BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – This one means more than just the battle for Lee County.
With the Keokuk Chiefs sitting at 5-3 and guaranteed a winning season, the Fort Madison Bloodhounds are even at 4-4 and are starving for a winning season.
That sets up a clash on Hwy. 61 on Friday night when the regular season comes to a close on Hound Homecoming and Senior night on Jim Yeoul Field at Richmond Stadium in Fort Madison.
The Derek Doherty era started this year with early season wins over Central Lee and West Burlington, and then ran into the typical bumpy middle of the schedule with losses to Clear-Creek Amana, Solon, and Washington.
But change seems to be blowing in as the Hounds sprinkled in a couple other wins against teams that Fort Madison hasn’t had a lot of luck with, including Burlington, and an overtime win over Fairfield.
Factor in a couple of games that the Bloodhounds were very much a part of going into halftime, and Doherty has to think of the season as a win, regardless of Friday’s outcome.
Doherty even called a 45-7 loss to state-ranked Solon, a “win” because of how his team played against Solon’s first string out of the lockerroom.
But the Hounds seem to be getting one half of good football in most of the games so far this year and Doherty is hoping Friday for the complete game.
“We have put an emphasis on consistency. We have lacked that in different spots throughout the year and are working on fixing it,” he said. “Our focus is to put four quarters of football together.”
Doherty said the week was full of homecoming activities, which can be a distraction that some coaches can get frustrated with, but he told Dave O’Hara on the O’Hara & Bohnenkamp Show on Wednesday that he’s on a different side of things, but it’s part of the high school experience.
Keokuk and Fort Madison has become a viable rivalry with Fort Madison holding the “county seat” for the past two years and the Chiefs have put together the type of the year where they are looking to bring that chair back south.
Keokuk’s offense is led on the ground by Braylon Martinez who has 552 yards on 106 carries and four touchdowns. Martinez requires a containment on defense because of his ability to move laterally and break away speed.
Junior quarterbacks Cory Skinner and Will Larson are similar in stats, both with just over 1,000 yards passing. Skinner has thrown 12 touchdowns and has a 51.8% completion rate to Larson’s eight scoring tosses and 48% completions. Skinner has three rushing touchdowns, while Larson has found pay dirt five times.
On the ground, the Hounds move the ball around liberally with Diego Lozano carrying the workload, but Calem Maclearn and Kali Maestro each getting carries each week.
Maestro and Lozano lead Fort Madison on defense with close to 100 tackles combined and 19 tackles for loss including nine sacks.
Senior Dylan Jeffers is the missile on the Keokuk defense with 50.5 tackles and 16 of those are in the opponent’s backfield and three sacks.