Heartbreaker dashes Hounds’ playoff hopes

Fort Madison's Xander Wellman closes in on Burlington running back Bryant Williams on the final drive in the Bloodhounds' season-ending 26-24 loss Friday night. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

Fort Madison misses playoffs by two spots in final RPI index

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

BURLINGTON – What started as a storybook season for the Fort Madison Bloodhounds became a nightmare as a football lay in the purple turf of the Bracewell Stadium north endzone.. and no Bloodhounds could get to it in time.

Burlington’s Bryant Williams ran for 250 yards on 37 carries Friday night. A monster day, but all of that was put aside as he ran for the goal line with 27 seconds left on first and goal from the six.

Williams would carry to the right, a rarity on a night where running left seemed to be the preferred Grayhounds’ game plan, and turned a corner with his eyes on the prize.

But the Bloodhounds rallied to the ball and looked to have Williams stopped just short, but as the state’s top back was going down with 22 seconds left in the game, he fumbled the ball into the endzone where two Burlington lineman were in the area to recover it for the game-winning score.

Fort Madison’s Landes Williams looks for a gap as Jakob McGowan (22) engages with the Grayhounds’ Nolan Simpson (7) in front of the run. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

The score turned out to be the dagger for the Bloodhounds’ season as they fell 24-20, the third loss in three weeks, when a Landes Williams’ pass deep right was picked off at about the 35 yard line.

With the win, Burlington secured the runner-up spot in District 4A-3 to No. 1 ranked North Scott. Playoff pairings are expected today.

Fort Madison dropped to 18th in the Ratings Percentage Index that is used to determine the four at-large playoff invites with the loss, dashing their hopes to return to the playoffs after going two games into the post-season last year.

DOHERTY

“Obviously, the result sucks. But our guys laid it on the line tonight,” Fort Madison Head Coach Derek Doherty said.

“They battled and competed extremely hard, and against the number one running back in the state. We were popping him and made him earn it and at the end of the day, we can keep our chins up knowing that our kids laid it on the line.”

The Grayhounds opened up a 14-0 lead and looked to be in full control with Williams and quarterback Kanyae Baker running inside and out behind 7-man fronts. Burlington opened with a 9-play, 46-yard drive after a nice return on the opening kickoff. Williams would score from 3 yards out and had 40 yards in the drive.

Fort Madison would respond starting at their own 40. Jakob McGowan would go for eight on the first carry of the night for the Bloodhounds and Landes Williams would then cut through for 27 yards on an option to make it 1st and 10 at the 25. After a bubble screen left to Gavin Wiseman lost three yards, Williams would fumble rolling to his right where Burlington would recover.

The Grayhounds would march back down and score on another Williams’ 3-yard run and a 2 pt. conversion made it 14-0.

Fort Madison’s Kane Williams (21), Gavin Wiseman (7), and Tanner Setles (55) close in on Burlington’s Kanyae Baker (3) Friday night. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

Fort Madison would get on the board on the next drive going 54 yards on 11 plays with McGowan slipping in from two yards out to make it 14-7. Williams would hook up with Kane Williams on a 13-yard strike on 3rd and 7 to keep that drive alive.

Bryant Williams went back to work for BHS on the next drive with three carries for 27 yards, but Baker would lose the handle on a shotgun on 2nd and 1 and the Hounds would strip it as Baker tried to regain control. Fort Madison would recover at their own 45 and put together a 9-play, 40-yard drive that stalled at the BHS 15.

Xander Wellman would convert the field goal for a 14-10 Grayhound lead that would hold until halftime.

Fort Madison, who lost senior offensive lineman and linebacker Austin Ensminger to a nagging shoulder AC injury at the half, would take the second half kick, but give it right back on a four and out. Wellman’s kick turned over in the cool air of Bracewell Stadium and pinned the Grayhounds inside the 10.

Burlington would put together a 13-play, 63 yard drive to the Hounds’ 29. After a Baker run had the Grayhounds at 2nd and 6 at the 29, Burlington Coach Jim Krekel decided to go to the air. Baker, who had thrown just 29 passes on the year, threw short down the Burlington sideline where Wellman jumped in front for the interception and ran it all the way back to the Burlington 23. Four plays later Landes Williams would go in from two yards out to give Fort Madison a 17-14 lead.

