Monday, October 25, 2010
There is one more game on Fulton's 2010 schedule, but for all intents and purposes, Friday night's Class 3, District 6 game against the Southern Boone Eagles was the Hornets' season.
Simply put, a win meant the chance for playoff football. A loss? Well, they say that nothing is impossible, but in this case, playing past next week would be mathematically impossible.
So stops were pulled out. And for three quarters, Fulton was within striking distance. But when a demoralizing Southern Boone running game decided that it could not be denied, that fate was handed to the Hornets in a 50-33 loss.
"We gave them field position, but defensively you have to hand it to them," Fulton head coach Pat Kelley said. "They lined up and knocked us over."
It was not lost on the Hornets (0-9, 0-2) what kind of scheme the Eagles were going to employ -- they were going run. Numbers don't lie and neither did Southern Boone's running game, grinding out 350 yards on 49 carries.
The Eagles' double-wing offensive philosophy is such that a needle would have a hard time passing through the splits of the offensive line.
Southern Boone (6-3, 2-0) used that to its advantage, with most of the positive returns coming from junior running back Tyler Grethen. The Eagles' leading rusher carried the ball 26 times for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Grethen carried the ball as if he were built more like his lead blocker -- 5-7, 215-pound senior Dyllon Harper.
"You have to tackle a kid (Grethen) like that low," Kelley said. "They have groomed their kids to fit an offensive style, and it is smash-mouth in every since of the word."
But for all the yards Grethen gobbled up, Fulton senior running back Ryan Fritz made himself hard to forget. Fritz continued his productive second half of the season, bursting out for a career-high 194 yards and scoring on runs of 16, 30 and 27 yards.
Throwing everything he had on the table, Kelley ran Fritz out of a Wildcat formation and did it effectively.
"He has come along and done a nice job," Kelley said. "He was sick mid-week, so we didn't play him a whole lot on defense and it paid dividends on the offensive side, I think."
Fritz had 117 yards and two scores when the Hornets received the second-half kickoff down 28-19. Facing a fourth-and-7, Fulton decided to gamble with a fake punt and senior fullback Nick Christensen ran for 8 yards and a first down.
Christensen finished with 75 yards on seven carries and scored on a 30-yard run with 1 minute, 42 seconds left in the third quarter.
"We felt like we were going to have to score coming out of half and we've done that, I think, three weeks in a row," Kelley said. "That doesn't show up on the scoreboard, but it says a lot about the kids.
"At 0-8, with the season in the balance, the fake punt wasn't a hard call to make and Nick did a nice job, and it gave us a little life."
Three more first-down conversions led to Fritz's 27-yard touchdown run, bringing the Hornets within 28-26. However, it was the closest Fulton would get.
As North Callaway and Mexico responded the past two weeks, when the Hornets did something well Friday night, Southern Boone answered.
A three-point deficit going into the fourth quarter ended with a 17-point loss as the Eagles locked up the game and a playoff spot with equal doses of Grethen and Harper in the fourth quarter.
So the most complete game that the Hornets played all season, with season highs in points and total yards, went for naught. And now, next week's home game against Missouri Military Academy in the season finale will be about salvaging a win and looking ahead to, hopefully, more productive times.
"It's a chance to look ahead to next year, it really is," Kelley said. "We can't go on past next week, but if we can end with a win, it'll be good momentum going into the offseason and next year."
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