BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – As has been the case for the past three years, the Fort Madison Bloodhounds will be looking to go 2-0 to start the year.
Standing in the way is a West Burlington-Notre Dame squad that was beat up by a pretty good Mediapolis team in the opening week last Friday on the road, 46-7. Fort Madison downed the Falcons 46-0 in week 2 of 2018.
Fort Madison head coach Derek Doherty’s squad scrimmaged the Bulldogs a week before the season started and said they have some “firebreathers” and are a very good football team, so he’s not looking past West Burlington.
As a matter of fact, Doherty said people may be doing that with Fort Madison.
“Unfortunately, Fort Madison has a program that hasn’t been too threatening, so it’s not like people are fearing us. People chalk us up as this is a winnable game and that’s totally fine. We’re preparing for a dog fight, so we’re expecting that.”
Last week Central Lee was looking to get their first win in three years over the Hounds, but a stingy defense and plow running from senior Diego Lozano led the Hounds to a 17-0 win.
Doherty said he thinks the Hounds left some points on the field, and pointed to execution problems for Fort Madison.
“Week 1 was crazy just because we new Central Lee was going to run a new offense and a new defense. We thought we were pretty good at what we do, but at the same time everything was brand new. I felt we left a lot of points off the board,” the first-year head coach said.
“From us it was execution problems. That was our halftime talk, too.” It wasn’t Xs and Os, it was all about executing and doing the things that we do every day in practice.”
Lozano averaged 7.5 yards per carry for 140 yards and a score. Junior quarterback Will Larson, in his first start, went 19-41 for 107 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
West Burlington comes in after the opening loss featuring junior quarterback Anthony Hoffman and senior running back Dreyton LaVeine.
The Falcons get the tough yards from LaVeine who had 55 yards in the gaps for West Burlington off the veer, or flexbone offense. West Burlington will spread things out with a speedy junior Kendall Baker, who will look for running room outside the tackles, while Hoffman tends to roll out looking for passing lanes.
Hoffman scampered for 49 yards on 16 carries, but threw for just 28 yards on 4 of 8 passing with a pick.
Doherty said West Burlington’s Head Coach Jay Eilers will have his team ready after Friday’s loss.
“As far as what they do, we ran the flexbone here seven years ago and it’s tough to prepare for in a short amount of time. They’ve got good athletes, and Mepo is a good football team, we just hope to play with that same intensity,” Doherty said.
“Defensively they are aggressive, their skill players are pretty solid, and they’re going to have a lot of guys playing downhill. I think Jay is a great coach and he’ll have them ready to play. They won’t be happy with the results last Friday.”
Seniors Drew Chiprez and Jonah Fritz led the Falcons on the defensive side with 14 tackes and Fritz leading the way with eight, all solo.
The Bloodhounds will try to build on the some different defensive looks from first-year defensive coordinator Jason Crooks, who pitched a shutout in the first game against Central Lee. Crooks stepped in for Rickelman last year for several games while the Rickelmans welcomed a new child into the family.
“When Luke had his daughter last year and Crooks stepped in it was a great transition for him. We tried some different things when Rickelman came back on, but it was good experience for Jason. Rickelman is a great teacher and great coach. He coached up one of our coaches.”
But he said for the first time in several years, the Hounds have changed up their defense from what they’ve been doing the past three years.
Senior Quentin Schneider leads the Hounds with 8.5 tackles on the season four solo, followed by Lozano with 6.5 in last week’s win.
Fort Madison will have the services of last year’s leading rusher in senior Kali Maestro back this week. Maestro and his brother, Romeo Maestro, who’s pesky from the rush end, and had three sacks and a fourth tackle for loss against West Burlington last year, return after missing week 1.
“We’re excited to have them back. We have four or five running backs we feel we can put in. That’s not smoke, that’s sincere,” Doherty said.
“This will be a nice change up. Diego plays middle backer and running back and we had some guys step in. Calem Maclearn did a great job. We put him in and hit a screen with him, but that wasn’t the main reason. We can run power with him, outside zone, inside zone. He’s a power runner, he’s just smaller than Diego. Diego will take the wind out of ya.”
The game kicks off at 7 p.m. at Bill Nelson Field in West Burlington.