Fulton Hornets stay healthy, show defensive resolve at jamboree

Offense unable to produce any scoring ahead of opener at School of the Osage

Senior fullback Noah Braun looks ahead after running past a Van Horn High School player Friday during a jamboree game at Boonville High School.

Senior fullback Noah Braun looks ahead after running past a Van Horn High School player Friday during a jamboree game at Boonville High School. Photo by Brittany Ruess.

— Fulton Hornets head coach Pat Kelley had a full complement of offensive plays outlined when the team bus left for Friday night’s jamboree scrimmages.

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Senior running back Dominique Ford runs as a Boonville High School player begins to tackle him Friday during a jamboree game at Boonville.

By the time the Hornets arrived, almost 50 percent of those had been scrapped.

“We weren’t going to show a lot,” Kelley said. “So like I said, about half of our play sheet was exed out when we got here. We ran about five plays and that’s it.”

Kelley’s goals for the annual four-team event with the Boonville Pirates, Odessa Bulldogs and Van Horn Falcons were to get his players some live work against another opponent, evaluate them and keep their health intact.

Fulton accomplished all three objectives.

“Bottom line is we walked off the field with everyone we walked on the field with,” Kelley said. “That’s the big thing, the scariest part of these things, so we came off healthy.

“Overall, I feel like we got better as the night went on. It’s hard in six plays to get any kind of rhythm, but I thought — especially up front — our kids got better as the night went.”

The Hornet offense failed to register a touchdown as junior Trenton Clines and sophomore Devin Masek split time at quarterback. Kelley said it will be a “game-time decision” as to who will start under center in next week’s season opener at School of the Osage.

“We tried to give them equal reps so we could evaluate them on tape, but they did some good things and they did some bad things,” Kelley said of the pair. “You just have to kind of pick up what they did positive and build on that, but we didn’t give them a lot of things to do.

“So I know as a quarterback that they were kind of handcuffed from a playbook standpoint, but they did all right.”

Clines and Masek ran the bulk of the offense through Fulton’s three returning running backs, seniors Noah Braun and Dominique Ford, and junior Travis Dean.

Dean — an all-district selection last season — paced the Hornets in carries Friday night, but Braun and Ford showed versatility and elusiveness with their respective work in the scrimmages.

Braun touched the ball twice on Fulton’s opening drive against Boonville, running for 5 yards off the right side and catching a 10-yard pass from Clines. He was targeted three more times in the passing game Friday night.

“Noah is so hard-nosed and played extremely well,” Kelley said. “He blocks well and he knows when he’s stuck in there at fullback that he’s going to have to stick his nose in there and block, and he does a good job.”

Ford — who Kelley noted made “great strides” over the summer — ripped off the Hornets’ longest run of the night at 14 yards against the Pirates’ second-team defense and looked shifty in ensuing carries against Odessa and Van Horn.

“He’s a completely different ballplayer than he was a year ago,” Kelley commented.

Though the Fulton defense allowed five touchdowns and fell victim to big plays against all three teams, Kelley praised the unit for some crucial plays made in opposing backfields and near its own goal line.

The push from the Hornets’ defensive front proved effective from its very first series. Junior end Zach Benner and senior end Andrew Wayant each registered a tackle for loss against Boonville’s No. 1 offense, while junior tackle Alex Garner made a negative stop against Odessa’s top unit.

The Hornets’ second-team defense showed some resilience in its six plays against Boonville, giving up two long gains but not allowing either to turn into points. The Pirates marched 29 yards in their first two plays against the Fulton backups, before cornerback Cameron Vaughn intercepted a pass in the end zone.

Boonville followed up that turnover with a 30-yard run to the Hornets’ 10-yard line. But the Pirates’ series concluded with a pass broken up just past the goal line and a 4-yard run stopped by Fulton at the 6.

“They were able to recover,” Kelley said of his second-team defenders. “… Like I told them, the scoreboard wasn’t on, there weren’t any state champions on the field, no district points earned tonight, but we wanted to get a look at some kids and how they played.”

Boonville found success against Fulton on the edges, while Odessa got to the perimeter on consecutive plays to tally back-to-back touchdowns against the Hornets’ No. 2 defense.

Van Horn scored twice against Fulton in its final offensive series of the night. Kelley said that will happen when your goal is to get younger players on the field, but that those breakdowns will happen less frequently with more practice reps.

“The (younger players) deserved (to play) and you only have 36 plays to get everyone in and you feel good about that, which is OK,” Kelley said.

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