FULTON, Ill. — With two experienced playoff powers doing battle at Steamer Field on Saturday, Fulton coach Patrick Lower didn’t think experience was a real big factor. Rather, he believed the game simply came down to strength.
Forreston (10-1), the defending Class 1A state champion, clearly had plenty, powering its way to a 30-0 halftime lead en route to a 30-6 second-round win over Fulton.
“They’re a physical team,” said Lower. “We did not match that physicality right off the get-go. They had a short field there a couple of times, but they’re a real good football team. We knew that ahead of time. Just kind of let that game get away from us in the first half.”
Fulton had no offensive answers in the first half, earning zero first downs, let alone the same amount of points, and only 23 rushing yards for the game.
“We just knew that we had to come out and hit them hard, and just keep playing,” said Cardinals’ running back/defensive back A.J. Christensen, who had TD runs of 4 and 2 yards and caught a conversion pass, besides having one ferocious hit on defense.
The Cardinals scored on drives of 65 and 35 yards in the first quarter, netting two-point conversion passes from QB Hunter Daws on both scores. From scrimmage, Daws had 0 yards passing for the game, but he was effective on the two-pointers on play-action passes.
“The first drive we kind of got pushed around, and it kind of went down hill from there,” said Fulton running back Austin Schroeder. “The second half we talked about fight, and we tried to fight back.”
Fulton did outscore Forreston 6-0 in the second half on a misty, cold, damp day, but it had to work hard for every yard it earned against Forreston, with most coming through the air.
“We talked about just keep fighting at half,” Lower said. “These guys have had a real successful career here, and we are proud of them. ‘Just go out the right way, fighting hard and playing each and every play like it’s your last.’ And I thought we showed that in the second half.”
Fulton (7-4) did score on a halfback pass of 27 yards from Schroeder to QB Bryce Grant, in which Schroeder turned back and fired it to Grant, who was wide open across the field and easily sped into the end zone. But an emotional Schroeder didn’t really feel like talking about the lone Steamer touchdown of the game afterward.
“We had a great season,” Schroeder said, fighting his emotions. “I couldn’t be happier to lose here, but I’d rather keep playing.”
Forreston coach Denny Diduch said afterward he felt the playing conditions did the Steamers no favors.
“They’re kind of multi-dimensional,” he said. “Even before the game, just walking on the field, it was (difficult) to move on the field because of how wet it was.
“We’re happy to get the win,” he added, “because, as you saw in the second half, there’s a lot of fight in the Fulton program.”