Duo combines for four touchdowns as Fort Madison makes it four in a row over West Burlington/Notre Dame
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison Head Coach Derek Doherty could point to a number of key plays in Friday’s seasoning opening 23-8 win over West Burlington/Notre Dame, but it may have been a punt that set the stage for the win.
With Fort Madison pinned down on their first possession of the game on 4th and 5 from their own 33, Xander Wellman let go with a 58-yard punt that spiraled up and over the Falcons’ deep returners and pinned the visitors at their own 9.
The Hound defense would hold West Burlington to a 4 and out, before Fort Madison would get on the board first when a 10-play drive took the Hounds to the Falcon 11. Senior quarterback Will Larson would miss Calem Maclearn in the endzone on 3rd and goal, but Wellman would clean things up with a field goal for a 3-0 Fort Madison lead.
The Hounds would again hold the Falcons without a first down forcing a punt. Junior Jakob McGowan would take the first hand off for four yards, before junior Tate Johnson just missed a 40-yard TD reception when he stepped out at the 14.
Two plays later Larson would reward Johnson with a 14-yard TD strike to get the Hounds up 10-0. Johnson would finish with 63 yards and two TDs for Fort Madison.
Johnson said he and Larson had success in the preseason and that spilled over into the opener.
“We work a lot of in practice. We expected to come into this game and win obviously. But we didn’t take them lightly. There a good team, we just wanted to come out and compete with them,” Johnson said.
The score would hold at 10-0 through the first half, despite a 11-play drive spearheaded by Falcon sophomore quarterback Hayden Vandenberg. Vandenberg went 4-5 for 42 yards starting at their own 19, and Travon Donaldson picked up 20 on a 2nd and 9 at the 50 to put West Burlington in scoring position with time ticking away in the half.
But junior Gavin Wiseman would step in front of Vandenberg’s pass on 4th and 9 at the 19 to kill the drive and end the half.
The Falcons would cough it up on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, and senior Ethan Deacon would pounce on it, his second fumble recovery of the night, to put the Hounds in good shape at West Burlington’s 28.
Larson and Johnson would hook up again on 3rd and 11 and Johnson would get taken out at the 1 setting up a Larson plunge just off the center’s left side for a 17-0 advantage.
Both teams would go four and out before Larson would pick off a Vandenberg pass at the West Burlington 49. With Larson cramping up after the play, Landes Williams would take over behind center and lead the Hounds 9 plays and find Johnson again on the left side of the endzone for a sliding TD catch and a 23-0 lead.
The Falcons would get all the way to Bloodhound 2 on the next drive, but a unsportsmanlike penalty pushed them back to the 17 and Fort Madison was able to stop the Falcons on 4th and 2.
West Burlington would eventually score in the fourth period on a Johnson 1-yard plunge, but the Hounds would run out the clock for the win.
Larson went 15-24 for 228 yards, 1 TD and an interception. Williams was 2 of 5 for 23 yards and a touchdown. Williams and Larson each had 27 yards on the ground to lead Fort Madison.
Tanner Settles led the Hounds on defense with eight tackles, four solo. Austin Ensminger had five tackles, two solo and Keaton Poe had the only Hound sack on the night.
Larson said Fort Madison was able to take advantage of the Falcon’s blitz packages.
“We just were able to find receivers open. They’re a blitz heavy team and they like a big box, so we just spread them out,” Larson said.
Doherty said he was pleased with how Johnson worked in the secondary with both quarterbacks.
“We know what their capable of and their capable of doing some really great things,” he said.
But he said the running game still hasn’t blossomed. Jakob McGowan couldn’t get much headway with a beefy Falcon front four.
“Jacob runs hard but is still a bit immature in the run game and a year away from something great. He tends to try and bounce when he needs to put his foot down and drive, but he’ll fix it.”
The Hounds were able to control the larger Falcon lineman from the get go.
“We’re athletic up front. We know we’re strong and our kids in the weight room do phenomenal things. We may not be tipping the scales at a high number, but our kids are forceful and they can move really well,” Doherty said.
Lineman Ethan Deacon, a senior who plays on both sides of the ball, said double teams were key to helping the Hound stretch things out.
“We run a lot of double teams in our offense. When we did that we just had our guys synch down and we were able to really overpower ’em,” Deacon said.
The Hounds take there 1-0 mark to Centerville on Friday.