BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – It’s homecoming week again, as much as it can be, and with all things red and black at FMHS, the Bloodhounds are focused on a purple and red chair.
The “County Seat” is up for grabs again as the Keokuk Chiefs (2-1) come into Richmond Stadium to tangle with the 2-1 Hounds on Jim Youel Field.
The Chiefs won 28-20 last year and swiped the chair from Fort Madison who’d had it the two previous years.
FM Head Coach Derek Doherty said the Chiefs are better team than 2019, but so are the Hounds.
The Chiefs return senior signal caller Corey Skinner who’s accounted for 775 yards of offense and seven scores in just three games. His favorite target is Anthony Potratz, who has 179 yards and three of four Skinner touchdown tosses.
“Skinner and Potratz hurt us big time last year. They were a major part of the game last year and here they are again,” Doherty said.
“We feel they’re better than they were last year, but we feel we’re better than we were in the secondary last year, so it should be an interesting matchup,”
Saying the Hounds are better in the secondary is an understatement. Fort Madison has nine interceptions for 171 yards and a couple scores and they are very opportunistic and quick to the ball when it’s in the air.
“Our secondary is wired different. If it’s checker’s they want to win and we enjoy that. The dropped balls early on is frustrating, but you have to look at the positives. We’re in the right spot, jumping routes and we just need to keep finishing the plays,” Doherty said.
Safety Will Larson has four picks on the year. Brock Califf, Gavin Wiseman, Tate Johnson and Calem Maclearn all have picks on the year. Wiseman is out with a broken ankle from two weeks ago.
Doherty said Califf is playing as well as he ever has.
“It all starts in his head. He doesn’t miss weights – doesn’t miss opportunities,” Doherty said.
“He wants to be good and we love that about him. In the weight room his numbers are freakishly awesome and it shows in his power output. Even though he’s not very tall he can’t get up there. He’s a dude that we’re really proud of.”
Califf gets his hands on the ball on offense and shores up the secondary on defense while also returning punts and kicks.
Despite having less than 50 yards in total offense last week against Washington, the Hounds have had production moving the ball in the previous two games with close to 600 yards in offense.
Larson has thrown for 272 yards and a touchdown and has a rushing touchdown. The Hounds like to spread things out and have thrown to seven different receivers. Junior Tate Johnson has two scores in just under 100 yards through the air.
Senior Keaton Poe leads the Bloodhound rushing attack with 119 hard yards on 16 carries. Junior Jakob McGowan is still looking to break out and has 71 yards on 27 attempts.
But the Hounds defense, which has been opportunistic and staunch most of the year, that could be the key to a Bloodhound homecoming win Friday.
Doherty said the secondary will have to keep an eye on Potratz and stop any big plays, a task they’ve handled pretty well so far.
“They have a quick jitterbug in the backfield in Equilius Lee, that kid can go, no doubt about it and Skinner’s a great quarterback. He’s a kid who wants to make plays,” Doherty said.
“He’s gonna run the ball hard and then all of a sudden he’s gonna put one up for Potratz who’s a fantastic receiver. So we have to limit the big plays and then take advantage of our opportunities.”
Fort Madison will need a better start than last Friday when the dug a hole quick on a safety on the first possession. Doherty said that can’t happen again on Friday.
“We said it halftime to our guys. We played probably the worst football you could play in the first half. You’re starting off the first series and you get a safety after a negative 13-yard pass play. Couldn’t have started much worse than that.” he said.
“But I was proud of our guys for digging down and continuing to battle when things weren’t going well.”
Despite being down 15-0 at halftime of last week’s 29-7 loss to No. 5 Washington, Fort Madison continued to put stops on the Demons’ offense and scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The first of which was called back on Hound penalty, after Johnson got loose on sideline route, shaking off two tackles to the endzone.
“I think we’re showing growth on the mental side of game. In the past we’ve been known for folding, and you know – we didn’t fold, we didn’t concede. We kept playing and fighting through adverse situations and I’m proud of our guys for that.” Doherty said.
“It’s growing pains. We’re understanding the offense more and more every week. Coach Menke called a great game (Friday). The things he was calling were there, but we have an execution problem right now.”
Kick off is set for 7 p.m. following senior night activities. A voucher attendance system is in place again to help with social distancing at the game. No attendance will be allowed without a voucher. Coaches and athletes were given vouchers to hand out.
Who To Watch
No. 5 Sr. Brock Califf WR/RB/DB (190 all purpose yards)
No. 8. Sr. Will Larson – QB/DB (272 yards, 2 TDs)
No. 25 Sr, Keaton Poe – RB/LB (119 yards, 14.5 tackles, 3 sacks)
No. 74 Sr. Bryce Britton – OL/DL (15 tackles 2 sacks)
No. 3 So. Tanner Settles – OLB (17.5 tackles, 10 solo)
No. 18 – Sr. Corey Skinner QB/DB (775 yards total offense 7 TDS)
No. 3 – Jr. Equilius Lee RB/DB (7.6 yards/carry, 3 tackles for loss)
No. 7 – Sr. Anthony Potratz – WR/DB (3 TD catches)
No. 15 Jr. Kolbe Barnes – LB (22 tackles)