Wellman boots 5 PATs and 3 field goals in win
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Bloodhound football is on a path not seen in almost 40 years.
Fort Madison dispatched Mt. Pleasant (2-3) 44-7 in Class 3A District 5 action Friday night at Richmond Stadium in front of a heavier crowd and now sit 5-1 on the year.
“We’re very proud of our kids,” said Head Coach Derek Doherty. “We had our game plan and we focused on the things we needed to fix and our kids came out and executed.”
The Bloodhounds scored quick and often in the first half against a hampered Panthers squad missing a group of starters. The Panthers didn’t play last week against Keokuk due to health issues.
Senior Brock Calif got things going on the first possession for the Hounds. After returning the kick to the Hound’s 38, quarterback Landes Williams went right to the air hooking up with Califf on a 15-yard screen pass. Fort Madison would try the same play to the other side at Will Larson, but Larson was taken down for 3-yard loss.
After a 5-yard Illegal procedure penalty, Williams found Califf behind the secondary on a slant route and Califf pulled away for a 51-yard touchdown on the Hounds third snap of the game.
Both teams would go 4-and-out on the next three possessions and Fort Madison’s defense would pin the Panther’s at their own 10 on 4th and 15 forcing a punt.
Califf brought it back to the Panther 40, and then senior Calem Maclearn got free off tackle and rumbled 37 yards, but was tripped up at the 3. Williams would take the next snap in on a keeper for a 14-0 lead after Xander Wellman hit one of his five PATs on the night.
The Panthers would get back in it on the following series with a 10-play 68 yard drive. Back up quarterback Carson Coleman would hit senior Chase Williamson on a screen to the Panther sideline. Williamson would get free for 32 yards before the Hounds’ Tate Johnson would run him about of bounds at Fort Madison’s 32.
Coleman would then go 3 of 4 on the next three plays from scrimmage including a 15-yard strike to Avery Scandridge who was brought down at the 1. Scandridge would then take the ball into the endzone on the next play for a 14-7 game just before the end of the first quarter.
Fort Madison would score two more times in the first half. The first came on the Hounds’ next possession. A Panther’s onside kick was recovered harmlessly by Tate Settles at the Hounds 42. Williams would then break off runs of 23 and 20 yards before hooking up with Larson on an 8-yard strike in the north corner of the west endzone for a 21-7 lead.
After another Panther’s stall at 4th and 15, the Hounds just missed blocking the punt and would start 1st and 10 at their own 21.
Maclearn, who finished with 158 yards on 12 carries, started the next series with a 39-yard run through the left side to the Panther 40. But Fort Madison would get hung up there forcing a punt.
On the next Hound possession, Williams and Maclearn took turns carrying the ball until Williams went in for his second rushing score of the day from the 3-yard line and a 28-7 lead just before half.
Mt. Pleasant would be forced to punt on it’s first possession out of the lockerroom, but Tanner Settles would slip past the right side and block the punt. Johnson would recover the block at the 3 and Wiiliams would go in again from the 3 for a touchdown and a 35-7 lead.
The rest of the Hound scoring would fall in the hands of Xander Wellman. The sophomore would convert on field goals of 27 33, 37 as the Hounds started bringing in some bench relief with the game in hand.
Wellman said he doesn’t want to let offense down when called in.
“My teammates work hard to get us in that position, and I gotta go out there and do my job,” he said.
Wellman has a brother who kicks at the college level, so between the tips from him and heavy background in soccer, the kicks are coming more and more naturally.
Doherty said Wellman would go in whenever needed.
“I’ll will tell you this, Xander would go out on a 40 yarder. He’s a dog and he’s special and we love his competitiveness.”
Doherty said despite the lopsided score there were some things that slipped, but the Hounds were able to get big plays because of execution that continues to improve each week.
“We felt like the play calls were there again, all night,” he said with a tip of the hat to offensive coordinator Justin Menke.
“Whether we executed our not, coach Menke did a great job of calling what was open and we got it done on several plays tonight.”
Austin Ensminger led the Hounds in tackles with seven, Keaton Poe had 6.5 including one of three sacks on the night for Fort Madison. Jakob McGowan had the other two sacks for 11 yards and a fumble recovery. Tate Johnson had a late interception.
Settles and Levi Lowney each had blocked punts on special teams. Fort Madison had four penalties for 40 yards.
Williams went 7 of 15 for 96 yards and two touchdowns to Larson and Califf. He also had 91 yards on 16 carries and three more scores.
The Bloodhounds will close out the regular season next week against Fairfield at Jim Youel field looking to go 6-1 in the coronavirus-shortened year, and then gear up for a district playoff game to be determined.
All teams qualify for the post season this year and the traditional power index used to determine at-large entries and seedings has been tossed for 2020.
The playoffs will include 16 groupings in each class. With 54 teams, not including any teams ineligible due to health regs, in Class 3A, the top finishers in each district would get a bye and, according to the Iowa High School Athletic Union, the 10th bye would go to one of the best of the rest. So Fort Madison at 6-1 could, in theory get a bye, but in all likelihood would have a first round game in Fort Madison if they win Friday.
The union will pair teams from different districts in the first and second rounds when possible, but geography is the top priority in those rounds played on Oct. 16 and 23rd, and playing out of district isn’t guaranteed. First round pairings won’t be released until around noon on Saturday, Oct. 10, according to union officials.