BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – It didn’t take long for Mt. Pleasant to set the tone Friday night in handing the Bloodhounds their sixth straight loss.
The Panthers scored quick and often in the first half en route to a 47-7 win over Fort Madison on senior night at Richmond Stadium.
Senior quarterback Zach Beason had the game under thumb from the get go completing four of his first five passes in the first series of the night and scrambled for a six yard run before senior Levi Puig went off left tackle for the first score of the game.
Fort Madison experienced a disease of four-and-outs in the first half with senior quarterback Lennon Barker missing on three straight in the Hounds’ first possession forcing a punt from deep in their own territory. Senior Tucker Johnson returned Barker’s pooch kick to the Hounds’ 38 and, three plays after a Panther holding flag, Beason found junior Rylan Seberg along the right sideline for a 31-yard touchdown and it was quickly 12-0. The Panthers failed on an extra point and a 2-point conversion attempt after the first two scores.
After junior Jace Burgher returned the kick to the Mt. Pleasant 30, the Hounds went four and out again. Barker did hook up with Trey Kuntz on 2-10, but Kuntz was tackled on the bubble screen for a 2-yard loss. Barker then threw errant again and Fort Madison was forced to punt.
The Panthers then went right back down the field. The Hounds had Mt. Pleasant stopped on third down three times in the drive but allowed the conversion all three times, before junior Logan Bass slipped around the left end for the Panthers’ third score of the first period. Bass’ run capped a 14-play, 62-yard drive and put the Panthers up 19-0.
“We didn’t step up and we didn’t play well to start the game and you can’t get behind with a team like that,” Shiffman said.
The Bloodhounds switched to pounding junior Kali Maestro who had three carries for 13 yards. The first of which was nullified on a Fort Madison holding call. Barker hit Dom Frantz on a screen for three yards, but the Hounds were out again without a first down.
Mt. Pleasant was moving the ball after returning the punt to their own 34 yard line. Beason completed his first two passes after a Mt. Pleasant penalty started the drive on 1st and 20 to make it 3rd and 4. Beason then went to the right off tackle for eight yards. On the ensuing first down, the Hounds stripped Bass on a carry to the left side and recovered the ball.
But another quick four and out with two Barker incompletions killed the momentum and forced Barker to punt out the shotgun again to the Panther 15-yard line.
Starting 1st and 10 at the 15, the Panthers converted 1st downs on two of the next three plays moving the ball to their own 46. But Harley Pennamon, who had an outstanding night on defense with 10.5 tackles to lead the Hounds, pulled Kyle Samples down for a 2-yard loss. Beason threw incomplete on 3-12 and the Hounds’ defense forced the Panthers’ first punt of the night.
Fort Madison would take over at the 10-yard line and Maestro would get the call, but a Panther face mask would give the Hounds an automatic first down. An offsides penalty then made it 1st and 5 from the Hounds’ 34. Maestro carried for four and on 2nd and 1, Barker tried a shotgun draw up the middle but coughed up the ball and Mt. Pleasant recovered. Center Caleb Wood was injured on the play and had to be carried off on a board and gurney and was taken to Fort Madison Community Hospital where he was up and moving around when the game concluded, according to Shiffman.
Beason would take control on the next drive, running for 11 yards and hooking up with senior Chase Lamm on two receptions for 29 yards. Beason also found Johnson on a four-yard strike and then hit Seberg for 20 yards before the quarterback bulled in from three yards to up the lead to 26-0.
Mike Mosena brought the kickoff back to the Fort Madison 35 and then Maestro got his biggest run of the year with a 35-yard scamper on 1st and 10. Maestro got through the secondary but was caught from behind by Johnson on a shoe string tackle. The Hounds found themselves at 3rd and 7 after Barker threw incomplete and then scrambled for three. A Fort Madison penalty made it 3rd and 21 and Barker hooked up with Sheymouhr Redd-Donald for the first time for nine yards but an incompletion at 4th and 12 turned the ball over on downs.
Shiffman said Maestro had a good night, but the Hounds just couldn’t get the spark to start a fire.
“He had a good run and we had a couple good plays, but you know, it’s too little too late and we’ve got to play better when our backs are against the wall so to speak,” he said.
Five plays later, Mt. Pleasant was in the endzone again when Beason pump faked a screen and found Seberg behind the secondary for a 56-yard touchdown pass to put the lead at 32-0. After the ensuing kick off, both teams went four and out with Mt. Pleasant turning the ball over on downs and Fort Madison ran out the clock on the first half.
The Bloodhounds got the kickoff to start the second half and converted 2nd and 5 to a first down on a Mt. Pleasant penalty. The Hounds couldn’t get anything else going and were forced to punt. Mt. Pleasant took over at the 37 and ran 10 plays but the Hounds held on 4th and 3 and took over with 5:37 left in the third.
Barker and Mosena hooked up for a first down on 2nd and 4, and then did it again on 2nd and 3 to give the Hounds their first sustained drive of the game. Trey Kuntz took a Barker pass on 3rd and 1 for another first down. The Hounds were in business when the Barker-to-Mosena route gained another 20 yards, but two incompletions sent senior kicker A.J. Nolting in to try a 43-yard field goal that fell short and the Panthers took possession.
Mt. Pleasant got the automatic clock going right after that when Beason took a 1st and 10 from the 14 into the endzone on his own to make it 40-0.
The Hounds went right back to the short passing game and Barker completed four of six in the next drive culminating on a Dom Frantz 8-yard scoring reception on 2nd and goal. Barker threw out to the left flat where Frantz caught the ball and cut inside the cornerback who made a play, but not before Frantz dived across the goal line.
Mt. Pleasant would answer on the next series when Samples would bust free on the right and get behind the outside linebacker and take off 64-yards and the only thing that kept him from scoring was Redd-Donald who came from about 20 yards behind Samples to tackle him at the one. Mt. Pleasant kept feeding Samples to reward the big run and the junior finally sneaked in three plays later on third and goal for a 47-7 Panther lead.
Fort Madison brought the kickoff back to the 25 and, after a five yard gain on 2nd and 10, Barker hooked up with Sheymouhr Redd-Donald who had raced into Mt. Pleasant’s secondary. Redd-Donald had a lane to the endzone and one player to beat. He put a shoulder fake in the run and then slipped on wet grass trying to cut outside and fell. Diego Lozano would take a carry for 10 yards on the next play and then Barker would throw his only interception of the night and Mt. Pleasant let the clock run out.
“That’s a good football team,” Shiffman said. “They’re going to be second in our district and probably end up going to the playoffs. They’re really well coached and have good size and good athletes. It was what we knew going in and and we just didn’t get the job done.”
Barker finished with 18-35 for 186 yards, with a touchdown and one interception. Maestro led the Hounds on the ground with 77 yards on 12 carries. Frantz led the Hounds in receptions with six for 52 yards and a score.
The Hounds fall to 2-6 on the year with their last game at Keokuk for the coveted Lee County seat, a chair that current sits in the FMHS Multi-Purpose Room.