Rob Black cannot explain what has made his defense so impenetrable in season openers over the past six years, but he was glad to see it continue Friday.
Fulton High School entered its season opener against Central having allowed just 3.8 points per game over its past five season openers, and somehow it managed to lower that average, keeping their rival off the scoreboard en route to a 41-0 victory in the Battle on Broadway.
“I know one thing, tonight our guys were hungry and ready to play somebody else,” the Fulton head coach said. “I loved our defensive energy. We had a good plan in, but the kids still had to execute and play hard. It’s pretty special when you see 11 maroon hats getting around the football.”
The Falcons (1-0) showed that defensive energy from the get-go, registering a safety on the Bobcats’ second drive of the game.
That play by junior linebacker Michael Hobby proved to be the first in a stream of big plays by the Fulton defense, which limited Central (1-1) to 47 yards and three first downs in the first half.
“They had a really good game plan early on and we weren’t really able to move the ball and get momentum,” Central head coach Bryson Rosser said. “We were hoping to pick up where we left off last week, but that didn’t happen. We fell behind early and we just couldn’t get going.
“We definitely didn’t play the way I wanted them to, but I did learn something about my team tonight.”
The second half did not fair any better for the Bobcats, who fumbled on their first play from scrimmage, setting up five-yard touchdown run by Jashaun Fenderson — one of three scores he racked up in the game — that put Fulton up 34-0.
Central struggled from the start, but an apparent leg injury to starting quarterback Dakota Fawver did not help. The sophomore, who was injured on a running play in the second quarter, had to be carried off the field after being unable to put any weight on his leg.
“It was obviously swollen, so they could not diagnose it,” Rosser said. “He’ll get an MRI in the morning and hopefully he’ll be alright.”
The strong defensive performance helped Fulton cruise despite an uncharacteristic outing from junior quarterback Xavier Malone, who threw three interceptions after throwing only 13 over the past two seasons as a starter.
“We’ll get to work and he’ll figure that out,” Black said. “That’s not typical of him, it was just one of those nights. I’m not going to let that get us down, though. He’ll get that fixed, but defensively, that was fun to watch.”
After reaching the Class 4A state championship game last season, Friday’s loss shows that the Bobcats still have a way to go if they want to recreate that success. They will look to get back on track when they host Sevier County on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“This is a completely different team than we had last year,” Rosser said. “This group is going to continue to learn and grow. Obviously, tonight didn’t have the efficiency or the consistency that I want to see, but fortunately it’s only Week 2 and it was a non-region game, so we can wipe the slate clean and get ready for the next one.”
Meanwhile, Fulton looked like a team on the verge of regaining its state championship form.
Black called this a “measuring-stick game” after suffering two losses to Central last season, including one that ended the Falcons’ season in the Class 4A quarterfinals. After Friday, it seems as if they measure up just fine.
“Winning that game means a lot,” said senior Dorian Williamson, who tallied 67 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. “All the doubt that we had, people predicted that we were going to lose by a touchdown, but you can see the scoreboard.”