BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – For the second year in a row, Fairfield spoiled a hopeful homecoming in Fort Madison.
The Trojans came in with the same record as the Hounds at 2-3 and shook off a Jace Burgher 77-yard opening kickoff return for a touchdown, to knock off Fort Madison 42-14.
The loss extended Fort Madison’s losing streak to four with three more district games remaining with Washington, Mt. Pleasant, and Keokuk.
After Burgher’s theatrics to whip the Homecoming crowd into a frenzy, Fort Madison stripped the ball from the Trojans’ Tristan Waugh on 3rd and 1 of Fairfield’s opening drive. Sheymouhr Redd-Donald pounced on the ball giving the Hounds the ball just about midfield 1st and 10.
After Kaeli Maestro gained a yard on first down, senior quarterback Lennon Barker hooked up with Trey Kuntz for a 33-yard gain to the Trojan 21, but Fairfield snuffed out the drive on two straight tackles for loss. A fumbled snap on 3-15 resulted in 4th and 15 forcing a Hounds punt.
Fairfield’s Carson Crile threw incomplete on 1st and 10 and then Waugh went to work with six straight carries. Senior Cole Engle added a 23-yard on 2nd and 6 to get the ball to the Hounds’ 3, where Waugh took a direct and moved down the line of scrimmage before finding a lane and the endzone to tie the game at 7.
The Trojans, not wanting to test Burgher or the Hounds kick return team again, pulled an onside kick and recovered at their own 46, but the Hounds defense stuck Fairfield again.
The Trojans, who typically stick to the run, threw 21 times in the contest including three touchdowns, which doubled Fairfield’s total for the year. But Crile threw incomplete twice in the following series, and the Hounds held Waugh in check forcing a punt. The Hounds went four-and-out resulting in a punt, but Barker’s pooch angled to sharp left and went out at the Trojans’ 49 giving Fairfield good field position.
Waugh would carry three times in the next nine plays, but the Hounds’ defense held again on 4th and 7 and they took over on downs at their own 21. Barker would complete two passes in the next series but would get called for illegal grounding when he threw the ball away scrambling near the endzone. The penalty set the ball at the two and a completion to Kuntz wasn’t enough to extend the series and the Hounds had to punt again.
This time with Waugh pounding the Hounds’ defensive line on three straight plays, the Trojans moved the ball to the 36 and then Crile hit Carter Ferrel on a 36-year scoring strike to put Fairfield up by a touchdown.
With Fairfield squibbing all their kickoffs, the Hounds got the ball at the 37. The Hounds picked up a first down on 3rd and 8 at the 47 and then Barker threw a swing pass to junior Michael Mosena who shook a tackle near the sideline and got in between the safety and the outside linebacker and outraced everyone to the endzone for his first score of the year to tie the game at 14.
But that’s all the scoring the Hounds would muster. Fairfield would get another score to make it 21-14 with 3:40 left in the first half when Waugh bulled in from the 2-yard line on a 10-play, 66-yard drive. The Trojans were helped by a holding penalty on the Hounds for being offsides, resulting in an automatic first down. After the teams exchanged four and outs, Fairfield scored again just before the half when Crile hooked up with Caden Jones on a 17-yard scoring strike to take a 28-14 lead into halftime.
Head Coach Tony Shiffman said the Hounds played well early on but couldn’t keep up the pace.
“We came out hot and then got flat real quick and weren’t able to get our momentum back,” he said. “We stopped them after the half but then had a penalty and that hurt us.”
Fairfield took the second half kick 44 yards in 17 plays before Fort Madison got a stop at 4th and 18 from the Hounds’ 44. But Fort Madison wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the defensive stops and had to punt again. Fairfield would put together an extended eight play drive and scored on another Crile touchdown pass from the 14 to make it 35-17. The Trojans’ final score would be on a Hounds punt from their own 6 that Ferrel grabbed and raced around the left and down the sideline for the final score.
Shiffman said the Hounds weren’t surprised by the uptick in passing from the Trojans or the efficiency of Waugh with the ball.
“We weren’t executing. It’s the same as the rest of the year. We’re not executing and were not doing what we’re supposed to do,” Shiffman said. “We practice it all week and do it all week and then we come out here and can’t get it done.”
Hounds Defensive coordinator Luke Rickelman said the Hounds had planned on seeing more throwing from Crile, but couldn’t take advantage of some balls in tight coverage.
“It was a little bit more than we anticipated,” Rickelman said. “There were some pretty good balls in the air that were 50/50 that didn’t go our way. We had guys in a position it felt like a few times and the ball didn’t go our way.”
Barker went 9 of 16 for 122 yards and the touchdown to Mosena. Lozano led the Hounds on the ground with 22 yards on three carries. Mosena led Fort Madison in receiving with 63 yards on two catches. Trey Kuntz, Parker Denning, and Dom Frantz each had three catches on the night. Lozano had 11 tackles on the night, four solo and 14 assists. Junior Quentin Schneider and senior Alec Craft each had tackles for losses.
The Hounds travel to Washington next Friday before returning home to host Mt. Pleasant the following week and then wrap up the season on the road at Keokuk.