FORT MADISON — The new veer offense for West Burlington-Notre Dame/Danville had churned through the Richmond Stadium grass on the final drive.
Fort Madison made the stop when it counted.
Tanner Snodgrass, who had been hard to bring down all night, was swarmed by five Bloodhounds on a fourth-down play inside the Fort Madison 5-yard line with just a little more than a minute to play, preserving Fort Madison's 21-17 victory on Friday night.
Fort Madison survived the nearly seven-minute drive by the Falcons that featured two fourth-down conversions.
The third one was sniffed out by the Bloodhounds.
"We had a few bumps in the second half," said Fort Madison coach Tony Shiffman, whose team trailed 17-7 at halftime. "When we had to tighten up, we made plays."
"We felt like we had an opportunity for a quick pitch there," said WB-ND/D coach Jay Eilers. "They just played good fundamental defense there."
The Falcons had gotten to the 10-yard line on a brilliant play call on fourth down. Quarterback Drake Day pitched the ball to Darius Whaley, who ran to his right, stopped, and fired a 42-yard pass to Colten Hohenthaner.
"They were really pursuing to the ball all night," Eilers said. "We felt like we could get that play."
"That was a great play call," Shiffman said. "But one of the things we were telling our guys was hey, they didn't score on that play. We still had to make a stop."
The Falcons got to the Fort Madison 4 on fourth down. After a timeout, Day started to his left and pitched the ball to Snodgrass. Snodgrass was immediately brought down, and the Bloodhounds celebrated.
The Falcons had 344 yards of offense and 13 first downs. They built their halftime lead by chewing yards and getting some opportunistic plays.
"You can see that their offense is getting so much better," Shiffman said. "They're going to keep improving the more they run it."
Fort Madison took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter, when quarterback Lennon Barker threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Lorenzo Riles II.
The Falcons tied it on a 31-yard touchdown run by Snodgrass, then took the lead moments later when a poor Bloodhound punt hit off one of the Fort Madison players. Jamar Lewis picked up the ball at the Bloodhounds' 25 and raced to the end zone for a 14-7 WB-ND/D lead.
The Falcons would add a 21-yard field goal by Slater Gifford with four seconds left in the half.
Fort Madison got momentum back in the second half off a turnover by the Falcons. A pitch from Day to Whaley fell to the grass, and Tyler O'Toole returned the fumble 25 yards for a touchdown. Alexander Gully scored on a 1-yard run later in the third quarter for what proved to be the final margin.
"At halftime, we just told our guys we were better than how we played," Shiffman said.
Snodgrass had 203 rushing yards for the Falcons.
Barker threw for 143 yards. Riles had four catches for 101 yards.
Eilers said his team was hurting after the loss, and his pain could be heard as well.
"I think we just continue to grow as a team," he said. "I believe in these kids. I believe in them."
Scoring by quarters
FM—Lorenzo Riles II 34 pass from Lennon Barker (Nolting kick)
WBND/D—Tanner Snodgrass 31 run (Slater Gifford kick)
WBND/D—Jamar Lewis 25 punt return (Gifford kick)
WBND/D—Gifford 21 FG
FM—Tyler O'Toole 25 fumble return (Nolting kick)
FM—Alexander Gully 1 run (Nolting kick)
RUSHING: WBND/D — Snodgrass 33-203, Darius Whaley 17-58, Drake Day 8-41. Fort Madison — Gully 15-90, Barker 10-46, Diego Lozano 1-6.
PASSING: WBND/D — Whaley 1-1-0-42, Day 0-1-0-0. Fort Madison — Barker 10-25-0-143.
RECEIVING: WBND/D — Colten Hohenthaner 1-42. Fort Madison — Riles 4-101, Shance Redd-Donald 4-33, O'Toole 1-6, Logan Allen 1-3.