BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
ELDRIDGE – North Scott sent a message early to the Bloodhounds that District 4A-3 is a tough division to play football in.
Fort Madison gave up a touchdown on the Lancers’ fourth play from scrimmage as the Hounds fell 35-0 to the top-ranked team in Class 4A on the road Friday night.
Head Coach Derek Doherty said for the past two weeks the Bloodhounds have not been technically sound and have had execution problems. Those issues surfaced early when North Scott quarterback Greyson Juel found senior wideout Jakob Nelson over the top of Mikey DiPrima for a 34-yard gain on 1st and 10 from the Lancers’ 41.
Three plays later, Darnell Butler went in from five yards out to give North Scott a 7-0 advantage.
Fort Madison turned around and put together an impressive drive, going 15 plays and eating up much of the first quarter.
The Hounds would pick up five first downs and have the Lancers on their heels, highlighted by a Landes Williams to Gavin Wiseman 17-yard connection on 4th and 12 to the Lancers’ 17. But a 4-yard loss on a Jakob McGowan sweep and then a 4-yard sack of Williams left the Hounds at 3rd and 14. Williams would roll to his left and throw into the endzone where Connor Karson picked it off and ran it back to the 17.
North Scott would be forced to punt on 4th and 4 from their own 43 on a good Hounds’ defensive stand and Fort Madison would go back to work on another sustained drive. On 3rd and 8, Williams found Xander Wellman on the right side and Wellman would twist and spin his way for a nine yard gain and a first down.
In the next set, the Hounds would get whistled for two holding penalties and were looking at 3rd and 23. Williams would throw incomplete on the play forcing a Hounds’ punt.
North Scott would take over at the 12 yard line after an illegal block penalty reduced the return. The Lancers were on the move in the next series, running nine plays and picking up three first downs to get to the Fort Madison side of the field at the 49.
Juel would complete a screen pass to the left, but DiPrima would wrap up Nelson and scrape the ball free. It sat on the ground for several seconds as DiPrima took Nelson out of the play. Linebacker Teague Smith picked up it and ran 44 yards the other way and was caught from behind at the Lancer 18.
But Fort Madison couldn’t covert the turnover into points as they went minus 2 yards on three plays and brought in Wellman to try the field goal, but the kick was blocked and North Scott took over with 2:21 left in the half.
Butler would bust loose on the next play on a sweep right and go for 34 yards. Then Juel would find Nelson again for about 4 yards. He would then throw incomplete forcing a time out with less than a minute to go in the half. On 4th and 2, Oliver Hughes would get behind the Hounds’ secondary for a 34-yard strike to the Fort Madison 15.
Juel would find Nelson in the back of the endzone over DiPrima on a timing route on the next play for a 14-0 lead. Fort Madison would take the kick and run one play before letting time run out in the half.
The Hounds kicked off to start the second half and forced a punt on the Lancers’ first possession. But North Scott returned the favor and Wellman punted to the Lancers’ 19 yard line. At 2nd and 3 from their own 45, North Scott took a timeout and three plays later they were in the endzone again, this time on a 45-yard pass to Nelson on a blown coverage as no one was within 20 yards when Nelson hauled in Juel’s pass at about the 22 yard line.
Fort Madison couldn’t get anything of substance going the rest of the way. North Scott would add two more scores, one a Juel 5-yard toss on 3rd and goal, and the final score came on Butler’s 21 yard run with 6:16 left in the game.
The loss sets up a crucial matchup with Burlington at Bracewell Stadium next week. The Grayhounds beat Iowa City Liberty 20-18 in Iowa City on Friday. That leaves North Scott alone at the top of District 4A-3 play with no losses and Burlington with one loss. Iowa City Liberty and Fort Madison both have two losses and the top two teams automatically qualify for the post-season in 4A play.
Williams shouldered most of the blame for the last two weeks.
“We’ve got to execute and I’ve got to be better. We’ve had two bad games, but we’ll talk and hopefully pick up and execute again,” he said.
“That will be a big game for us. It could be win or go home so we’ve got to get the guys together and get our heads right and compete to the final whistle to win that game next week.”
Doherty said the Hounds just couldn’t make the big plays and North Scott was able to do that.
“We have to make plays. They made the deep catches and we dropped some and we overshot targets and some of that may be to their credit in how they operate and scheme, but we did not hit on anything tonight,” he said.
“We’re way better than that, but the scoreboard shows something different.”
To beat Burlington next week and have a shot at the post-season, Doherty said the Hounds have to find that full four-quarter ball game.
“We have to be technically sound for four quarters of football. We lose our coaching and kind of go rogue sometimes,” he said.
“That first drive we were so keyed up we didn’t tackle the way we teach tackling. We were leaving our feet. We chewed their butts a bit for that and then we played really good for a while. But dropping balls and dropping coverages are things you just can’t do against a great football team.
“One week from right now we have to be executing. For two weeks in a row we’ve had execution problems and we just can’t have it.”
Williams was 9 of 21 through the air for just 51 yards. He had 18 yards on the ground on 13 carries. Jakob McGowan had 14 carries for 47 yards. Wellman led the Hounds in receiving with 24 yards on five catches.
Smith had 9.5 tackles on the night to lead the Hounds’ defense. Tate Johnson had seven and Austin Ensminger had five. McGowan had two tackles for losses and Ensminger had one.