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Fort Madison Football Ends 31 Year Playoff Drought

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On Friday, the Fort Madison Bloodhounds saw something they haven't seen since 1989, the playoffs.

However, that wasn't the only history that was made.

Fort Madison hasn't won a playoff game since 1988.

And on Friday, both of those droughts ended when the Bloodhounds overcame Knoxville by the score of 45-7.

Head Coach Derek Doherty, who also graduated from Fort Madison in 2003 grew up hearing stories about those 1988 and 1989 teams.

"I grew up on those stories, and it was, something as an athlete I would have loved to have conquered but it just didn't happen unfortunately. So, next best thing, you know, with these guys and I'm very proud of them," Doherty said.

And not only has Doherty been waiting for the drought to end, the whole town has, and they have responded to this years current 7-1 season.

"It's been awesome, I feel like Fort Madison has wanted to be a football town for a long time and and we wanted to give them something to be happy about," Doherty said.

He would go on to add, "The buzz is awesome and it feels really good. But it's credit to these kids and how hard they've worked and they've bought in and they're just a special group."

After their first loss of the year (Week 3 against Washington 29-7) Doherty made a change at quarterback from Senior Will Larson, to Junior Landes Williams.

"When you can put Landes on the field and Will at the same time and Calem [Maclearn, Senior Running back] in the background, we feel like that's our most dynamic team. And were really explosive with those guys," Doherty said.

He continued, "You know, we had to roll the dice a little bit and try something because we have been stagnant for a couple weeks. And we sat down as a coaching staff and talked about it and said 'you know what let's do it.'"

And since the switch the Bloodhound's haven't lost a game.

But it isn't only because of the offense, the defense hasn't allowed more than 14 points in a game, including the first round of playoffs where they only gave up 7.

Senior Linebacker, Keaton Poe has helped lead that charge.

"It for sure gives us a lot of confidence going in, just knowing we can hold a good team to only 7 points… its good," Poe said.

Will Larson, who started the season at quarterback, had made a name for himself on defense. Larson now has 5 interceptions on the season, tied for 4th in the state in Class 3A.

However, it isn't just offense and defense who have paved the way, it's also special teams, led by senior kick returner, Brock Califf.

Califf leads all of Iowa Class 3 football with 3 kick-off return touchdowns (tied for first overall in every class), and Califf has 409 return yards, averaging 40.9 yards per return (good for 2nd in the state for Class 3A).

"Well we focused a lot more on special teams this year which is helping with the blocking of course. But there's just been a lot of holes opening up and I can just take off," Califf said.

Being a quarterback who's given great field position from his defense and special teams, Landes Williams is grateful for the opportunities his teammates give him.

"It's pretty great, you know, we have great defensive coaches, great defensive players and they've helped the offense out a lot with great field position and everything. It helps me out a lot, you know, we know what to do we just got to utilize everything," Williams said.

Even with all this success, this team is more than just a football team.

"It's for sure a family, it's my family for sure, its just.. we've all stuck together we've all put in that work together," Keaton Poe said.

He added, "As seniors we've been doing this together for four years now and so it's nice to finally be able to have it pay out."

Fort Madison's next round match up is Friday 10/23 when they hit the road to take on Grinnell.

Brock Califf spoke on what it's like finally being in the playoffs.

"Oh, I'm really excited, I'm ready to show everyone what we can do and how far we can go. I think if we all keep our minds right and we're all together we can definitely go all the way to the end," Califf said.

Even if Fort Madison doesn't make it all the way to the end, this season has been one for the books and Keaton Poe is proud to be on this team.

"It's nice to be able to one day tell my kids and grandkids that I was on the team that stopped the 30-something year drought, it's really fun," Poe said.

Game time is set for 7 P.M. at Grinnell

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Garrett Tiehes

Sports Reporter and Weekend Sports Anchor

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