BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WASHINGTON – If you pull a couple big plays out of the mix, the Bloodhounds hung around with one of the better teams in the state Friday night.
But the Hounds couldn’t overcome a 72-yard left end scamper by Washington quarterback Trashaun Willis, and a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown and fell to Class 3A No. 5 Washington 29-7 on the road to kick off District 5 action.
Fort Madison Head Coach Derek Doherty said when the Hounds got off the bus at Case Field, they were a little wide-eyed, and it showed early.
On the second play from scrimmage, at the Hounds 23, quarterback Will Larson found Tate Johnson open on the left side, but Johnson got bottled up and headed back to his right behind the line of scrimmage and was taken down for 13-yard loss.
On the next play, Larson was sacked for the safety and Washington was up quick 2-0.
“We got stabbed with a double edged sword,” Doherty said. “They are a really good football team, but then we do things that we typically don’t do – running backwards, dropped some footballs, and missed a lot of tackles. And that hurts.”
Fort Madison then played even football with the Demons for the next three series. Both teams would go four and out before the Hounds would put together a six-play drive that stalled when a Larson pass to Johnson down the left sideline bounced off the junior wideouts hands on a dive on 3rd and 14 forcing a punt.
Washington would take over at their own 28, and Willis, who plays quarterback with one hand, took the first snap and ran to the left off tackle, got to the outside, and ran down the sideline shaking tackles for 72 yards and the score.
Fort Madison would block the kick, but a roughing the kicker penalty reset the extra point attempt which was good for a 9-0 lead.
Neither team would score again in the half until Fort Madison was forced to punt on 4th and 24 from their own 27 with 14 seconds left in the half.
Washington’s Jacob Miller took the punt at about midfield and raced it down the right side. Miller cut back into the field from the sideline with time running out but was tackled with 6 seconds remaining.
Willis then dropped back on the first play and found Spencer Sotelo open in the middle of the endzone as the Hounds’ Brock Califf broke on the ball and just missed tipping it away, to give the Demons a 15-0 lead going into the locker room.
The Bloodhounds came out of the half and stuck the Demons deep in their own territory with a 4th and 26 on the 15. Califf would fair catch the punt at the Washington 45, but on the first play, Johnson would catch a screen from Larson on the left and get popped trying to make a move jarring the ball loose and the Demons would recover.
Willis would then take the hosts 55 yards in seven plays and score on play action keeper to the right side for a 21-0 lead.
Washington would get it’s final score when the Demons’ Ethan Zieglowski would jump in front of a Larson pass intended for Calem Maclearn, and race it back 52 yards for a 29-0 lead.
Fort Madison would get on the board on its final series where five Demon penalties, including one on the bench for arguing a call, kept the drive alive and allowed Califf to shoot in over the right tackle on 4th and goal from the one.
Doherty said he told the Hounds they had to be ready for a fast start and they didn’t react.
“Our guys were kind of wide-eyed and we told them you gotta be ready. This is a team that starts fast and they won’t slow down. And then we started really slow on offense,” he said.
Fort Madison mustered just 42 yards of total offense on the night, 35 in the air. Larson was 10 of 20 for 23 yards. Jakob McGowan and Keaton Poe rushed for a combined 51 yards, but sacks and tackles for losses reduced the Hounds ground production to just seven yards total.
Senior Bryce Britton led the Hounds with 5.5 tackles and Poe had 3.5 tackles, including two sacks to go along with an interception
“I was proud of the way the defense played. We gave up a huge run and some other things. but overall I thought our defense played well and gave our offense some chances that they just didn’t capitalize on,” Doherty said.
“This one really sucks, but you gotta flush it. There’s nothing we can do but learn and move on from this.”
The Hounds fall to 2-1 on the year and will take on Keokuk (2-1) for the coveted County Seat on Friday at Richmond Stadium.