By Tom Schultz
For the Herald
FULTON, Ill. — Friday night’s weather delay and ensuing postponement had no effect on the Fulton Steamers as they came out ready to go from the line of scrimmage Saturday afternoon against the visiting Orion Chargers.
Coaches and players alike were not fazed by the postponement of the high school football opening game, although the players were a little more vocal about wanting to play the game Friday night. The team’s mentality was still that it could not be stopped, and the Steamers proved that with a decisive and dominating 42-20 win over Orion.
“I don’t think it affected us at all. We used the extra time to go over more video and make some small adjustments before getting back out on the field,” Steamers coach Patrick Lower said about the delay.
“We were mad; we wanted to play last night,” senior Paul Velasco said upon hearing that the game would be postponed until Saturday afternoon.
“We came out. We were hitting. We were feeling good. The whole time we were sitting in here (the cafeteria) we were just waiting for that call to get up and get back going, and it never came. That was a very big disappointment,” senior Jake Willging said.
“We were pretty pumped up last night," senior Austin Regenwether said. "We just kept that energy through today.”
Fulton came out of the gates when play started on both days ready to go and playing hard. The first play from scrimmage, Orion had the possession and lineman Velasco broke through the line and sacked Chargers quarterback Blake Matson, taking him hard to the ground.
“It was the best feeling I’ve ever had in a long time," Velasco said. "It just replayed over and over last night when I was trying to sleep. It felt good. I throw my guy to the left and I just see it; it was a kill shot and just took it. Felt good.”
Willging commented that the defense was thought to be a weakness going into the game and the season, but the Steamer proved themselves wrong.
“The funny part is, is our defense is something we were questioning coming in. We knew our line could pretty much manhandle anyone up front, but we’re like how are we going to work against the no-huddle and the different formations,” he said.
The Steamers defense set the tone on the day, playing strong all game and stopping Orion at or behind the line of scrimmage and forcing the Chargers to go to the air to move their offense. As Orion adapted, so did the Steamers. Both teams made the adjustments, but Fulton executed much more expertly than the Chargers. That was apparent by the amount of penalties that Orion racked up, easily outpacing the Steamers.
The Steamers offense fed off of the defense, and on the second play from scrimmage after the game resumed, Fulton quarterback Ethan Jones broke out for a 40-yard touchdown that gave the Steamers the 6-0 lead. Armed this year with a placekicker in Jack Lemke, Fulton went up 7-0 with the extra point. Lemke was lights out for the Steamers, going 6-for-6 in extra points.
Jones went on to score three more touchdowns on the ground and connect with senior Bryce Holesinger for a 52-yard touchdown through the air. But, he still gave all the praise to his defense.
“Our defense was great; I love that line,” Jones said.
With the win, the Steamers start out 1-0 for the first time in five years and will go on the road for their next three games against Kewanee, Morrison and Erie/Prophetstown. Lower is already looking toward next Friday’s game in Kewanee with the glint of excitement in his eye.
“It’s our first road game," he said. "Those are always kind of a challenge to get the kids refocused after a long bus ride. But, we’ve been to Kewanee before. This is an opponent now that we’ve played for three or four years, so hopefully we can showcase more of our offense.”
FULTON 42, ORION 20
Orion 0 7 0 13 — 20
Fulton 7 21 7 7 — 42
F — Ethan Jones 40 run (Jack Lemke kick), 4:31
F — Jones 11 run (Lemke kick), 2:00
F — Bryce Holesinger 52 pass from Jones (Lemke kick), 10:35
O — Cody Hutcherson 1 run (Hutcherson kick), 6:30
F — Jones 50 run (Lemke kick), :20
F — Jones 35 run (Lemke kick), 7:46
O — Jacob DeVolder 10 pass from Blake Matson (Hutcherson kick), 10:54
F — Devin Kuehl 52 run (Lemke kick), 6:53
O — Matson to Benny Terronez 10 pass from Matson (PAT failed), 4:53
Rushing — Orion, Kyle Seys 1-5, DeVolder 3-6, Jacob Edmunds 7-18, Austin Engstrom 1-2, Matson 4-minus-7, Drake Schultz 1-3; Fulton, E. Jones 19-171, Austin Regenwether 17-90, Kuehl 8-91, Holesinger 5-39.
Passing — Orion, Matson 15-28-2-180, Seys 4-5-0-40; Fulton, E. Jones 2-4-0-52.
Receiving — Orion, Hutcherson 4-55, Terronez 7-106, DeVolder 2-7, Schultz 2-18, Josh Ellison 3-31, Edmunds 3-22; Fulton, Holesinger 1-52.