The Bloodhounds’ Xander Wellman intercepts a pass in front of Burlington receiver and FM’s Gavin Wiseman (7) Friday night that would set up a go-ahead touchdown for Fort Madison at Bracewell Stadium. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg

BHS would take over at the 38 on the return and Baker became the featured back in the next series, carrying six consecutive times. He would fumble again on 1st and 10 at the FM 32, but Burlington would get back on top of it. Williams would then take the last two carries and get into the endzone from the 2.

Matteo Lozano would stand up Nolan Simpson on a fullback plunge to stop the 2-point conversion and give Burlington the lead back at 20-17.

The Grayhounds would squib a kick and give Fort Madison good field position. McGowan would get three on 1st and 10 and then Williams would find Tate Johnson for 12 yards and a first down. Williams churned out three yards on the next play, and then threw two incomplete to set up 4th and 7 from the BHS 35.

Williams and Johnson, who’ve been playing together since they were eight years old, kept the drive alive with a huge 24-yard hookup to the Fort Madison 9. Following a timeout, Williams would lose four on a sack rolling and then wisely threw incomplete on 2nd and goal from the 13. He would pick up 11 yards on a keeper on the next snap to make it 4th and goal at the three.

Doherty decided to pass on the short field goal attempt and a tie, and put the ball in Williams’ hands. Williams would roll slightly to his left and find Gavin Wiseman running across the back of the endzone to the left for the score. Wellman’s PAT was good and Fort Madison had a 24-20 lead with about four minutes left, setting up the final Grayhound drive, and the crushing fumble recovery in the endzone.

Williams would throw for 98 yards and a score on 10 of 20 passing. He would have 59 yards on 14 carries and a score. McGowan had 19 yards on six carries and a score. Johnson finished with 69 yards on four catches and Kane Williams had 29 yards on four catches. Wiseman had two catches for zero net yards, but the big fourth quarter TD catch.

Fort Madison’s Ike Thacher (50) and Matteo Lozano (77) battle with Burlington’s interior lineman on a sweep play in the second quarter. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

Wiseman had 12 tackles, five solo, and Teague Smith had 11.5 tackles, five solo, to lead Fort Madison’s defense. Tanner Settles had 9.5 and Johnson had nine.

Doherty said he was proud of how the kids played including the play against Williams despite his 250 yards.

“I could talk for hours about our seniors and how much we love them. Those guys are competitors and I’m very thankful for them and what they’ve done for this program,” Doherty said.

“We were literally how far from writing a pretty cool story and it wasn’t our night, unfortunately. Bryant has made people look silly all year and we were poppin’ him and gettin’ after him, and I’m excited for our guys and the job they did on him,” Doherty said.

He said the coaching staff didn’t make any large adjustments at halftime because they felt they had the right game plan.

“Krekel’s been running that offense for a long time and he made some good adjustments. But again, I felt like our kids competed and a few things go our way and it’s a different ball game,” he said.

“We felt like the things we were doing schematically were there. The first series offensively we were gouging ’em. I don’t feel like we played bad. But they fumble – it goes into the endzone and they recover it. That’s the type of night it was for us.”

Fort Madison ends the year at 6-3 and 2-3 in district play and will lose 11 seniors from this year’s team.

Five Bloodhounds work on Burlington’s Nolan Simpson in a short-yardage situation Friday night. Ike Thacher (50), Tate Johnson (13), Kane Williams (21), and two other Hounds get in on the tackle. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC
Fort Madison’s Tate Johnson goes high but can’t come down with the ball in front of Burlington’s Jakari Henderson in the Bloodhounds’ 26-24 loss Friday night. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC
Tate Settles (14) and Henry Wiseman bring down Burlington’s Bryant Williams’s on a kick return in the third quarter of Friday’s loss. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC
Fort Madison Head Coach Derek Doherty embraces senior Jakob McGowan after the Hounds’ 26-24 loss to Burlington, bringing the Hounds’ year to a close. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

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