BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WASHINGTON – Glimmers of what could have made this year a winning season, flashed like the lightning that forced three delays in a 32-7 Bloodhound loss Friday night on the road in Washington.
With a deluge of rain, cracks of lightning, and a field that was barely a field, Washington took advantage of two defensive touchdowns and a couple throwing scores to keep the Hounds off balance in Southeast Conference football action.
Fort Madison quarterback Lennon Barker through three interceptions on the night, two for touchdowns. The first coming in a downpour on a bubble screen to the right with about 8:20 left in the first quarter. Barker looked right on a screen pass and threw to a Demon defender who jumped the route and ran in untouched for the score. Then with 6:45 left in the third quarter after an impressive 9-play, 52-yard drive, Barker looked to dump a pass over a blitz, but 6′-4″ Trashaun Willis, who only plays with one arm, reached up and blocked the pass, then quickly coraled the ball and raced 95-yards the other way for the score to make it 22-7.
Washington quarterback Luke Turner would throw for a couple more scores, but the Hounds defense kept the elusive quarterback under control the rest of the game. Turner accounts for about 73% of the Demon offense through the air and on the ground.
The Hounds held Turner under 100 yards on the ground and 148 through the air with a stout defensive line performance lead by senior Danen Settles who had 3.5 tackles on the night, including three sacks.
The game was moved to a 6 p.m. start time with severe thunderstorms predicted for the area, but the game didn’t get going until about 6:20 with a 30-minute lightning rule. The Hounds took the opening kick to the 27 and then Barker threw a bubble screen to junior Mike Mosena who then flipped the ball back to Dom Frantz, who threw a slippery ball down the left sideline that fell short of senior Sheymouhr Redd-Donald.
Kaeli Maestro had a couple of hard runs for 12 yards for a Fort Madison first down, but a 12-yard loss on a high snap forced the Hounds to the air where Barker missed on two tries, forcing a punt that was returned to the Hounds’ 21. Turner took the first snap and found Cade Pohren in the back of the endzone for the first points of the night.
The Hounds fell victim of the first pick six on the first play after a touchback. With the Demons up 15-0 on the 2 pt. conversion, lightning again struck right after the ensuing kickoff, forcing a 50-minute delay.
Hounds’ head coach Tony Shiffman said the Hounds could have come out of the lightning delay with their heads down after the game had started.
“There’s nothing you can do about that,” he said. “We came out flat and, after that first weather delay, we played some of the best football we’ve played all season.”
The Hounds went four and out on their first possession after retaking the field, but forced the same on the Demons. Fort Madison then put together a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive capped by Maestro’s second rushing score of the year from 11 yards out on a sweep to the right where he found a gap and, literally, slipped into the endzone cutting the lead to 15-7.
The rain then made moving the ball difficult as both teams exchanged punts on the following two possessions. After a punt to the Washington 18, the Demons went 64 yards mixing in Turner runs and throws getting to the Hounds’ 17, but Turner threw incomplete in the left flat on 4th and 4 turning the ball over to FMHS.
Shiffman then put junior Diego Lozano in the backfield offset from Barker. Lozano slipped past the Demon line and Barker flipped the ball over the rush to Lozano who knocked down a couple of Demons enroute to a 21-yard gain. But the drive stalled at the Hounds’ 21 after Barker was sacked for a 9-yard loss forcing a punt.
The two teams traded punts again and Settles got one of his sacks at 2nd and 8 to end the half.
Out of the lockerroom, Turner threw a couple incompletions after Tristan Westphal-Edwards went for about 12 yards on two muddy carries up the middle, but the Demons punted to the Fort Madison 23.
Maestro and Barker took turns off a read running left and right before, on 4th and 2, Barker broke through the left side and bounced outside the left sideline and raced 53 yards to the 5 before getting run out of bounds. Maestro couldn’t get anything on 1st and 10 and Barker threw incomplete on second down. On third down, Barker tried to dump it over the middle but Willis got the pick six to kill the Hounds’ momentum with 6:45 left in the third and the Demons up 22-7.
“That was a bonehead call on my part and I totally take the blame on that one,” Shiffman said.
The Demons would convert a 31-yard field goal to make it 25-7 and then, in the fourth quarter, Cade Hennigan would leap in the back of the endzone and come down with a 22-yard scoring catch to set the final at 32-7.
Shiffman said the game was closer than the score indicated, but the Hounds continue to play with flashes of potential and have yet to put their best game on the field.
“Really, at 32-7, the score was a lot closer than that and that’s the truly frustrating part. We played with this team for almost four quarters. We’ve just gotta be a better team. We have good moments, but that goes to show what we’ve been talking about…about not letting adversity get to us.”
The Hounds (2-5) have two games remaining, the first on the road at Mt. Pleasant and then at home to wrap up the season with Keokuk.
Shiffman said the motivation for the Hounds is to win out and end the season on a good note.
“The motivation is still to win two games and win out. To beat a good Mt. Pleasant team and then keep the county seat at home,” Shiffman said. “In reality, we want these seniors to go out winning eight games. Who’s the last class in Fort Madison that can say they won eight games? Let’s go 1-0 and then worry about Keokuk after that.”
Barker ended the game with 15 carries for 13 yards including the 53-yard scamper. He was 16-27 passing for 57 yards and three interceptions. Lozano had 14 yards on three carries and five tackles. Maestro led the Hounds on the ground with 55 yards and a touchdown. Redd-Donald picked off one of Turner’s passes in the endzone to kill a drive in the first quarter.