Baxter Sports Complex to host Bloodhound watch party starting at 5:30 p.m.
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Having outscored three opponents 121-14 might lead one to believe that Fort Madison’s football team hasn’t been tested, but Head Coach Derek Doherty says that’s just not the case.
The Hounds (3-0) go to a 1-2 Washington Demons squad with the mindset that another big test is coming.
Doherty, who says the Hounds are always 0-0 on Thursday, said the Hounds have faced tests this year in each game. Whether it’s finding a way to deal with a D1 lineman, or a speedy running back, or a mismatched line, the Hounds have found ways to pass the test.
For the reward, the Hounds are ranked 12th in the latest Class 4A AP Iowa High School football poll. The designation Doherty says is nice, but can’t be a distraction.
“Washington is a great football team, a great culture and historically they are a great program,” Doherty said.
“Throw out the records. We’re 0-0 and they are 0-0 and I’m sure they are telling their kids the same thing. They’ve lost to two really good football teams. Their record does not matter.”
The Demons lost to Clear Creek-Amana and a much-improved Burlington team this year and had a shut-out win over Mt. Pleasant.
Doherty said some of those tests included West Burlington slowing Fort Madison’s offense down and making them work through some kinks, and then giving up the first points of the season last week in a 55-14 win over Fairfield.
“We’ve had tests, whether it’s snap-to-snap or just the frustrations of not getting our offense going,” Doherty said.
“Getting scored on, you don’t tell kids ‘hey it’s going to happen’, but, statistically speaking, it’s going to happen and the real question is how do you respond to it.”
Speaking of statistics, senior quarterback Landes Williams exploded for six touchdowns last week, three on the ground and three through the air. Williams now has accounted for 12 touchdowns on the season. He leads the rushing attack with 224 yards and seven TDs. He’s thrown five touchdown passes to three different receivers.
Doherty said Williams is a special kid who doesn’t just want to be good, but puts in the time to be good.
“He’s just special. It’s hard to explain,” Doherty said.
“Now with that comes good parenting, a work ethic, and expectations for himself. He gets coached by a lot of guys because he’s a multisport athlete. He’s a competitor at heart and he’s a great kid. I’ve said it before – there’s a difference between someone who wants to be good and someone who works to be good. And he’s a worker.”
Washington comes into the game with similar offensive schemes featuring junior quarterback Ethan Patterson. Patterson leads his squad in rushing and passing operating out of option sets. Patterson has 143 yards on the ground and three scores, and is 32-of-70 throwing on the year for 443 yards, three TDs, and two picks.
The Demons will also use Tayven Stuart and Ethan Zieglowski out of the backfield. Stuart has 123 yards and Zieglowski has a rushing score.
But the Demons will look deep regularly to Lucas Kroll and Jacob Miller. The two have combined for 14 catches for 227 yards and three scores. Kroll is averaging more than 20 yards per catch.
“He’s a different type of receiver,” Doherty said of Kroll. “Matchupwise last week we felt we could benefit from where Max Wheaton was so we put a safety over the top on him. But that safety was Tate Johnson and he did a great job. A+ on the test.”
Fort Madison’s “dawg pound” held Wheaton to just 52 yards on four catches, but the Demons come with other concerns for the third-year coach and staff.
“They pose different problems, but they do have a quarterback that’s very good. He makes good decisions and is a good athlete. I’ve watched him compete in different sports and the Patterson kid is the real deal,” Doherty said.
Containing Patterson and the Demons’ offense falls on the shoulders of defensive coordinator Jason Crooks.
“Coach Crooks uses me when he needs me,” Doherty said. “So far we’ve been good and it will be good. It’s just whether we can execute or not. Coach Crooks has an awesome football brain, so schematically, we’ll be prepared.
“He and I sat and said this is the type of defense we run to run, bounced some ideas off each other and came up with what we felt our identity would be. He’s taken it and made it better. Coach (Justin) Menke is the same way. We had an idea, we throw in some wrinkles, and he’s grown it from there.”
Doherty said there will be a couple different looks from the secondary this week to keep the Demons guessing.
“Our guys are diverse in the secondary and credit Coach Cullen for coaching that system up. But we want to mess with their pre-snap reads and create some anxiety,” Doherty said.
The secondary is made up of some of the Hounds’ wide receivers on offense and Doherty said they are just as excited to play on either side of the ball, and do whatever it takes to have success offensively and defensively.
“These guys are just as excited to get down field and block somebody and spring a Landes or a Jakob, as they are catching the football. They’re team-first guys and they understand it’s cat and mouse. If teams are going to give us a run look, cool, go do your job so they give us pass looks because they have to do something different,” Doherty said.
“We’re not going to drop back and just throw fades all the times. I played receiver and we loved that – just chunk it and give me opportunities and targets. Some games there will be more targets than others and our kids understand that. We’re talented there and fast.”
Senior Austin Ensminger leads the Hounds defense from his linebacker spot with 18.5 tackles, four for losses. Senior Jakob McGowan is next with 13.5 tackles and six for losses. Sophomore Teague Smith and Johnson also have double digit tackles. Smith has three for losses. McGowan and Tanner Settles have combined for eight sacks.
Johnson sits atop the state in kick-off returns for touchdowns with two in the first three games.
The Hounds and Demons get after it on Friday at Case Field in Washington with a listed 7:30 p.m. kick-off.
Fans who can’t make the trip are encouraged to head out to the Baxter Sports Complex where the game will be livestreamed via Bloodhound Sports livestream channel. Food and entertainment will be provided including Brad Bennett’s infamous fried tacos. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Check Pen City Current’s Facebook page Friday for the livestream link.