FULTON, Ill. — After getting a feel for how the conditions should be with an under-the-lights practice Thursday night, Fulton football coach Patrick Lower pronounced his team ready to go for the season-opening game tonight against visiting Orion.
While the afternoon’s blistering heat was a key reason for holding evening practice, working out under the lights also gave the Steamers as close to game conditions as they’ll find.
“This is probably the second or third time we’ve done this the Thursday before a game,” Lower said after wrapping up practice. “We want to get as close as we can to the feel of a real game, make it as game-like as possible. I know the kids enjoy that.”
The Steamers no doubt will enjoy hitting somebody besides a teammate for a change, although their schedule didn’t do them any favors.
Orion, one of the new entries into the Three Rivers Conference this fall — it will play in the South Division while Fulton is in the North — comes into the game off a 6-5 season last year that included its sixth trip to the Illinois playoffs in seven years. Led by quarterback Blake Matson, the Chargers were tied for 10th place in the preseason Associated Press Class 1A poll that was released this week.
“If you like passing you’ll like this team,” Lower said. “They’ll go four wide, five wide, three wide with a tight end; they try to create mismatches.”
The Steamers are coming off a 4-5 season and hope this is the year they make the playoff field for the first time since 2007, Lower’s first season as head coach.
“We’ve got 13 good seniors who are great leaders,” Lower said. “The team is pretty focused.”
Leading the senior group are co-captains Ethan Jones (quarterback/linebacker) and Jake Willging (guard/defensive end), both three-year starters, and Austin Regenwether, a fullback with starting experience.