BY ETHAN LILLARD
FORT MADISON – For the second-consecutive game, Fort Madison keeper Josie Pumphrey recorded a shut out, this time blanking Mount Pleasant Tuesday night at Baxter Sport Complex.
It’s a good thing Pumphrey held the Panthers scoreless, as the Bloodhounds leaned on the defense for a 1-0 win, and continued to leave the door open for a potential share of the Southeast Conference crown with Mount Pleasant in the process
“Second place was the goal really,” Fort Madison Head Coach Sebastian Seifert said. “If we can take conference, great, but second place in the conference is our goal. We’ve gotten better each year, so second place would be the best we’ve ever done. This got us a step closer to that.”
Pumphrey wasn’t the only Bloodhound to keep a streak going into Tuesday’s rain and wind-filled contest. Sophomore Brandy Walker added another goal to her two-day total, bringing it to three goals in a 48-hour timeframe.
The goal came in the 20th minute when Maddy McVey kickstarted the Hound offense and helped find Walker on the left side of the field away from the Panther defense. Walker collected the pass and snaked her way into the box, sending the ball past the keeper and into the bottom right corner for what would be the deciding goal of the contest.
“I think she’s grown a lot,” Seifert said of Walker. “She played a couple games on offense last year as a freshman and scored a goal at Keokuk, so I kind of saw her as that tall forward who can muscle her way through and that’s been what’s happening.
“In a 1 vs. 1 chase, she can use her body and her strength to get past the defender and get it in the box. She can create that space and turn and shoot.”
In the 20th minute of the second half, Mount Pleasant was awarded a penalty kick after the officials called a foul on Alyssa Fincher. Mary West took the penalty shot for the Panthers, but Pumphrey was exactly where she needed to be for the save. Just two minutes later the Hounds’ senior keeper was tested again by West, but recorded a goal saving dive to keep Mount Pleasant at zero.
With Fort Madison still holding the 1-0 lead late in the second half, Mount Pleasant needed points fast. Whether it be intentional or not, Mount Pleasant’s Ryann Davidson nearly tied the game in the 13th minute. After fielding the ball several feet in front of the midfield line, Davidson kicked a high arching shot towards the goal that fooled Pumphrey.
Pumphrey started to back pedal, but fell down. Luckily for her, her goalie instincts came into play as she threw out her hand and deflected the ball away for the save.
“It probably would have,” Pumphrey said when asked if she thought the ball would have went into the goal had she not got a glove on it. “I think it was a mis-kick honestly. It was so high I just had to get back and I slipped.”
Just when it appeared the Bloodhounds were out of the woods, they were called for a handball with under 30 seconds on the clock. Mount Pleasant was awarded a free kick on its own side of the field within scoring distance. By the time officials placed the ball and Apryl Simon lined up the shot for Mount Pleasant, there were just five seconds left on the clock.
“I was thinking, ‘We’ve made it this far. We are not going to let them score in the last five seconds,’” Pumphrey said. “I was going to do everything in my power to not let them score.”
Fort Madison formed a wall to block Simon’s attempt. Pumphrey didn’t even have to worry about trying to keep the ball away, as Coree James headed the ball away as the clock struck zero, giving Fort Madison the 1-0 win.
“I was counting on my defense to get it out, which they did,” Pumphrey said. “I was proud of them for that … I thought we fought hard. I feel like the ball was on their half the whole game. It was stressful, but I thought we stayed strong as a team.”
Fort Madison’s next contest is Friday at Davenport North High School with a 4:30 start time.