
Fort Madison dropped cross-county rival Central Lee 21-0 in a game that in all reality could have been double that had the Hounds had a little better timing in the air.
Senior quarterback Lennon Barker, who threw for 281 yards, 18-31 passing on the night, had a handful of overthrows on the night, several of which were to open receivers in the endzone.
“We need to definitely work on our timing. I had a lot of overthrows,” Barker said. “We’ve got some things to work on, but we have things we need to work on every week.”
Barker started the game with a bang on a 71-yard completion to Dominic Frantz on the Hounds’ first possession. Frantz, who finished with a very quiet 132 yards on five catches,
was caught from behind by the Hawks’ TJ Stutes at the 3-yard line. The Hounds then fell as far back as the 43-yard line after a bad snap on 2nd and goal and then a double penalty on 3rd and goal from the 13. Barker and Frantz hooked up again for 21 yards but the drive fell short on 4th and goal when Barker hit Shaymouhr Redd-Donald for a 16-yard pass play to the 6.
The Hounds forced a 4 and out at the 49 yard line and the Hounds mixed up the offense with runs by Kali Maestro and Barker dealing on the run. Junior Mike Mosena caught two passes in the series, the second for 15 yards, to get the Hounds to the 7 and Barker would bull in from the right side for the first points of the game to give the Hounds a 7-0 advantage.
Fort Madison caught Central Lee in another four down set forcing a punt that left the Hounds in good field position at the Hawks’ 41. Maestro carried again three times for 24 yards in the series and Barker found three different receivers in the set before taking it off tackle again from two yards out to give the Hounds 14-0 with the AJ Nolting extra point.
Central Lee got their legs under them and took the next series 13 plays starting at their own 22 yard line and put senior tailback Tyler Hopp to work. Hopp carried the ball six times for 20 yards while junior signal-caller Evan Pohren completed three passes in the series including a 27-yard strike to Stutes that took the Hawks to the Bloodhound 4. Pohren then looked for Dalton Westercamp on a corner route that bounced off Redd-Donald’s hands and then off Nicky Carter’s hands before landing in Westercamp’s arms only to fall to the ground incomplete. Redd-Donald would break up the next pass, as well, turning the ball back over to the Hounds on downs.
Both teams would exchange 4 and outs before Harley Pennamon picked off a Pohren pass at the 26 to end the half.
Fort Madison came out and scored quickly in the third when Diego Lozano spun and stiff-armed his way through the right side of the Hawk defense keeping his feet and stumbling into the endzone from about 10 yards out to set the final score.
It looked like the Hounds had scored after the Hawks were unable to get a first down on the next series and punted the ball to Brock Califf, who bobbled the punt and then picked it up and raced to the right, caught a couple blocks and scampered down to the sideline for a touchdown, but an illegal block on the play nullified the run. Fort Madison would run seven plays in the next series highlighted by a 30-yard pass play from Barker to Redd-Donald, but two incompletions and a holding penalty snuffed the drive forcing a punt.
After Central Lee worked a first down at 4th and 2, junior end Quentin Schneider picked off a Pohren pass on 1st and 10 and raced it back 22 yards to the Fort Madison 25. Penalties and a couple incompletions forced a 4-10 from the 15. Shiffman sent in Nolting, who made his only field goal attempt last year, but Nolting’s shot went wide right and the Hawks took over at the 20.
Both teams had a four and out before Fort Madison reeled off an 11-play drive to start the 4th quarter. Barker went 4-6 on the drive for 41 yards, but a sack at 3rd and 8 pushed Fort Madison back to the 33 and forced a punt. Central Lee went to the air with Pohren throwing eight times in the next series for 39 yards, but the last three fell to the ground. Neither team would get into scoring position the rest of the final period.
Shiffman said offensively the Hounds missed on some opportunities but for the first game of the season, the did what they needed to do.
“We were executing up front and doing what we needed to do but we have to get better at it and get sharper,” he said “I think we improved as a team from the Mediapolis scrimmage but we still have a long way to go. We got work to do and we know it, but we’ll get it accomplished.”
Eight different ball carriers were used on the night by the Hounds led by Lozano who finished with 61 yards on just seven carries. Maestro had 22 yards on nine carries. Barker hit five different receivers on the night led by Frantz’s 132 yards. Mosena had 56 yards on 5 catches and Redd-Donald had 70 yards on six grabs on the night.
The defensive effort was a bend-don’t-break performance and holding Hopp to just 85 yards on 23 carries was no small feat, according to Shiffman.
“That Hopp kid’s a ton. He got the ball a lot and he runs hard. We told our defense he would run hard and play hard and they did that for sure,” Shiffman said. “Our defense stepped up and made plays when they needed to. They bent a little at times, but when we needed them to make a play, we either forced a turnover or a punt.”
Defensive coordinator Luke Rickelman said the defensive line controlled the game after giving up some yards early.
“Overall, I’m extremely happy with the entire defense and the way we played, Rickelman said. “We didn’t do anything fancy, we played our base defense with a solid front and solid coverage. We didn’t have to bring a ton of blitzes or overscheme. We knew what they wanted to do and they wanted to get the ball to Hopp, so we focused on the basics.”
Rickelman said Schneider, who had five solo tackles, three assists, a sack, and an interception, had a standout night and said the entire defensive line came together after Hopp gained some big runs early.
The Hounds open the home schedule Friday with West Burlington coming to town. The Falcons fell at home 44-0 to Mediapolis Friday and will come into the contest 0-1.