Hounds and Grayhounds battle in 4A District 3 clash in Burlington at 7:30 p.m.
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison Head Coach Derek Doherty has been saying all year, the Bloodhounds are 0-0 going into Friday’s game. That hasn’t been more appropriate than this week’s Class 4A District 3 clash with Burlington High School.
With a win, Fort Madison would move into a 3-way tie for second place in the district with a 3-2 record. A loss would give Burlington the lone runner up spot in the district and Fort Madison would pin its hopes on an RPI -based at large bid.
Burlington is 3-1 in the district with a win over Iowa City Liberty on the road last week. Fort Madison is 2-2 in district play with losses to North Scott and Liberty the past two weeks. A Bloodhound win creates the three-way tie with BHS and Iowa City Liberty who would all be at 3-2 barring any setback for Liberty at Clinton (2-6).
As of Monday, Burlington had moved ahead of Fort Madison in the IHSAA RPI index at 15th. The Hounds are 16th and Iowa City Liberty is 25th in 4A.
The top four teams that don’t qualify with automatic bids will get at-large bids according to those rankings.
Doherty said the message he’s been trying to get across to the Hounds all week is there’s still much to do.
“We’re not down and out. There’s still a lot to play for here,” Doherty said.
Despite a 34-0 loss last week on the road at North Scott, Doherty said the Hounds haven’t pushed their style of play – either on Liberty two weeks ago or the Lancers Friday.
“We did some nice things in those games. The scoreboard doesn’t show it obviously, but in the end, that’s what matters the most. For two weeks in a row we’ve had opportunities, but haven’t capitalized.”
There’s really no secret to what the Hounds have to do Friday unless the Grayhounds step away from a playbook that should be titled ‘Williams Williams Williams’.
Senior Bryant Williams is just 225 yards from surpassing 2,000 rushing yards on the season and he eclipsed the 200 yard mark last week on the road at Iowa City.
Burlington Quarterback Kanyae Baker has thrown just 29 passes the whole year. Baker has taken off about 40 times for 400 yards. He has hooked up with Adam Fawcett on three big plays this year. Fawcett has three catches on the year, but for 153 yards, for a 51 yard-per-catch average. So the Grayhounds will try to sneak him behind the secondary on occasion.
“We know he’s going to get yards and first downs. We’re just going to have to reset and bend, don’t break. That’s been our defensive model. We’re going to have to create some turnovers when we can. He’s a good back with a really good line in front of him. Credit that line, we hear about him, but those guys are doing a job,” Doherty said.
“Baker is a good athlete himself so they have some weapons and it shows, they’ve had a great season. But we feel we have some weapons, as well, and we can compete. But we have to go and show it.”
Doherty said windows are small against the better teams in the district and timing has bit them a little the last two weeks.
“We have to finish runs, finish catches, finish extra points when they are there. Everything has built to this game. We’re excited about it – to be in the hunt and have the opportunity now we just have to go play our game.”
Fort Madison has ‘Williams squared’ with quarterback Landes Williams and wideout Kane Williams. Landes and running back Jacob McGowan are tied with 484 yards on the ground and Williams has thrown for more than 1,500 yards and accounted for 23 touchdowns.
Doherty said Williams, despite some gaudy numbers, is still a young quarterback who is learning the game, but filling a leadership role at the same time, and takes losses tough.
“There’s a leadership piece there. We met as a leadership team and had conversations to see where everybody’s at and where we need to go,” Doherty said.
“We talked about being fluid. We were really fluid in the beginning of the year and vibed when we were scrambling. In the last couple weeks we haven’t had that same vibe. Some of that gets credited to good football teams. But I think some of that’s on us and not doing what we do and being who we are.”
Junior Kane Williams has six touchdowns on the year and Tate Johnson has seven. Williams is at 442 yards for the year, while Johnson has 584. Senior Gavin Wiseman has 336 yards and two touchdowns.
The Hounds are led on defense by sophomore Teague Smith who has 46 tackles and senior Austin Ensminger, who plays just about every snap on both sides of the ball, has 43. Junior Tanner Settles has 34 tackles on the year, including seven sacks. Sophomore Ike Thacher and Ensminger each have four sacks.
Doherty said the Hounds just need to play Hound football. Nothing new is coming on Friday night.
“We just have to play Fort Madison football. That’s the message. As (Defensive Coordinator) Jason Crooks likes to say, it’s our 11 vs their 11. We’re not implementing anything new on offense or defense. We feel like we’re doing the right things, we just need to take advantage of the opportunities that have been there.”