BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – From the looks of things on the opening kick off, it was gonna be a long night for the Bloodhound football team Friday night.
But as it turned the Hounds played some of their best football of the year in the first half of a 35-13 loss to Clear Creek-Amana at Richmond Stadium/Youel Field.
Fort Madison won the toss and elected to receive on a night honoring our areas first responders, but the Hounds didn’t respond, and left the kick-off laying in the grass as if it was punt, allowing the Clippers to recover and start at the Fort Madison 22-yard line.
With the Hounds squandering winning the coin toss and the Clippers offense starting the game just 22 yards off of paydirt, the Hounds were in trouble early.
But a quick pass from Ryan Navarra to TJ Bollers was met viciously by Kaeli Maestro. The 5’8″-200 lb lineback put his shoulder into Bollers on the Clippers first possession forcing Bollers to cough up the ball and it was recovered by Calem Maclearn at the Clear Creek Amana 41-yard line.
Fort Madison then put together it’s best drive of the night going 59 yards in the next 16 plays. At 1st and goal from the nine yardline, junior quarterback Will Larson tried to slice in from the four and ran into a stiff Clipper line. Larson coughed the ball up from under the scrum and Diego Lozano, for the second time this year, recovered it in the endzone for the touchdown. Fort Madison would miss the point after.
The two teams would trade possessions capped by a sack by Lozano on a 4th and 4 play, where Navarra tried to escape to his right, but the speedy Lozano, tracked him down to end the drive,
Fort Madison would run six plays highlighted by a 13-yard reception from Larson to Quentin Schneider, who reined in the ball after diving for it to the right. But the Hounds couldn’t keep anything going, which would be the case in most of the 2nd half, as well.
On 4th and 11, Head Coach Derek Doherty called a time out and put in a play that had Parker Denning open inside the pylon down the left side, but Larson overthrew his target, a common theme for the night for Larson.
Clear Creek-Amana put together a six-play drive and on 2nd and 11 from their own 41, Navarra hit Bollers just behind the line of scrimmage and Bollers shook off about five tackles all the way to end zone down the left side to take a 7-6 lead
“I want to start off saying I’m super proud of our guys, they emptied the gas tank. We preach attitude and effort and they brought it tonight, I just wanted to say that to start,” Doherty said.
“We didn’t finish some things and and when you don’t finish tackles bad things happen like that. That’s a pretty good football team and we’re just not quite there yet.”
Fort Madison would go four-and-out after the kick and were forced to punt, and Clear Creek-Amana would find the endzone on the second play on a 51 yard touchdown toss from Navarra, but an illegal block on the play sent the Clippers back to the drawing board.
Nine plays later Navarra hooked up with sophomore Harrison Rosenberg for a 25-yard pass, again with Rosenberg running down the right sideline cutting and making Bloodhounds miss on the way to take a 14-6 lead.
Fort Madison would get a nifty return on the kick off from Brock Calif, all the way to the Hounds 49. Fort Madison ran five plays and then let the game clock slip down to 1:23 before calling a time out on 4th and 1 at the 23.
The Hounds ran a play-action keeper to the right side, but Larson couldn’t find enough room to convert a first down and the Hounds turned it over with 1;18 left in the first half.
CC-A would then run eight plays in the 1:18 throwing on all but one, where Navarra slipped away around the end for a 15-yard gain. One 3rd and 10 from the Hounds 28 Navarra again found an open receiver down the middle, but laundry was thrown on the field again and the play was nullified. The Clippers ended up turning it over on downs and the score would stay 14-6 at halftime
Doherty said Clear Creek made some good adjustments at halftime to take away the short lateral passing game that was opening some lanes for Hound receivers.
“Credit to them for running routes and making plays,” Doherty said. “We had some receivers open tonight, too. Football is about execution and if we execute on some things, maybe this is a different conversation.”
The Hounds made some changes of their own in the lockerroom. Romeo Maestro, jumped a route from his outside backer spot and picked off a pass on the Clippers first play from scrimmage to open the half.
Larson would gain a couple on 1st and 10 and then hit Michael Mosena in the flat and he would gallop 31 yards to set up a 1st and goal at the 7. Three plays later, Larson would run an option left off a play-action and would tuck the ball in and slip past the Clippers defense into the endzone to make it 13-14.
But that’s all the Hounds would put on the board, while the Clippers would handle the rest of the scoring in the 2nd half. Navarra would cap a 12-play 63-yard scoring drive on CC-A’s next possession. The Hounds held at 2nd and 1, and 3rd and 1, but then Navarra would slip into the endzone on a read option to the right on 4th and 1 for a 21-13 lead.
The Clippers also got rushing scores from sophomore Gage Freeman on a 24-yard breakthrough for a 13-28 lead and then Cole Pfister would break free for a 15-yard score with about 9 minutes left in the game to set the final score 35-13.
Romeo Maestro continues to lead the defense with 7.5 tackles, a sack and an interception on the night. Bryce Britton had eight tackles and four for losses.
“Bryce Britton, that’s a guy that’s probably not going to get a lot of credit but he played his tail off,” Doherty said. “That’s a kid that has bought into everything we do. He got his number called tonight, he was a captain, played with his hair on fire and I’m proud of him.”
Larson went 17-33 for 134 yards. He also had 11 carries for 27 yards and the score. Fort Madison had just 59 yards on the ground and 204 yards of total offense.
“They dragged us into some deep water and we just didn’t have enough bodies,” Doherty said.
“We’re looking a 1-0 after next week I mean that’s what we’ve said all along. One week at a time and I firmly believe in that mentality. Nothing we can do about this loss other than learn from it. Losing sucks, but if we don’t learn anything and grow from it, it’s just a loss.”
The Hounds (2-1) return to Richmond Stadium next Friday when the Burlington Grayhounds come calling. The Grayhounds (1-2) knocked off Clinton 33-26 Friday for their first win of the season.