BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Bloodhounds will be looking in a mirror of sorts on Friday night when the square up against the Big Red on the road at Centerville.
Fort Madison will be taking their 1-0 mark on the road to face a Centerville squad, that lost to Davis County 28-19 last week despite holding the Mustangs scoreless in the second half.
The Hounds are coming off a 23-8 win over West Burlington/Notre Dame in the season opener with junior wideout Tate Johnson hauling in a couple touchdowns, and senior QB Will Larson throwing for a score and running for another.
“We feel like their pretty much identical to us. They use a 3-front on defense and our spread offense concepts are the same,” Doherty said.
“(Head Coach Matt Kovacevich) is spreading the ball out, and we can spread the ball out. To us, it will be an intriguing matchup because we kind of feel like we’re facing our twin in a way, and let’s see who can get it done at a better rate Friday.”
The Big Red feature junior quarterback Sawyer Wardlow, who threw for 3 TDs last week to three different receivers. Senior Kellen Johnson hauled in one of Wardlow’s TD passes and averaged 22 yards per catch and 16 yards per return on special teams.
Doherty said he’s the type of player that can blow a game up and Fort Madison’s gonna have to map him out.
“He’s very explosive and obviously he’s a worry and a guy that can getcha. We’ll have to be very disciplined on him,” Doherty said.
Reviewing film this week, Doherty said the Hounds left a lot of points off the board and some corrections need to be made.
“We see a lot of small mistakes were making. If we can correct those things we’re going to be more explosive offensively, and more solid defensively and we’ve worked all week on those things.”
Fans Friday night were checking their programs to see who No. 3 was on the Hounds defense wrangling Falcons to the ground. Sophomore Tanner Settles rolled up WB/ND with eight tackles, four solo and one for a loss. Junior Gavin Wiseman also had a quiet big night with 4.5 tackles one for a loss in the win.
Doherty said defensive coach Jason Crooks has had the Hounds ready week in and week out for the past couple of years. He said the philosophy is that offenses are built to be successful so it comes down to limiting the big plays.
“We need to limit the number of explosive plays and for the most part we have, but I think we had it in cruise control at the end last week,” Doherty said.
“Defensive coaches are a different breed and selfish, and I say that with a smile on my face – they wanted the shut out and I think the kids now have some sincerity about not taking a play off.”
Senior Ethan Deacon had a couple of defensive fumble recoveries to give the Hounds some decent field position to work with Friday.
The Hounds moved the ball around to different players on Friday and kept the Falcons defense on their heels. But he said there are many arrows in the Bloodhound quiver.
“I said it to the guys this week. Tate had a big night TD wise, Brock had some huge catches and nice runs and we’ve got a couple other guys who are fully capable of the same thing. It will be just who’s night it is,” the second year head coach said.
Junior running back Jacob McGowan was couple steps or block away from a big night himself. Doherty said after watching film, he saw several plays where a block extended for another second, or McGowan stepping differently would have resulted in big plays.
“When we watched film, Jakob was just a block away from breaking some huge runs. That was motivation to our kids to block for second longer and motivation for McGowan to lower a shoulder and get through a tackle.”
The Hounds had a little trouble with cramping last week, which forced junior quarterback Landes Williams in for Larson. Larson was having a gem of game, but Williams held his own throwing for a touchdown in a backup role.
Doherty said Larson has settled in and understands the offense a bit differently this year.
“He’s starting to settle in. He came along away in understanding the offense. His football IQ is really good and he’s gotten better. He’s understanding the offense the way we want him to and to his credit some of the big plays were checks he made without us telling him,” Doherty said.
To get those explosive plays the Hounds are going to have to bottle up Lucas Henderson, a 5’11, 185 lb senior who recorded 10.5 tackles, nine solo against Davis County.
Doherty said the Big Reds are bouncing guys to Henderson and they are structurally sound up front.
“We need to know who were blocking, and work our doubles and things like that. They’ve got a good defensive front and great linebacking crew.”
The Hounds offensive and defensive lines punched above their weight class last week controlling the line for most of the four quarters against a much larger Falcon front.
“We may not be tipping the scales on average across our line, but as a force production number we can compare with a lot of people.”
If the Hounds are facing their twin, the advantage may come down to special teams play. Fort Madison got a 27-yard field goal and a couple extra points from Xander Wellman, and held West Burlington to just 69 yards in returns on the night.
“Special teams is something we take very seriously here. It’s 1/3 of the game and when I was hired as head coach one of the top things for me was spending more time with special teams,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we wasted a time out on an extra point and we’re going to correct that. You have to be ready for the next play and we weren’t and that was frustrating.”
WHO TO WATCH
#8 QB – Will Larson (Sr.) – 228 yards 1TD, 1 Rushing TD
#22 RB – Jakob McGowan (Jr.) – 38 yards offense
#13 WR – Tate Johnson (Jr.) – 112 yards 2TD
#5 WR – Brock Califf (Sr.) – 89 yards total offense
#3 DE – Tanner Settles (So.) – 8 tackles, 4 solo
OL/DL – Ethan Deacon (Sr.) – 2 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries
#54 LB – Austin Ensminger – 5 tackles
#15 QB Sawyer Wardlow (Sr.) – 184 yards 3TD
#1 WR Kellen Johnson (Sr.) – 90 rec. yards, 1TD
$29 RB – Bradley Watts (Jr.) – 47 yards
#5 WR -Kade Mosley (Jr.) – 16.5 yards/rec.
#65 DL – Lucas Henderson (Sr.) 10.5 tackles, 9 solo.