Fort Madison tests 1-0 mark against Donaldson and Falcons Friday in West Burlington
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – It seems week after week the Hounds have to figure out how to contain a dangerous running back, but for the past 9 of 10 games, the Hounds have been able to get it done.
Only during last year’s second-round playoff loss to Grinnell did a back seem to be able to regularly slip away from a quick Bloodhound defense.
Last week, Keokuk’s Equilius Lee was held to just 67 yards, most coming on a couple runs. This week against West Burlington, Fort Madison will have to contend with junior Travian Donaldson who racked up 1,300 yards in 2021 averaging almost 7 yards per carry.
He had 97 last week against a Mid Prairie team that shoved the Falcons (0-1) around most of the night enroute to a 55-13 win. Last year in Fort Madison Donaldson had 123 yards on just 13 carries and a touchdown.
Doherty said that’s been one focus this week.
“He’s a dangerous back. We know that and just have to do a good job controlling him. He’s going to get his yards, but we have to prevent the big runs,” the Hounds 3rd-year coach said Thursday.
The Falcons start junior Hayden Vandenberg at quarterback. Vandenberg struggled in the opener going just 1 for 11 for 11 yards, but scored on a touchdown late and had 39 rushing yards.
Doherty said Falcon’s first-year head coach Joe Bowman has a solid resume and will make adjustments.
“I’ve read his story and I’m excited to finally meet him. He was an assistant for a long time and got his chance and took it, so I can certainly appreciate that,” Doherty said. “But their doing some good things and I’ve heard nothing but good things about Joe. So they will adjust and they’ll be ready.”
The Falcons didn’t have much going offensively against Mid-Prairie but have some fire power behind very large offensive and defensive fronts with three lineman over 240 lbs and senior Tyler Burch in at 6’1″ 290 lbs.
Fort Madison will run out smaller front lines anchored by junior Mateo Lozano. Juniors Daniel Sokolik and Ike Thacher have also drawn attention and helped keep Division 1 prospect Trace Hackaday in line last week in the Hounds 43-0 win over Keokuk. Sokolik and Thacher combined for 11.5 tackles in last week’s opener.
Doherty said assistant coach Ryan Smith was excited about Sokolik after seeing him grind away at bigger wrestlers during the winter season.
Senior Austin Ensminger also had 6.5 tackles last week and had two pick sixes, one of which was called back on illegal block. Ensminger, who plays both sides of the ball, catches breathers from senior Abram Lorence, who Doherty calls the “smartest guy on the field”.
“Austin knows one way to play and that is all out. And sometimes you have to fill up that tank, so it’s awesome when we have a guy like Abram Lorence, who we can stick in there and be fully confident he can do the job.
On offense, Doherty said the Hounds didn’t get settled in against Keokuk.
“We’re still evolving as an offense. Coach Menke has a good game plan and adjusts well and that’s what I enjoy most about him. He’s really even mannered and never too high or low and that’s what you need in an offensive coordinator,” Doherty said.
“We just don’t feel like our offense was clicking. It was close at times, but never really got off the ground.”
Landes Williams scored three rushing touchdowns from the quarterback spot. Two were runs through the line on reads, the third was on a scramble where he found a lane and was able to get into the secondary and score.
The senior was 9 of 15 through the air for just 67 yards, but he connected with six different receivers on the night, four to his younger brother Kane who had 17 yards.
Aside from Williams tucking and running, Fort Madison got 51 yards on 10 carries from sophomore Teague Smith who handled the majority of the hard running between the tackles. Jakob McGowan had 24 yards on nine carries and a touchdown.
The potent combination of Williams to Tate Johnson was contained for the most part by the Chiefs, but Johnson ripped off an 81-yard kick return for a touchdown to start the second half to highlight another strong special teams game from the Hounds.
Doherty said that comes from preaching three sides of the football.
“When I was at Monmouth we preached three sides of the football and that’s always something big in my mind. It’s awesome when you can win all sides,” he said.
Doherty said the team resets at 0-0 each week, and the key to getting to 1-0 each week is not backing off the gas pedal on defense and getting that squad off the field.
“Third and long we can’t bend as much as we did last week. Coach (Jason) Crooks has been on them about that and telling them if they aren’t playing very much it’s a good night.”
“Lee hurt us last week with not letting us of the field and we’ve got to get our defense off the field. Fundamentally we’re sound and that’s a credit to the defensive coaching staff. Our guys are fast, they are in agility and speed school in athletic enhancement – they’re doing it all.
“We face another dangerous back Friday and we put a high priority on this guy’s gonna get yards, but we gotta minimize big plays.”
Kick off is at 7 p.m. at Bill Nelson Field in West Burlington.
WHO TO WATCH FOR
#18: Travian Donaldson, JR – RB/LB
#16: Hayden Vandenberg JR – QB/LB
#8: Carson Chiprez SR – WR/CB
#2: Isiah Fenton JR – RB/LB
#71: Damion Snyder SR – OL/DL
#4 – Landes Williams SR – QB/S
#13 – Tate Johnson SR – WR/S
#55 – Tanner Settles JR – OL/LB
#77 – Mateo Lozano JR – OL/DL
#54 – Austin Ensminger SR -OL/LB
#2 – Teague Smith – SOPH – RB/LB