FULTON, Ill. — The Fulton Steamers rolled over Erie/Prophetstown 46-0 in their last regular-season matchup of the year Friday night at home to better their seeding heading into the Illinois high school playoffs.
The Steamers had already solidified a playoff spot with their record but improved to 6-3 with their win over the Panthers. Kickoff didn’t happen until 7:50 p.m. with Senior Night activities beforehand, including recognition for the 15 senior athletes on the varsity football roster.
"It was just a good night," Coach Patrick Lower said following his team's victory. "We came out here and knew we had to take care of business, and we did that. I was really proud of the way we came out and had a great effort from everybody. Our run game was there, our defense played well and really all three phases we played well. That's the type of game you want heading into week ten."
The Steamers didn’t take long to strike. They stopped the first drive from Erie/Prophetstown with ease, getting the ball on their own 20-yard line. Seniors Austin Schroeder and Bryce Grant then combined for 80 rushing yards to score the first touchdown of the game.
Schroeder also ran the ball in for the two-point conversion to put the Steamers up 8-0.
"It was everything I could dream of. Senior Night, 46-0 win, this was just everything for all the seniors," Grant said. Grant led the team with just over 150 rushing yards. "Everything I imagined. We all practiced hard all week, and we had a great game plan coming in. Coach had us prepared, and we executed well."
The Panthers didn’t have the ball for long on their next possession. After losing 2 yards on their first play, quarterback Jacob Ryan attempted a pass that was intercepted by Grant at the 40-yard line. Grant then ran the ball in for the second score.
Another successful two-point conversion from Scchroeder put the Steamers up 16-0 with 8:09 remaining in the first quarter.
"Offensive line did a great job," Lower said. "Just really proud of the kids and their effort."
The Steamers scored one more time in the first quarter, with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Grant to Tyler Bruggenwirth with under two minutes to play in the first to give them the 22-0 advantage.
That wasn’t it for first-half scoring for the playoff-bound Steamers. On their first drive of the second quarter, Grant took the ball for a 79-yard touchdown run. Another good two-point conversion gave them 30 points.
"It was pretty cool because I saw my cousin coming at me," Grant said. Erie wide receiver Carson Wiebenga is the Grant's family member. "I put a little move on him, then I was gone. I put the speed on."
One more touchdown run from senior Austin Rash rounded out the first half for the Steamers at 38-0 and sent Erie-Prophetstown to the locker room without a point on the board.
Even though Fulton had the ball coming out of the half, it took a little longer for them to get their offense rolling. Their first drive was littered with penalties and was the first possession of the game without a score.
"We were kind of coming out slow in the second half," Grant said. "We like to get going in the second half, and tonight it didn't happen, but then we started communicating again and rolling like we usually do."
Their second drive ended in a 25-yard touchdown run from Schroeder. The extra point was no good, but it gave Fulton a 44-point lead and a continuously running clock.
Although they didn't score again in the fourth quarter, players such as Tyler Fleetwood, Larson Barnett and Nick McQuiston got a little extra playing time with the large lead.
"It's great. Those guys work so hard all year and to be able to get them time at the end, that's icing on the cake," Lower said. "Senior Night is great for a lot of reasons."
The Steamers added a safety and the clock ran out with the 46-0 win for the Steamers.
Grant led the rushing attack, followed by another 100 yards from Schroeder. Rash added another 30 to the offensive mix.
"It's just for the seniors. This is a big game for me, but I'm giving it up to the offensive line," Grant said. "This isn't just me, this is every single one of them busting their butts in the offseason and all week this week."
The Steamers are planning a watch party tonight in their gymnasium with players, coaches and fans to find out who they will take on in the playoffs. Lower says there is a lot of excitement surrounding the playoffs and their already successful season.
"We're really looking forward to seeing where we're going to go," Lower said. "We're as healthy as we can be, we're right where we want to be, we're playing well at the end of the season, we did what we had to do. Our three losses are to teams that are 24-3 combined record, so we've had some good losses. We've done what we've had to do to get to week 10."