BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Bloodhounds haven’t beaten Fairfield in a dozen years.
But this Friday’s matchup probably presents the best chance for a Hounds’ win, and could put Fort Madison in a position for their first winning season since 2010 when they finished 5-4.
Fort Madison comes into the contest 3-2 and Fairfield is winless at 0-5. But the record is deceiving as Fairfield’s gone up against perennial powerhouses in the likes of Mt. Pleasant, Washington, and Oskaloosa. Grinnell and Knoxville are the Trojans’ other losses and those teams are a combined 7-3.
“A not so fun fact here, is that we haven’t beat them in at least 12 years,” Head Coach Derek Doherty said.
“Traditionally they are a solid football program. They’re very well-coached and they’ve played some tough competition this year. People look at their record and it doesn’t look great, but they have tested themselves and played some really good football.”
The Trojans feature senior signal caller Carter Ferrel who is 15-112 for more than 700 yards and four TDs, But Ferrel gets a little loose with the ball and has thrown a district-high 11 interceptions on the year.
Fort Madison junior Will Larson has six touchdowns on the year against only one pick and has thrown for 626 yards. Larson also leads 3A’s District 6 in number of attempts in Doherty’s run-pass-option offense with 138.
Senior Leone Gichure leads the Fairfield ground attack with 307 yards on 79 carries and a couple of scores, one of which came on an 80 yard run. Ferrel has the preponderance of the remaining carries and also has two scores.
Fort Madison will platoon in the backfield with Calem Maclearn, senior Diego Lozano, and Kali Maestro. Larson will also take off in gaps in the option schemes. Freshman Tanner Settles had some hard runs against the Solon reserves Friday night and could see late action.
Lozano and Larson each have 46 carries on the year, but Lozano has a 6.3 yard per carry average and four TDs. Larson has the other two scores in the ground game.
Doherty said last week’s 45-7 loss to No. 4 Solon was a climb up a steep hill, but the Hounds learned they could play against good teams.
“We’ve been to the lion’s den and that’s what we keep telling our guys,” he said.
“Not taking anything away from any other team we’re going to face, but that was a really good football team.”
He said the scoreboard wasn’t the unsettling part of the game, but the lack of effort in the first half.
“Once we settled in to do the things we know to do, we played some decent football. Mostly in the second half when we challenged them in the dugout that we weren’t upset with the scoreboard but with attitude and effort,” he said.
“Then they were different and began to move the football against Solon’s No. 1s and we scored on ’em. I was proud of that.”
Doherty said Fairfield will get after the Hounds with the ball and eliminating turnovers will be a key to the game.
“Solon was extremely ferocious to the ball and we kept it off the ground. So we were proud of our guys for that. But Fairfield gets after the ball so we’re gonna have to protect it,” he said.
“Defensively we have to get as many red helmets to the ball as possible. We gotta create turnovers and hopefully get the ball in our offense’s hands and keep the defense off the field.”