Indians jump on early miscue, stifle Hornets

— Less than three minutes into the season and the Fulton Hornets had stood up to their first test.

Fulton junior defensive tackle Alex Garner held School of the Osage senior running back Jake Ulmer to 5 yards on a fourth-and-6 to set the Hornets up with a first down at their own 30-yard line.

One play later, a mishandled exchange between Fulton sophomore quarterback Devin Masek and junior running back Travis Dean was recovered by the Indians at the Fulton 36.

Prime opportunities such as that would arise for the Hornets as the game went on. Some paid dividends, but too many didn’t as Fulton bowed to Osage 41-14 in Friday night’s season opener.

“It’s frustrating and, again, that’s youth,” Hornets head coach Pat Kelley said. “We looked down and nobody went for the ball and they recovered it. It’s little plays like that.”

The Indians needed just two plays to profit from the Fulton turnover as senior quarterback Austin Riley rolled to his right and connected with senior tight end Jeb Robertson on a 31-yard touchdown pass with 8 minutes, 31 seconds left in the opening quarter.

The Hornets found their footing — and some offensive momentum — when their next drive began at their own 33. Dean caught back-to-back screen passes from Masek, the second going for 19 yards on third-and-6 to set up a Fulton first down at Osage’s 44.

Masek later rolled out and hit senior wide receiver Ja’Metrius Galbreath for 17 yards on third-and-6 to give the Hornets a first down at the Indians’ 13.

Three plays later, though, Masek was sacked on a fourth-and-16 to bring an end to the 12-play, 48-yard drive.

Senior running back Justin Helser touched the ball three times for 68 yards on Osage’s ensuing four-play drive. Helser capped off the possession on a 52-yard scoring scamper up the middle, pushing the Indians’ advantage to 14-0 at the 1:37 mark.

Fulton crossed midfield again on its next possession as Masek rolled left on a 13-yard keeper and Dean ran up the gut of the Indians’ defense for a 12-yard gain.

Robertson and senior linebacker Leelan Scott then sacked Masek for a 12-yard loss on second-and-9 from the Osage 39. A Masek pass intended for junior wide receiver Radarion Glover fell incomplete, forcing the Hornets to punt from midfield early in the second quarter.

Riley and Robertson answered by pairing up again on their second scoring connection, this one covering 16 yards to increased Osage’s lead to 21-0 with 9:38 left in the half.

Fulton went three-and-out on its next drive, then got some help from the defense when junior tackle Clayton Bristol stood Ulmer up for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the Hornets’ 33.

Dean received four straight touches on Fulton’s next possession and picked up the necessary 2 yards on a fourth-down fake punt from his own 46. The Hornets, however, had to punt three plays later, but the Indians ended their next drive with a punt that was returned by Dean to the Osage 48 with 1:37 to go.

Masek found senior wide receiver Noah Given for a 16-yard gain on first down, but his next pass was picked off by Indians senior cornerback Collin Samuelson and returned to the Osage 38 with 1:04 remaining.

Fulton forced the Indians into a fourth-and-9 from the Hornets’ 24, but Riley eluded the rush to find Samuelson for a 23-yard gain down near the goal line. Riley punched it in from a yard out with :02.7 left to give Osage a 28-0 halftime lead.

The Hornets broke into the scoring column on their opening possession of the third quarter. A pinpoint, 30-yard pass from Masek to Gibson on a fade route set Fulton up with first-and-goal from the 3.

Dean lost 8 yards on a fumbled option pitch on the next play, but the Hornets made up the yardage when Galbreath drew a pass-interference penalty on the Indians.

Dean scored from 5 yards out on the next play and Fulton made it 28-8 after Masek ran in the two-point conversion with 7:37 left in the quarter.

Ulmer, though, kicked off Osage’s next drive with a 44-yard burst through the middle of the Hornets’ defense. One play later, he darted 32 yards up the gut for a touchdown at the 7:12 mark to jolt Fulton.

“We came out and had a great drive to open the second half and I was proud of that, but unfortunately, you can’t come out and give up a two-play drive and we gave the momentum right back to them,” Kelley said.

Osage closed out its scoring when junior cornerback Brandon Pierce returned a Masek interception 34 yards for a touchdown to make it 41-8 with 2:40 to play in the quarter.

Masek found senior wide receiver Nathan Lexa for a 17-yard score on a fade route to conclude the Hornets’ scoring with 9:34 left in the game.

Masek finished his first varsity start by going 7-of-14 for 108 yards.

“He did all right,” Kelley said. “He’s a young kid, he had more pressure than he deserved, he was running for his life sometimes and he made mistakes, and that’s going to happen.”

Dean paced the Hornets with 56 yards rushing on 15 attempts and senior running back Dominique Ford carried 11 times for 40 yards. Fulton ended up with 92 yards on the ground and 200 yards of total offense.

Ulmer racked up a game-high 110 yards rushing on 10 carries for Osage, while Helser gained 103 yards in eight attempts. The Indians’ ground game accounted for 237 yards on 32 carries.

Riley completed 12-of-19 passes for 165 yards, while junior wide receiver Britton McLaughlin had seven catches for 85 yards to lead all players.

The Hornets host Versailles in their home opener this week. The Tigers blanked Knob Noster 26-0 in their season opener Friday night.

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