BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Every game the Hounds have played this year has been a shut out. Twice the Hounds held their opponents scoreless and twice the tables were turned.
Fort Madison is looking to put some points on the board, but it will be tough going as Keith Miller and the 4th-rated Solon Spartans come to town on Friday night.
The Spartans smacked the Bloodhounds around last year 62-0 enroute to a season where they gave up only 37 points the entire season before Cedar Rapids Xavier ended their season in the playoffs at the UNI-Dome 7-35.
But Fort Madison Head Coach Tony Shiffman said despite the Spartans being maybe a little smaller this year, Solon is still Solon.
“They are one of the best teams in the state. They’re a well-coached, physical group of kids.”
Spartan senior Adam Bock carries the workload from the backfield with 38 carries for 263 yards and four TDs and is averaging just under seven yards per carry.
But Solon will spread the carries around with Kula Hunter taking the ball 37 times for 209 yards and junior quarterback Cam Miller has 135 yards on 34 carries.
Miller, a junior and the son of Solon Head Coach Keith Miller, has also thrown for 604 yards on 47 of 79 efficiency. He’s tossed for 11 touchdowns and has been picked off three times.
Miller has a corp of six or seven receivers that he can check to in the Spartans’ passing game.
AJ Coons, a 6’4″ junior wideout, leads the team with 18 receptions for 256 yards and four scores. Coons is tall and can jump and catches a lot of balls over shorter defenders in the secondary. Senior Dillon Holt has seven catches for 113 yards and a score.
Bock also leads the team in tackles with 27, however the Spartans only have 3 sacks on the year and eight tackles for loss in four games so the Spartans defense isn’t looking for penetration off the line, but more to shut down the running game and patroling the secondary to keep passes in front of them. Holt has four interceptions on the year patrolling the secondary from his strong safety position, half of Solon’s eight on the season.
Fort Madison is coming off a disappointing 0-31 loss to the Burlington Grayhounds. After the loss, head coach Tony Shiffman had little to say about the game and didn’t know what identity his 2-2 Bloodhounds were carrying.
Offense numbers indicate the Bloodhounds played better than the score would indicate. Parker Denning caught a pass on the first play of the game on a halfback pass from Diego Lozano, but lost his feet turning around with no one between him and the endzone. Kaeli Maestro coughed up the ball at the 5 after the Hounds put together a long drive to start the third quarter, and a holding penalty killed a drive with the Hounds in the redzone. Denning had 103 yards on just five catches including a 31-yard leaping circus catch in front of the Hounds’ fans and sideline.
“If ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a wonderful Christmas,” Shiffman said. “So there were too many ifs and buts. It’s one of those things where, not to take anything away from Burlington because they are a good football team, but yeah, if a couple things went differently – who knows maybe its a 14-7 game instead of 21-0 in the third quarter.”
He said the good thing out of the game was that there were no negatives from players after the games. He said quarterback Lennon Barker messaged him and said the team should watch tape on Saturday even though coaches had given them the day off. So the team ran video from the Burlington game for over an hour on Saturday.
He said the Hounds have to be more consistent in their approach to each game.
“We’ve gotta be more consistent with our competitiveness. We have to hit adversity back when adversity hits us,” Shiffman said. “This won’t happen overnight. It’s something they’ve got to learn, and they are learning. They are doing better.”
Barker is 75 of 133 throwing for 902 yards, but only two touchdowns. Senior Dom Frantz has both touchdown receptions and has 17 catches on the year for 259 yards. Shaymour Redd-Donald didn’t play last week due to an injury to his knee but should be in the lineup this week at home. Senior Alex Lauber who plays on the line on offense and defense left Friday’s game with a possible concussion, but has passed protocols and should be in the lineup this week as well.
Mike Mosena leads the Hounds in receptions with 18, usually the benefactor of bubble screens and throws in the flat from Barker.
Maestro has the lion’s share of carries this year with 40 carries for 167 yards. Lozano has only 14 carries on the year for 111 yards and two scores. Barker has a net -27 yards rushing but has scored four times carrying the ball on read runs and goal-line plunges.
Junior Deigo Lozano leads FMHS from his inside linebacker spot with 29 tackles. including 13 in Friday’s loss at Bracewell Stadium in Burlington. Four of those tackles were for losses on Burlington’s Taven Harris who leads the state in rushing. Lozano has nine tackles for a loss on the season. Juniors Quentin Schneider and Romeo Maestro have 21 and 19 tackles, respectively. Maestro has three sacks on the season.
Shiffman said the Hounds just need to execute off the ball on both sides. Solon won’t be doing anything differently than they have in their previous four wins. Most of those wins were lopsided with the exception of a 7-0 overtime win over West Liberty in week 2.
“They’re not as big as they were last year, but with a team like Solon that doesn’t matter,” Shiffman said. “They’ll be just as physical, just as well-coached, and just as aggressive as they’ve been in years past. Yeah, it’s a different team, but it’s still a Solon football team.