Fulton has endured strenuous growing pains the past three seasons. A combination of having fewer upperclassmen mixed with injuries to key players forced Hornets football coach Pat Kelley to put many freshmen and sophomores on the field to wage contact at the varsity level while playing with a Class 3 & 4 schedule.
The result has produced a 5-26 record during that segment.
As tough of a stretch that was, Fulton arguably is seeing some reward come from it today.
That’s because those freshmen and sophomores are now junior and seniors in uniform this 2013 season. As a result the Hornets are putting up some impressive offensive numbers while achieving a 3-0 record.
When Fulton arrives Friday, a standing room-only crowd is expected to greet them at Dr. Larry K. Noel Spartans Stadium.
This year’s homecoming theme is “Thrash the Hornets” and Moberly will look to extend their winning streak against this North Central Missouri Conference rival to four. The Spartans won last season at Fulton by a 26-13 margin.
“Fulton is a much improved football team than they were a year ago. Part of the reason is because a lot of their varsity starters are ones who played at this level when they were sophomores and even some were freshmen the year before. When you put sophomores on the field in a varsity game at this level of play, or other younger kids, you probably will struggle quite a bit and that happened to Fulton the past couple of seasons,” said Moberly football coach Jason Ambroson. “Today, their kids have grown. They are in the weight room more and they have been through a lot, so they understand everything so much better. Fulton is fortunate to have been well-coached with coach Kelley being there so they have good leadership in the program.”
Fulton is averaging 241 passing yards and 223 rushing per game this season while out scoring their opponents by a 42-23 margin. The Hornets are coming off a 54-14 win against Class 2 neighbor North Callaway of Kingdom City in Week 3.
By comparison, the Class 4 sixth-ranked Spartans (3-0, 1-0 NCMC) defeated conference rival Kirksville last week and they are averaging 428 total yards of offense per contest, with about 279 coming from its ground attack.
“There are some similarities between us when you just look at the numbers. Offensively, they can spread the ball out but their run a lot more out of the 2-back than we do. We’re primarily operate out of the spread formation,” said coach Ambroson. “It all comes down to who plays better on Friday night, and I think the play at the line of scrimmage will be a telling story in deciding who wins.”
Senior 6’4 quarterback Joe Schlemeier of Fulton has thrown for 722 yards and 7 TDs while completing 37 of 62 passes, and he has been picked four times. Chris Tilson has been his primary target having 16 receptions netting 373 yards, while Dalton Horstmeier has caught nine passes for 180.
Hornets sophomore running back Travis Dean is rushing for about 125 yards per outing (39-374). The team’s other leading rushers are Kegan Lee and Sam Christiansen who average 44 and 36 yards per game respectively.
“Fulton is very explosive at their skill positions. Players like the Tilson kid at outside receiver or the Horstmeier kid back playing football this year, and both of their running backs Kegan Lee and the Dean kid – they all are off to a good start for them this year,” Ambroson said. “At quarterback, Schlemeier is tall and will be able to see over some linemen. He is not too much of a scrambling type of quarterback like we have come against in our first three games. He is more of a drop-back. He had a decent year last year and he is off to a good start as well throwing the football in the three games played this season.”
Ambroson said his Spartans would continue to achieve the same basic goals on both sides of the football against Fulton as what was set in Week 1.
Offensively, Moberly’s unit wants to refrain from having any turnovers and defensively they want to come away with at least two. The Spartans are to be the better disciplined team on the field and they do not want to see no more than three yellow flags go against them on each side of the football.
Finally, Moberly will strive to gain more than 300 total yards of offense while the defense never lets a play gain more than 25 yards after the snap of the football.
“If we can do those things in a football game, I believe the other things will take care of themselves. I feel very confident in the kind of kids that we have in all of our positions. They work hard and they have been giving their best effort,” Ambroson said.
Against Kirksville in Week 3, Ambroson was very disappointed with discipline issues on the field. Measures to correct this problem were heavily addressed in practice this week.
Ambroson pointed out there were a handful of scoring drives reaching deep into the red zone that stalled due to unforced errors. There were five illegal procedure penalties and additional laundry being thrown against Moberly for personal fouls, and Ambroson is hopeful these kinds of issues will be a thing of the past.
“I told our kids in practice Tuesday that we need to focus more of our attention on us doing things right rather than what Fulton is doing. You can put it into perspective of saying that our football team needs to be concerned about the who, what, when, where and how aspects that only concern ourselves,” said Ambroson. “First of all in the who aspect of this football game, we need to be responsible on who is making the plays on Friday night and not Fulton. We are responsible on how we prepare and how we practice. We are responsible for what we do during the day at school and in the classroom, doing our studies and homework, and also staying out of trouble like we are suppose to so we can play football.”
“The ‘who’ question in regards to being responsible for winning our next game is ‘we’ are. We have to get better as a team in the discipline factor and getting better within the red zone. We move the football between the 30s about as good as anybody, but we are not very consistent within the red zone. On defense, we must continue to generate turnovers and keep the other team out of the end zone.”
“A big key is for our success is for us to stay focused at the task placed within our own hands on every snap of the football. We need to handle and take care of our own business, and the rest of the game will fall into place accordingly.”