BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Mt. Pleasant Panthers will be a ‘big’ test for the Bloodhounds on Friday.
Coming off a big 55-7 win Friday in Burlington, the Hounds meet up with the Panthers in a ‘big’ Class 3A District 5 clash… possibly a ‘big’ turning point in the Bloodhounds program… and a couple of ‘big’ Panther lineman.
And the Hounds, aside from 29-7 loss to Class 3A No. 5 Washington three weeks ago, are having a BIG year.
Big kick returns for touchdowns, big blocked punts for touchdowns, big interceptions for touchdowns… well, you get the ‘big’ picture.
Head Coach Derek Doherty said his squad is preparing to take the full brunt of a Mt. Pleasant team that pulled out of last week’s game with Keokuk late in the week due to some coronavirus issues.
“We haven’t heard anything,” Doherty said Wednesday. “And to be honest I’m not listening. We want to prepare for the best no matter what.”
He said they don’t have any idea of what’s happening to the north, but said his focus all week, was playing a solid Mt. Pleasant squad.
The Panthers are 2-2 on the year with wins over a strong Clear Creek -Amana team and Fairfield, with losses to Washington and Tipton.
Mt. Pleasant is very similar offensively to Washington where the quarterback is dominating the total yardage. The Panther’s come in with senior Jack Johnson who has 1,224 yards in four games evenly spread with 605 through the air and 619 on the ground.
Doherty said Johnson’s a special athlete and the Hounds will have to contain him.
“He’s like the Willis kid in Washington. I feel like we’ve been dealing with these guys for years in a lot of sports,” Doherty said.
“We’ve proven that when we want to we’ve done a pretty good job of containing quarterback power, but we have these mental lapses. We hope we’ve grown and fixed those.”
Johnson makes up the 77% of the Panthers’ run game, but he has a bevy of quick, tall receivers that he’ll target if the run gets bottled up.
Seniors Chase Williamson and Brevin Wilson lead the way both averaging right at 17.4 yards per catch. Wilson has three touchdowns. Then senior Brennen Bender has 120 yards on just five catches and score.
And then there’s Henry Lutovsky, a 6’6″ 320lb Nebraska recruit who anchors a line that also includes a couple more 300 lb. kids.
“It should be an exciting opportunity four our kids. You getta go up against a guy like that,” he said. “Let’s get out and play him. I think our guys are excited about it.”
He said the Hound offense found the right gear Friday. Junior QB Landes Williams threw three TDs and ran for another. Junior Tate Johnson caught two of the scoring tosses, while senior Will Larson caught the other from 40 yards out.
Johnson had a spectacular catch on ball out in front where he got completely horizontal hauling it in. Doherty said no one thought he would get hands on the throw.
“Tate’s a special kid,” Doherty said. “I was talking to Burlington’s AD after the game and he said when the ball was released he thought there was no way… and then said that was one of the best catches he’s ever seen.”
Williams had some instinctive runs and senior Calem Maclearn had some extra yards with nifty moves carrying the ball. Doherty said the kids instincts with the ball are more of an art form.
“That’s being an artist. These kids are artists of the game. You like to think our drills are taking hold, but the creativity of them this year is very impressive,” he said. “Some of that might by watching YouTube’s greatest juke videos, I don’t know, but whatever is happening.. it’s fun to watch.”
The Hound offense sputtered during the first half of the season as the staff tried different personnel to find the best combination. But they seemed to have settled in the last six quarters of play.
Larson started the year at quarterback, but has been moved into the slot receiver spot, while Maclearn has emerged as the featured tailback. But Doherty and offensive coordinator Justin Menke are not shy about slipping other players into the mix.
“I felt like for two or three weeks in a row I was saying how close we were and our message to the kids after Burlington was that this is what our offense is capable of,” he said.
“Obviously, were pretty high on them and believe in them fully. We know how they live Monday through Thursday and even on the weekends. It’s a special group of kids. It’s fun to watch their hard work and efforts pay off.
On defense the Hounds have three players with 30 tackles on the year led by Levi Lowney and Keaton Poe each with 31.5, and sophomore Tanner Settles at 30, all top 3 in District 5. Three other Hounds have 20 plus tackles.
Doherty said the squad breaks to “SWARM” and they live that philosophy on the field.
“There aren’t just saying it. They take pride in getting as many hats to the football as possible. Sometimes we get aggressive because we want to get in on the party and we abandon our job and give up an edge. But we’re getting better at it.”
Doherty said this year’s team is developing a cohesiveness and a bond and a trust in each other to get the job done.
He said last week’s blocked punt by Poe and TD recovery by Johnson showed how much the kids are brothers on the field.
“Thing I love most about that is that in the video you can see Tate trying to slip the ball to Keaton to give him the credit. That’s how much our guys love each other. It gives me the chills thinking about that. That’s culture.. and that’s our dudes.”
The Hounds and Panthers kick off at 7 p.m. Friday on Youel Field in Richmond Stadium. Restrictions have been lifted so there will be full admission at the game. Face coverings are required if social distancing isn’t possible.
Who to watch
#4 Landes Williams (Jr.) QB
#13 Tate Johnson (Jr.) WR/DB
#77 Ethan Deacon (Sr.) OL/DL
#5 Brock Califf (Sr.) RB/DB/ST
#25 Keaton Poe (Sr.) RB/LB
#24 Calem Maclearn (Sr.) RB/DB
#59 Henry Lutovsky (Sr.) OL/DL
#7 Jack Johnson (Sr.) QB/DB
#9 Brevin Wilson (Sr.) WR
#4 Chase Williamson (Sr.) WR
#20 Avery Scandridge (Sr.) RB