BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison’s Head Coach Derek Doherty is a self proclaimed history nerd.
He just acquired an old FMHS alum Jim Youel NFL football card and some 1960s Bloodhound team photos and wants to hang them at the school.
His philosophy this year, despite all the teams in the state making the playoffs, has been to still earn it so the Bloodhounds can stand tall with past teams that have made to the playoffs.
“We don’t call it a playoff year, unless we go a game or two in and then we’ll think about it,” he said.
The next step along the way is a stop at Bracewell Stadium Friday night to take on the 1-2 Burlington Greyhounds.
BHS (1-2) has had a rough start to the year, but got their first win last week against Fairfield. The Greyhounds started the year with a cancelled game with Ottumwa due to coronavirus concerns, but with everyone making the playoffs, the impact of the lost game was minimized.
Burlington has lost tough games to Davenport North 40-7 and Keokuk two weeks ago 20-3. Junior quarterback Kanyae Baker had 75 yards on 18 carries in the game with Chiefs and has 204 yards on the year and a score. But the Greyhounds only attempted six passes in the game and have just 24 yards throwing all season.
Doherty said the Bloodhound secondary won’t be on idle.
“We’re high on our secondary, but our guys have fallen asleep a few times. Keokuk had some receivers open down field and just missed,” Doherty said. “We cannot afford to fall asleep on this team. They have some skilled kids.”
He said the Greyhounds run a tricky offense that’s tough to plan for.
“We know what’s coming and our coaches went right to work and schemed up something that we feel can put our kids in the best position possible for Friday,” Doherty said.
Fort Madison (3-1) again took advantage of created opportunities in the 21-14 win over Keokuk Friday. With an offense that ranks towards the bottom of Class 3A District 5 play, the special teams and defense are critical to the Hounds success.
Last week, senior Brock Califf blocked an extra point and then took the ensuing kick off, after bobbling the kick, back for a touchdown.
“Brock’s a dog. He’s a competitor he’s a guy that wants the ball in his hands and is always asking for the ball,” Doherty said.
Offensive coordinator Justin Menke slipped junior Landes Williams in at quarterback to start against Keokuk and moved senior Will Larson to a slot receiver, and the Hounds started moving the ball in the second half.
Fort Madison had 111 yards rushing on the night with Williams and senior Calem Maclearn handling the carries. The two combined for 101 and a touchdown. Tate Johnson also caught his third touchdown pass of the year from 20 yards out after Williams dumped a lineman on a cut back to his right.
Doherty said he was afraid of what he called a “hangover”, but has seen a focused squad this week in practice.
“In college they call it the hangover game and we’ve been reminding them that we still have some work to do. And they’ve bounced back pretty well.”
A pleasant surprise for the Hounds has been sophomore Tanner Settles at defensive end. Tanner is third in District 5 in tackles with 26. Sixteen of those are solo and four were for losses.
In the third quarter Friday Settles tracked down a speedy Equilius Lee from other side of the line on an end around, and the Hounds will be looking for his production on the defense side again Friday.
“He’s the definition of Effort, Attitude, and Toughness. Even when his stats aren’t going up, other people’s are because of the work he’s doing.”
Doherty said Settles is still learning as an underclassman, but when he makes a mistake, “it’s at 100 mph.”
Fort Madison has amassed 370 yards on the ground with five different ball carriers having more than 10 carries. In an extremely balanced ratio of run to pass, Larson and Williams have thrown from 376 yards and three touchdowns, all to Johnson. The duo’s 44 completions are tops in the district.
The Hounds lead the district in multiple defensive categories including interceptions with nine, pick sixes with two, fumble recoveries with six, and defensive touchdowns with three. Their eight sacks are second in District 5.
The two have split the last two games with Burlington winning at home in 2018, while Fort Madison got the win at Jim Youel Field last year.
Game time is 7 p.m. at Bracewell Stadium in Burlington. The game is voucher attendance due to coronavirus concerns.
WHO TO WATCH
#3 So. Tanner Settles DE – 26 tackles, 16 solo
#5 Sr. Brock Califf WR/DB/ST – 186 return yards, 1TD
#13 Jr. Tate Johnson WR/DB – 113 yds receiving, 3 TDS
#25 Sr. Keaton Poe RB/LB – 21.5 tackles, 3 sacks
#8 Will Larson QB/DB – 4 interceptions
#3 Jr. Kanyae Baker QB – 228 total yards
#34 Jr. Ronald Sheard RB – 181 yards on 47 carries
#8 Jr. Carlo Martinez-Hale DB – 22 tackles, 1.5 sacks
#15 So. Nolan Simpson DB – 12 tackles, 4 for loss.