Liberty loss may have upside against North Scott

Bloodhound quarterback Landes Williams follows Jakob McGowan into the hole on a play last week in the Hounds' 24-16 loss to Iowa City Liberty. Fort Madison takes on top-ranked North Scott Friday night on the road. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

Doherty doesn’t compare stats or styles, but relies on Bloodhound execution

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – There may have been a silver lining of sorts in the cloud of last week’s 24-16 Bloodhound loss to Iowa City Liberty.

The Lightning provided a glimpse into what the Hounds may be in for this week when they travel to Class 4A’s top-ranked North Scott, in a big District 3 matchup.

Fort Madison lost by a touchdown and two-point conversion last week and that’s all that matters, said Coach Derek Doherty, but despite the philosophy of looking at each week as an 0-0 record, even Doherty knows one slipped away last week.

“I don’t know how much you can take out of that game, but we can look at ourselves and we know our rules and our jobs. We just didn’t do our jobs at times last week and it hurt us,” Doherty said.

“We hope the kids learned from that and they’re ready to do their job this week. I know we had a really great practice Wednesday.”

North Scott comes into District 4 this year, as do the Hounds, but the Lancers have about three hundred more kids and Iowa City Liberty is just under North Scott. Fort Madison, on the other hand, is one of the smallest 4A schools, three spots out of Class 3A.

Fort Madison hung around with Iowa City Liberty for four quarters and a Mikey DiPrima pick with just under two minutes left gave Fort Madison a chance to tie the game as time expired. A chance that didn’t turn into points.

Doherty said he’s not big on comparing what one school did against another, only how Fort Madison measures up.

“Sometime styles match up and sometimes they clash. Liberty and North Scott were 21-0 all in the second quarter. I know those stats and you can look at that to see if you can dig something out of it, but at the end of the day, they’re going to line up in the three-man front and we’re gonna spread it out. And then they’ll flip it and we’ll do the same thing,” Doherty said.

The Lancers are 7-0 and coming off winning the Class 3A state championship in 2020, and were quickly installed as the top team in 4A at the start of the season.

North Scott, like Liberty, has a large enough squad where there aren’t as many Lancers playing both sides of the football.

“Knowing they can go with a pretty full platoon is a luxury. We’re trying to build towards that, recruiting the hallways here and trying to get more kids come out for football. This year we’ve had the biggest increase in the number of kids that have come out, but some kids are just not ready for Friday nights and that’s the reality of it,” Doherty said.

But Fort Madison has a solid group of kids who have shown week in and week out they are more than ready for Friday nights.

Senior Landes Williams has 23 touchdowns on the year – 15 through the air and eight on the ground, two ahead of North Scott senior signal caller Greyson Juel. Juel stepped in after senior Carter Markham led the Lancers to the state title before graduating last year.

Juel leads District 4A with 21 passing touchdowns to five different receivers, but he has a penchant for senior Jacob Nelson who will work out of the slot and go in motion. Nelson has 602 yards in catches and 13 touchdowns, with the longest at 63 yards.

Senior Darnell Butler typically will line up just off and behind Juel’s hip and can run inside or out. He has 577 yards on the year and five touchdowns. He runs behind some bulky lineman anchored by 6’4″ 260 lb. David Borchers and 6’5″ 230 lb. Nate Schneckloth, both of whom see time on both sides of the ball.

“Do they have good athletes? Absolutely. No doubt about it. It’s a well-established program with a state championship last year. They reload. They lost a great quarterback in the Markham kid last year and they replaced him right away. This kid is good. But football is a game of execution and who’s gonna be able to execute their job better,” Doherty said.

The Lancers were held to just 14 points in the first half of a win over Burlington two weeks ago, but wore the Grayhounds down in the second half, putting up 28 enroute to a 42-0 win. They then rolled Clinton 41-0 last week.

Doherty said the Hounds will have to create damage for North Scott, while minimizing Hounds’ damage.

“That’s going to be big for a Fort Madison football team that lost two of three major margins last week. We tied in the third. All the things we preach about winning football games, if that’s the goal for you, here’s the goals that are going to make that happen. When you lose two of three, you’re not setting up yourself for success, but hopefully that will propel us this week.”

The Hounds will be looking for better execution on many fronts this week, but have had solid performances in the first six games of the year.

In addition to Williams’ work off the snap, Fort Madison runs Jakob McGowan and Teague Smith out of the backfield. Tate Johnson, Kane Williams, Xander Wellman, and Gavin Wiseman are all part of the Fort Madison receiving corp.

Williams has 1,500 yards through the air and 466 on the ground, leaving him just 34 yards short of 2,000 yards of total offense. McGowan has been effective in his last two games on the ground and can run between the tackles or spread things out. The senior has 477 yards and seven scores.

Tate Johnson and Kane Williams have been the most productive targets for Landes Williams. The two have combined for 13 touchdowns on the year and just over 1,000 yards.

The Bloodhounds are in the thick of the playoff race and a win either this week in North Scott or next week in Burlington would all but shore up the district championship or a runner-up spot.

In 4A this year, the top two teams in each district get automatic bids to the playoffs. There are also four at-large spots that are determined by the state’s Rating Percentage Index. Fort Madison currently stands at 9th in the state overall with a .5904 rating, just .0002 ahead of Lewis Central.

The RPI is a composite ranking based on teams’ records, opponents records, and opponents opponents’ record, so the last two games have huge playoff implications for the Bloodhounds. Doherty said it just comes down to execution.

“We’re looking at just the data North Scott presents and that’s what we’re attacking this week. We’ll look at what Burlington presents next week and the chips will fall where they fall,” he said.

“Understanding the formula I don’t think is going to benefit us in our job (Friday night) or next week. Some of that is hard to put aside. Looking ahead, you have literally brainwash yourself to stay in the present.”

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at North Scott High School.

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