BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – It’s deja vu all over again as the Fort Madison Bloodhounds enter week 3 with a 2-0 record and facing a stiff test.
In 2017, the Hounds, fresh off lopsided wins over Davis County and Central Lee, rolled into Oskaloosa and got a dose of reality with a 14-58 loss. The loss triggered a string of four losses in the next five games. This year the Hounds have dispatched Central Lee 21-0 and West Burlington 46-0.
On Friday, Fort Madison takes on 2-0 Clear Creek Amana in Tiffin. The Clippers run a sneaky read offense that has quarterback Andrew Rohret leading the team in offense with 206 yards through the air and 180 on the ground. Sophomore speedster Alex Figueroa is second on the team in rushing with more than 90 yards.
The Clippers have knocked off the Hounds’ District 6 opponents Mt. Pleasant and Fairfield the first-two games of the season and will give the Hounds somewhat of a different look in the backfield as Rohret is well coached at keeping the ball hidden from defenses.
“They run their read option well and they’re gonna capitalize on the mistakes you make defensively, Shiffman said. “They are well-coached, West Burlington popped a couple of those on us and if they aren’t playing with freshmen and sophomores they’re hitting a couple of those big plays. Clear Creek is the same way except they’re playing with juniors and seniors who’ve been in the program.”
Shiffman said Fort Madison will have to continue to play assignment defense and contain Rohret and Figueroa and watch for junior Sam Stevens out of the backfield and through the air. Sophomore TJ Bollers also runs both sides of the field as a cornerback and a wideout. Rohret has only completed 13 passes combined in the last two games for two scores.
He said the team’s motto on defense is just do your job and if everyone does their job the Hounds will be fine.
“We’ve gotta play with confidence, not arrogance,” Shiffman said. “I gave the guys a quote this week that said, ‘Arrogance is thinking you’re above someone else, confidence is knowing no one is above you’. We gotta play with confidence and not arrogance. If we do that we’ll be fine.”
The Hounds had success shutting down the Hawks and Falcons offensively and have recorded 14 tackles for losses with speedy Romeo Maestro and Quentin Schneider playing containment and a veteran linebacking corp of senior Sam Hayes and junior Diego Lozano. Seniors Alex Lauber and Danen Settles anchor the Hounds’ defensive line.
Hayes lead the Hounds with 10 total tackles, while Maestro and Schneider each have nine plus and have combined for nine tackles-for-loss, four sacks and a safety.
Shiffman said Rohret hasn’t established the pass yet, but said he can throw and the Hounds need to have their eyes open and stick to their assignments.
“He’s not a true passing threat, but he can pass it, and pass it well, so we have to be prepared for that,” he said. “They’ve got a couple different guys that can play running back, too, so we’ve just gotta be prepared.”
Offensively Fort Madison has been spreading the ball around efficiently with senior quarterback Lennon Barker completing 42 of 70 passes for 621 yards and two scores. He’s yet to throw an interception. Barker’s hooked up with seven different receivers led by senior Shaymour Redd-Donald with 205 yards. Dom Frantz is right behind at 197 and has both of Barker’s scoring throws.
Lozano leads the Hounds on the ground with a 112 yards on 13 carries gobbling up 8.6 yards per attempt.
Shiffman said he has no plans to change what’s been working for the Hounds with the ball. The Clippers run a three-man front with the rest of the defensive running zones in the flats and secondary.
“We saw it a bit against Mediapolis,” he said. “It’s not a problem, it’s just different. “They’ve got a real good defensive line, definitely, and we have to do a good job protecting and getting the ball out quick. We’ve gotta find the windows to hit in the passing game and the bubbles and alleys we can hit in the run game.”
After Clear Creek, the Hounds get Burlington and then perennial powerhouse Solon and Fairfield at home. With the heavier part of the schedule in front of the Hounds, very similar to last year, Shiffman said the Hounds are better prepared this year for the challenge that presents.
“I think we showed how efficient we’ve been last week scoring 46, and the previous week we could have scored 46. I think we’re executing the way we should,” Shiffman said. “I think we had two or three drives over eight plays in those games and that says we’re efficient. Last year we’d get to the third play and Alex would pop one or we’d go over the top to Shance. Now we’ve got to keep control and move the ball to come up with points.”
“I know we can go out there and make it happen and we haven’t had that around here in a while. We’ve improved from last year, but we’re still learning how to play with confidence.”