By Brenden West
Assistant Sports Editor
ERIE, Ill. — Panthers fans brought out the cow bells Friday night and let them ring loud and long during Erie/Prophetstown's homecoming game against Fulton. It was only poetry that they were witnessing two bell-cow performances.
Steamers fullback Austin Regenwether stacked up 177 yards on 28 carries with four touchdowns. E/P fullback Nick Williams upped the ante — he also had four scores while rushing for 265 yards on 22 carries.
None was bigger than his fourth-quarter 35-yard option pitch for six, putting the Panthers out of reach of the Steamers at 41-27 — also the final score. It was the kind of game that left Williams somewhat speechless.
"I'm real happy with that result," he said. "I'm just overwhelmed with how my team played tonight."
With both backs serving as the fulcrum to their respective offenses, Steamers-Panthers turned into a shootout despite a low-scoring opening quarter. After stonewalling each others' opening drives, Fulton churned out a 94-yard drive with Regenwether making a couple nice cuts around the defense on his 34-yard dive run to paydirt.
The Panthers answered with their own long drive, which carried the teams into the second quarter. Chris Bauer ended the 11-play drive with his 1-yard sweep up the left side. E/P missed the extra point but gained the ball right back on the ensuing kickoff. Williams' squib kick bounced into the hands of teammate Michael Gul, and four plays and 44 yards later, the fullback rewarded Gul's effort with his first score of the night.
In fact, Williams ate up 42 of the Panthers' 44 yards on the ground in the drive.
"He is running the ball well for us," E/P coach Chuck Milem said. Williams is the leading rusher in the Three Rivers Conference. "He's finished for us all year long. Confidence definitely isn't an issue for him."
Williams found paydirt two more times in the second quarter, giving his team a 28-7 lead. Fulton rode its workhorse for a late first-half score, and the half ended with E/P leading 28-14.
The Steamers then cranked up the defense when play resumed, forcing E/P into a punt on its opening drive of the second half. Fulton went on its longest drive of the game, a 17-play 80-yarder that featured a heavy dose of Regenwether. After receiving six carries on the drive, Fulton's fullback punched in his seventh to put the Steamers' one possession away from tying it.
Then Panthers quarterback Ethan Howard stole the show.
"My teammates have kind of given me crap, saying I'm slow because I haven't scored a touchdown all year," Howard said.
But that changed on the Panthers' next drive. After Fulton halted Williams and Bauer to short gains, Howard kept the read option, burst threw the middle, juked the last defender between him and the end zone and sprinted up the left side of the field for a 76-yard score.
"When we make the right read, we're going to make those breaks," Howard said. "It's just a great feeling seeing all that green in front of you."
E/P had a 34-20 lead, but Fulton continued to push. Regenwether scored for a fourth time, and after the defense forced another punt, the Steamers found themselves at the Panthers' 15-yard line, down two scores, but with six minutes and all of their timeouts left.
A costly penalty on fourth down pushed the Steamers back and after turning it over on downs with an incomplete pass, Bauer, Howard, Jordan Chandler and Williams chewed up the rest of the clock with meticulous runs up the middle.
"We knew they had the capability of scoring some points," Fulton coach Pat Lower said. He credited E/P's success in the read option for securing the victory and sending the Steamers home 1-3. "We dove at them and missed some tackles."
The loss doesn't mar what Regenwether accomplished.
"We knew we were going to get that kind of effort from him," Lower said.
As for the winning back, although Williams seemed speechless, Howard had plenty to say.
"He's a great man, great player," Howard said. "We told him he's the best fullback in the conference before the game. You saw it."
ERIE/PROPHETSTOWN 41, FULTON 27
Fulton 7 7 13 0 — 27
E/P 0 28 6 7 — 41
F — Austin Regenwether 34 yard run, (Jack Lemke kick good) 2:56
E — Chris Bauer 1 yard run, (kick failed) 11:16
E — Nick Williams 1 yard run, (Bauer run good) 10:03
E — Williams 4 yard run, (run failed) 7:00
E — Williams 1 yard run, (Bauer run good) 3:03
F — Regenwether 5 yard run, (Lemke kick good) 1:26
F — Regenwether 1 yard run, (run failed) 3:07
E — Ethan Howard 76 yard run, (run failed) 1:56
F — Regenwether 10 yard run, (Lemke kick good) 0:05
E — Williams 35 yard run, (Kyle Pannier kick good) 7:00
RUSHING — Fulton (48-315), Austin Regenwether 28-177, Devin Kuehl 11-128, Ethan Jones 9-20; E/P (53-495), Nick Williams 22-265, Ethan Howard 12-128, Chris Bauer 10-50, Jordan Chandler 9-62, Sean Maloney 1-1.
PASSING — Fulton (6-4-44-0), Jones 6-4-44-0; E/P (6-1-5-0), Howard 6-5-1-0.
RECEIVING — Fulton, Bryce Hoelsinger 2-35, Kenny Ramig 1-0, Regenwether 1-5; E/P, Kallen Jepson 1-5).