By Tom Schultz
For the Herald
FULTON, Ill. —
The Wooden Shoe rivalry was renewed Friday night between the Fulton Steamers and the Morrison Mustangs at Fulton High School, and in contrast to recent years both teams were evenly matched.
Morrison won 18-6, but the intense rivals played each other tough and gritty, not wanting to get beat by the other.
“We got gritty there in the first half; we capitalized on some fumbles, got some turnovers there but just couldn’t get anything moving offensively.” Fulton coach Patrick Lower said. “We had trouble moving the ball all night.”
In a defensive centric game from both teams, the Steamers weren’t able to capitalize on the opportunities they had on offense, while Morrison was. Time and time again the Steamers found themselves deep in their own territory, starting a possession around the 20-yard line, and by the time they got to midfield they were forced to punt the ball and play a game of field positioning against the Mustangs.
Fulton’s defense got tough when Morrison got in the red zone, forcing a pair of fumbles — which Fulton recovered — and holding off the Mustangs on downs once.
But Morrison was able to get the big plays when it needed them to get into Steamer territory, relying heavily on a backfield of Andrew Connelly and Danny Willis.
“In that first half, we had a second down-and-22 or 23, and they got 20 yards of it back in one play and made it third-and-short,” Lower said.
“Morrison made plays when they needed to, and they capitalized on the plays that they had,” senior lineman John Widener said. “Willis was a great player; we just couldn’t shut him down. We scouted him; we knew they were going to give it him all night. He’s a fast kid, (and) when he gets that ball he’s gone.”
The first quarter was scoreless, and after both teams traded punts several times in that first quarter Fulton broke the scoreless tie.
On an option play to the right, quarterback Ethan Jones executed the option perfectly. He used Austin Manon as the decoy going up the middle as Jones rolled out to his right and hit an open Austin Regenwether in the flat for a 10-yard pass. Regenwether shook free from defenders, and key blocks downfield from his teammates turned the first down into a touchdown as Regenwether went 79 yards in for the score, capping a 95-yard offensive possession for Fulton.
The Steamers were never able to regain their footing on offense, though, and Morrison tied the game and quickly went up 12-6 before halftime.
Morrison scored on its drive after Fulton’s score, using a 17-yard pass from Matt Wilkens to Willis on second-and-25 and a big run by Willis to set up Connelly’s 6-yard run.
The Mustangs got the ball back late in the half after a Fulton punt, and once again a long run by Willis put them in good shape. Wilkens then found Willis open in the end zone from 26 yards out for the go-ahead score.
“It was a very tough night on offense,” Lower said. “We had trouble moving the ball, that was very clear. They beat us up front on both sides of the football.”
A scoreless third quarter gave way to a tense fourth quarter that saw both teams forced to punt once and the Steamers falling short on their last attempt to reach the end zone before Morrison put the game out of reach by scoring another touchdown with 1:44 left.
The win improved Morrison’s record to 5-3, improving their playoff chances immensely.
The Steamers (3-5) will look to bounce back with a win next week at Kewanee and end their 2012 season on a high note.
MORRISON 18, FULTON 6
Morrison 0 12 0 6 — 18
Fulton 0 6 0 0 — 6
F — Austin Regenwether 79 pass from Ethan Jones (run failed), 4:55
M — Andrew Connelly 6 run (kick failed), 2:45
M — Danny Willis 26 pass from Matt Wilkens (pass failed), :05
M —Connelly 3 run (PAT failed), 1:44
RUSHING — Morrison (53-309), Danny Willis 20-195, Andrew Connelly 19-87, Alexander Volckmann 9-25, Matt Wilkens 4-2; Fulton (24-67), Austin Regenwether 8-31, Ethan Jones 8-16, Austin Manon 5-20.
PASSING — Morrison, Wilkens 5-8-0-79; Fulton, E. Jones 5-11-0-97.
RECEIVING — Morrison, Willis 2-73, Volckmann 1-6; Fulton, Regenwether 1-79, Weston Jones 3-14, Manon 1-4.