By Steve Williams
Fulton High may have a big-play offense, but its defense can play some football, too.
The Falcons kept Central in single digits most of the night before winning the latest meeting in the annual Battle of Broadway 31-14 Friday at Bob Black Field.
With the victory, Fulton now trails 35-20-2 in the series.
“We got three turnovers from our defense that we got points on and the defense scored one time for us. I can’t say enough about our defense,” said Head Coach Rob Black.
That side of the line is coached by veterans Jason Harbison and Jeff McMillan.
Black also felt his team made some progress from Week 1 to Week 2.
“We were a little bit better than we were last week and our opponent was better,” he said.
“We didn’t turn it over and we didn’t have as many penalties. Those were the things I talked about last week that we needed to get cleaned up. When you see progress there, I think you’re moving in the right direction.”
Central Head Coach Nick Craney didn’t feel his team made progress from Week 1 to Week 2.
“We had too many self-inflicted mistakes: penalties and turnovers and things you can’t have to playing winning football,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll make some better progress from Week 2 to Week 3.”
Offense set the tone at the start for Fulton (2-0) as a 46-yard pass play from Raysean Jackson to Marcellus Jackson set up an early touchdown. Daveon Shenault capitalized on it with a 12-yard touchdown run and Daniel Perez added the point-after-kick to make it 7-0 just a little over a minute into the contest.
Central answered with Will Siway hauling in a 26-yard pass at the right front corner of the end zone from Ryan Bolton and Kole Hughes’ PAT kick tied the score.
Late in first quarter, Marcellus put a move on cornerback Joey Ferguson and free safety David Johnson, leaving the Bobcats in his dust as he took off for a 33-yard gain, but this time Fulton couldn’t cash in.
The Falcons moved the ball to midfield before stalling in the second quarter. Then the punter dropped the snap and rushed his kick, which barely rolled back to the line of scrimmage.
On the next play, however, Shenault returned a Central fumble to the Bobcats’ 26. It set up another Jackson to Jackson TD pass play from 22 yards out and a 14-7 lead with 2:02 left in the first half. Marcellus made the catch in the end zone with three Bobcats surrounding him.
Coach Black ordered up a fake punt on fourth-and-four at the Fulton 33-yard line early in the third quarter and Marcellus raced 41 yards to the Central 26. But the Falcons got nothing out of it as Perez missed a 28-yard field goal attempt.
One of the biggest defensive plays of the game soon followed as senior linebacker Jerrison Gibson intercepted a Bolton pass at the Central 20. Perez this time cashed in with a 25-yard field goal from the left hash to extend Fulton’s lead to 17-7.
Less than two minutes later, the Falcons’ defense struck again with a big hit that jarred the ball loose from Bolton and De’Rondre Peebles turned it into a 10-yard scoop and score. The PAT by Perez made it 24-7.
Fulton put together a 75-yard TD drive in 11 plays in the fourth quarter. Big catches by Peebles (26 yards) and Dexter Lewis (14 yards) plus a pass interference foul in the end zone put the ball at the Central 8. Shenault made a nice cut on his scoring from the 2.
The Bobcats finally scored again as Bolton hooked up with sophomore Almani Rembert on a 29-yard pass play. Hughes’ PAT pulled Central within 31-14, but only 4:20 remained.
The Falcons sealed the victory by recovering Central’s on-side kick.
Fulton’s first region test is Friday against a hungry Anderson County team, which has opened with losses to Powell and Science Hill.
“It’s another tough test for us,” said Black. “And with it being our first region game, it means a lot.
“They are a talented bunch. They’ve got a really good running back and they throw the ball really well. They’ve got a 1-2 punch there, so our defense will have to come ready to play again.”
Coach Craney’s message to his team after the game stressed preparation.
“We’ve all got to step away from this game,” he said Craney after his Bobcats fell to 0-2. “We’ve got to reflect. We’ve got to determine that the preparation to do things the right way is important.
“If we prepare and execute a little better and eliminate the stupid mistakes, we’re going to be okay. But it’s going to take a difference in preparation.”
Central will host Sevier County Friday.