They are the best "buy low" option in Tri State historically snake-bitten program mired in mediocrity for decades.

But as Ross Green details, the Dog Days of Bloodhound Football may finally be in Fort Madison's rearview mirror.

"To be honest with you, we talk about it every day. I told my assistant coaches and everybody else to take an inventory of your two points - where are your 2 points? We lost games to both Mt. Pleasant and Fairfield by one point, so we have to reflect on film breakdown, game preparation and off-season preparation. Where is your one point?"

You don't have to remind anybody on this field what it takes to get to the playoffs. Two points. That was the difference that kept the Bloodhounds on the outside looking in a year ago.

"It really bugged us. This year, I have a feeling that everyone is going to put forward a lot more effort to get those 2 points back and doing the things that get us 2 points to get into the playoffs,"

"You think about being that close and it gives you a feeling of do you deserve it or not, but I think this year we've put in all the work to make up those 2 points,"

Not since 1988 has this program played beyond the regular season, but the overriding sentiment at Bloodhound camp is a change in direction is imminent. The theme is accountability, top-to-bottom.

"That's the message we're trying to tell our kids, that there's a lot of people we can trust out there now. So our success might depend on our ability to accept our role and really focus on the team aspects of the game so we don't have a kid out there for 120 plays,"

With more than 20 returning letterwinners, it takes a while to list the team's strengths - you'll see what we mean. Wes Bernhardt provides plenty of matchup issues at tight end, while Coach McGhghy must choose between 2 capable QBs that will hand off to Ben Votroubek, among others, in the rush game. Defensively, the depth chart is stacked at linebacker. And the attitude of the team will ensure the D-line and secondary can say the same by season's end.

"All the way through we're solid as far as experience goes, so it comes down to if we have the grit to close out the tough games,"

And there's the x-factor: will this team learn what it takes to close out in the 4th quarter? If they can, that dark, 25-year cloud disappears, because as any player or coach on this team will tell you: it's time.

"I'd say we just have to keep working at what we're doing and it will take care of itself. The whole team is buying in and we're working on those situations to close games out,"