BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Saying the Fort Madison Bloodhounds have a hill to climb Friday, might be the understatement of the COVID-shortened season.
The Bloodhounds, who received one vote from an AP sports writer for the Class 3A top 10 this week, will tangle with No. 5 Washington on the road at Case Field.
The test will certainly be the toughest of the year in the regular season. With every team in the state qualifying for the playoffs due to the coronavirus outbreak, it’s tough to say who the Hounds will run up against that’s better than the Demons right now.
The Demon’s are led by senior quarterback Trashaun Willis, a 6’5″ 230 lb senior who has four touchdowns on the year, one on an interception return, and leads the team in tackles with 11.
“He’s very special. He’s a talent and works hard and in our culture we talk about being a dog, and he’s that dog mentality and he’s had that his whole life,” Doherty said.
“The first time I saw him was on ESPN when he dunked in a middle school game against Fort Madison. We’ve been dealing with this guy for a long time. He’s a fantastic athlete and seems like a great kid.”
Willis has thrown for 227 yards and a score, and has rushed for 81 yards and two touchdowns. He also brought an interception back for a score, a skill not lost on Doherty, recalling a 96 yard INT for a touchdown against Fort Madison in 2018.
The Hounds (2-0) are coming off a 28-12 win over Centerville last week, capitalizing on three defensive scores.
Seniors Will Larson and Calem Maclearn both had interceptions for scores, and senior Bryce Britton picked up a fumble for another touchdown, all in the first half.
Doherty said the secondary, which has seven interceptions in just two games will need to be just as aggressive and productive come Friday.
“I’m really high on our secondary. Those kids are dogs, too. They like to compete, their smart and they’re where they need to be,” he said.
“It’s not because these other quarterbacks aren’t good, our guys are in the right spots and are doing a good job breaking on footballs, but this is a new test and that’s how we have to look at each week.”
The Demons have wins over Bettendorf (0-1) and Solon (0-2) and have given up 28 points in the losses, but put up 52 points.
Their offense, aside from Willis, gets a lift from senior tailback Wyatt Stout who’s averaging just over five yards a carry on the year. Senior Spencer Sotelo leads the receiving corps with 53 yards and a score.
Willis has targeted seven different receivers for 227 yards.
Fort Madison has also had some success throwing the ball but offensively hasn’t put the whole thing together yet. The Hounds had just 179 yards of total offense against the Big Reds on Friday.
“Offensively, as a staff and players we went to bed really frustrated on Friday night. We woke up Saturday and started watching film right away and when we watched there was promise. There were lanes, receivers open and time to throw, we just didn’t vibe,” Doherty said.
“That’s our biggest problem right now, we’re just not vibing.”
Larson leads the Hounds through the air completing 19 of 33 attempts for 249 yards and a score, but he’s also thrown three interceptions in two games.
He also has one of two rushing touchdowns, the other coming from back-up quarterback Landon Williams. Williams has been platooning with Larson, which allows the Bloodhounds to do some different things offensively, but Larson has been taking the majority of the snaps.
Senior Keaton Poe has 91 yards on 12 carries, most of which came on a 54 yard run last week.
Junior Tate Johnson and senior Brock Califf have combined for close to 200 yards in receptions. Johnson has both touchdown catches for Fort Madison this year.
The Demons also come with senior Zane Laws on defense. Laws has 10.5 tackles from the line, including five for loss and four sacks in just two games.
Doherty said that’s how the Demons come after you.
“That’s just them. Coach Harris is fiery dude and they like to line up and say you’re gonna have to beat us. And then they bring pressure and they’ve done a dang good job of it,” he said.
Fort Madison will be without junior Gavin Wiseman who was lost last week with a broken ankle.
Doherty said when the Hounds win, they climb the rough side of the mountain and Friday’s game will be a steep hill.
“We’re not good enough ever to just show up ad win. When we win we feel it’s deserved,” he said.
WHO TO WATCH
Fort Madison Secondary: The Hounds have picked off seven passes this year and returned two for touchdowns.
Fort Madison’s quarterbacks: No. 8 – Sr. Will Larson and No. 4 – Jr. Landes Williams have been platooning giving opposing teams different looks and have combined for 60 yards and 2 TDS.
No. 25 – Sr. Keaton Poe- RB: Poe had a 54-yard run cutting behind blocks and got a hard 37 more on 11 carries mostly between the tackles.
No. 13 – Jr. Tate Johnson: Johnson has 2 TD receptions, but likes to block and is sneaky in the secondary.
No. 11 – So. Xander Wellman: Wellman is averaging 53 yards per kickoff and 36 yards per punt, including a 58 yarder in game 1.
No. 7 – Sr. Trashaun Willis (QB) – 14/29 227 yards, 1TD, 2 rushing TDs, 11 tackles.
No. 23 – Sr. Wyatt Stout (RB) – 12 carries, 143 yards, 3 TD.
No. 3 – Sr. Spencer Sotelo (WR) – 26.5 yards per catch, 1 TD
No. 76 – Sr. Zane Laws (DL) – 10.5 tackles, 5 for loss, 4 sacks