BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Hounds put on an offensive juggernaut against a broken down West Burlington-Notre Dame football team Friday night, but it might have been the defensive effort that stands out.
Junior corner Romeo Maestro recorded 8.5 tackles on the night, including three sacks on the Falcons’ sophomore quarterback Anthony Hoffman, helping the Hounds to their second straight shutout with a 46-0 win Friday at Richmond Stadium.
Maestro, who had just one tackle in last week’s season opener at Central Lee, also wrapped up sophomore Brady Oleson in the endzone for a safety on West Burlington’s first possession of the game.
He said the defense came out flat last week and didn’t want that to happen again this week.
“We pretty much brought the intensity tonight, we had come out a little flat last week,” Maestro said. “I just try play every game the same every Friday and try my hardest and try to help the team.”
The Bloodhounds forced three fumbles on the night that were recovered by junior linebacker Diego Lozano and seniors Alec Craft and Alex Lauber, two of Fort Madison’s anchors on the defensive front. Craft said the Hounds have been setting high expectations for themselves.
“We always expect to go farther than we do,” Craft said. “But this time we brought it. We’re not going to come out cocky and stuff like that, we just come out and do what we do.”
Quarterback Lennon Barker had very similar numbers to last week going 21 of 35 for 317 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for two more scores this week giving him four rushing touchdowns on the year. Both scores this week were to Dom Frantz on throws of 25 yards and six yards, both with Barker rolling to his left and finding Frantz free in the flat.
Frantz, who had more than 100 yards last week, finished with 65 yards on five catches and the two scores. Shaymour Redd-Donald led all receivers with 118
yards on six catches.
Frantz said the relationship with Barker is getting crisper, but he sees his job as helping others get open as well.
“Lennon and I have been off and on, and tonight we were on. I feel like he’s believing in me more and I know he’s gonna put the ball on me. But I try to get others open running tight routes, and they get me open. That’s just how we do it here.”
Head Coach Tony Shiffman said the offense has a ways to go.
“I think we still have a lot of improvement to make offensively truthfully,” he said. “We’re going through gradual progression if you look at our improvement this week compared to last week. We want to be peaking at the right time, and if we peak at the right time we’re gonna be real dangerous.”
He said the Falcons were giving the Hounds the rollout passes playing a softer defense on the edges.
“They were giving us that and playing off us in cover 3. If you make enough mistakes we’re going to make you pay.”
After having to punt away the first possession of the game, which resulted in a safety three plays later, the Hounds found the endzone on the next series when Lozano bulled in from three yards out for his second rushing touchdown of the year. Lozano finished with 51 yards and six carries to lead the Hounds on the ground. Barker would score on a 5-yard scamper on the sixth play of the next Bloodhound possession and Fort Madison led 15-0.
West Burlington struggled to get a series with more than one first down until late in the third period, giving Fort Madison ample time to put points on the board.
AJ Nolting added a 19-yard field goal, his first of the year, on the Hounds next series. After the Falcons went another four and out, the Hounds put together a 13-play 84-yard drive. Barker went 3-8, including a 14-yard reception by junior Quentin Schneider who was tripped up at the 1 to make it first and goal. Barker would slip through the line on the next carry to make the score 25-0.
The Falcons got two plays in off the kickoff before coughing up their first fumble of the night. The Hounds recovered and went right back to the air with Barker hitting Redd-Donald for a 10-yard strike after a holding penalty to bring up 3rd and 10, where Barker threw running left and found Frantz who shook one tackle heading down the sideline to the endzone to put the Hounds up 32-0 with Nolting’s PAT.
The Falcons tried to get something going on their next possession when Hoffman hooked up with Riley Koenig up the middle for a 10-yard gain on the first play off the kickoff, but the Hounds defense again shut down any thoughts the Falcons had of scoring before halftime.
The Hounds kicked to start the second half, but the Falcons went four and out. Kaeli Maestro ripped off a 19-yard run on 1st and 10 for Fort Madison and then Barker hit Redd-Donald on two consecutive passes in the seam of the Falcon’s defense. Redd-Donald was caught by the foot on the second pass with no one between him and the endzone. After Maestro bulled for another dozen, Barker hit Frantz again to the left for the touchdown that started the continuous clock with the Hounds up 39-0.
Keaton Poe would put the final touches on the game when he bulled in from a yard out, but not before sophomores Will Larson and Brock Califf took turns running over a worn out Falcon front five. Califf had a nifty run on 2nd and 8 from the 13 where he slipped out of three tackles spinning his way to the right and was wrestled out of bounds at the 7. Larson would rush for three hard yards and Califf would get wrangled at the one before Poe punched it in to set the score at 46-0.
The Hounds will get tested next week with a trip to 2-0 Clear Creek-Amana who shut out Fairfield Friday night 29-0. The Hounds went into week three last year 2-0 and then got drubbed out of Oskaloosa 14-58.
“We’ve gotta approach this better than we did last year,” Shiffman said. “Last year we were in the same boat 2-0 with two big wins and then went to Oskaloosa and laid an egg. We’ve got to be confident and not cocky.”
Senior Alex Lauber said he’s looking forward to the challenge next Friday offers.
“I think we’ve learned a lot since then. We were still developing as a team then, but now we’re mentally in it. We’ve gone two games without giving up a point and our confidence is through the roof right now. I’m so excited for this game.”
Senior linebacker Sam Hayes said it’s important to keep the energy levels high this week.
“We gotta keep momentum going on defense against Clear Creek. We can do the same thing if we play up to the expectation. We can do this to every team. That’s our mentality, but we gotta keep everyone up and remind them of what we did this week.”