BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Bloodhound coaching staff was a bunch of unhappy winners Friday night.
Despite the Hounds’ defense scoring three touchdowns in the first half, head coach Derek Doherty was less than thrilled with his team’s offensive performance in a 28-12 win over Centerville (0-2).
The Hounds put up just 179 yards of total offense, but took advantage of six Big Red turnovers, four interceptions and two fumble recoveries, to move to 2-0 on the year.
Centerville scored on two rushing touchdowns one in each half to outmatch the Hounds offensively, but Big Red quarterback Sawyer Wardlow threw two pick sixes and then floated a pitch over tailback Bradley Watts head in second quarter, that bounced up to senior Bryce Britton who took it into the endzone.
“He pitched to his running back and he threw it a little high and it got away. I just picked it up and ran it in. It was perfect, it just bounced right up into my arms,” Britton said.
Wardlow’s first mistake was a doozie, as senior cornerback Calem Maclearn jumped in front of a pass intended for junior wideout Kade Mosley and raced it back 74 yards for the touchdown to open the scoring with 2:11 left in the first period.
The pick came after Wardlow had orchestrated a 13-play, 61-yard drive that seemed to have the Hounds on their heels.
Junior Tate Johnson would pick off Wardlows second play from scrimmage after the kick-off to give the Hounds the ball back at their own 21, but Fort Madison would cough it up on a mixed-up hand-off from quarterback Will Larson to Maclearn, that was recovered by the Big Red’s Nic Pfannebecker at the Centerville 24.
Four plays later Watts would bull in from five yards out. Fort Madison’s Keaton Poe would slip through and block the PAT for a 7-6 Hound lead.
Fort Madison would go 4-and-out and have to punt on the next series. A false start and and holding penalty had Centerville 1st and 14 at their own 25 before Austin Ensminger slipped through the line and bottled up Wardlow for a 15-yard sack.
Centerville would end up punting again and Fort Madison would take over at their own 43. Doherty then moved junior Landes Williams in at quarterback and slid Larson out into the slot for a series.
Junior Jakob McGowan rushed twice for 16 yards and Williams would hook up with Maclearn twice for 18 yards, before Williams went through the right side of the line for a four-yard touchdown to make it 14-6 with the PAT.
Centerville would get just two plays in before Wardlow pitched high allowing Britton the scoop and score for a 21-6 Hound lead.
Just :23 later, Larson would step in front of Wardlow’s second snap following the kick off, and race it back 26 yards for another score.
With just 4:56 left in the half, Williams would throw a pick on a 1st and 10 at the Centerville 37 that was nullified due to helmet-to-helmet contact on Williams… McGowan would cough it up but recover his own drop… and Larson would mishandle a snap, all in two possessions. But Centerville couldn’t capitalize on the errors before the half ended.
“I am always proud of our guys effort. They bring effort every time. But our execution has to sharpen up,” Doherty said. “Our inexperience showed tonight.”
Neither team could sustain a drive in third period, but Centerville would get back on the board with its first possession of the fourth quarter. On 4th and 7 at the Hound 32, Wardlow found Griffen Weber for a 12-yard gain to keep that drive alive. Then Wardlow would drop back, and take off on a draw through the right tackle hole for a 20-yard TD run to set the final score at 28-12.
Doherty slid senior Keaton Poe into the backfield as the featured back after the first quarter and got some hard earned yards from the senior.
“Keaton’s vision is some of the best I’ve ever seen in my coaching – at linebacker and running back,” Doherty said.
“He see things and makes the right cut. Jakob is doing a lot of great things, he’s just experience shy right now of making that cut.”
Poe gave credit to big blocks from the Hound offensive line, finishing with 91 yards on 12 carries, most coming on a shifty, 54-yard run down the left side. Poe earned about 20 yards by cutting behind blocks on the play, but Tate Johnson leveled Weber out in front to spring Poe for the other 34 before being brought down at the 18.
“I just, in practice, made sure I was noticed. Then I got some great blocks up front,” Poe said.
The drive would stall however when a snap sailed over Williams head on 4th and 1 and was recovered by Brock Califf at the 27. The Hounds were forced to punt and touched the ball down inside the 1.
Centerville couldn’t get anything going on the next drive, and Fort Madison would run out the clock on the next series.
Doherty said he’s been happy with platooning Larson and Williams at quarterback for different situations.
“They’re truly neck-and-neck in my opinion as far as who’s going to start. Will’s got the experience, but Landes is fully capable when we put him in there.”
The two combined to go 7-13 for 48 yards and a pick by Larson.
Doherty said the play of the secondary was the bright spot and created opportunities for the Hounds.
“Our secondary is, in my opinion, very good. I’m really high on them and I think we finally have kids that are defensive-minded. I’m really proud of their efforts tonight.”
Ensminger led the Hounds on defense with 6.5 tackles, five solo and two for losses including the sack, and had a fumble recovery.
The Hounds are set to travel to No. 6 Washington next week.