Posted: Jul 16, 2014 9:47 AM
Updated: Sep 12, 2014 11:32 PM
|8 / 22||Osage||Away||Loss||14 - 41|
|8 / 29||Versailles||Home||Win||43 - 6|
|9 / 5||Missouri Military Academy||Away||Win||28 - 0|
|9 / 12||Moberly||Home||Win||23 - 13|
|9 / 19||Marshall||Away|
|9 / 26||Hannibal||Home|
|10 / 3||Boonville||Away|
|10 / 10||Mexico||Home|
|10 / 17||Kirksville||Away|
|10 / 24||Districts|
In 2013, the Fulton Hornets got off to just about as hot of a start as they've ever had. They won four of their first five games, averaging 38 points per game in the process. Unfortunately for Fulton, that blazing hot start cooled some, but the points largely kept coming. Summing up the season, Head Coach Pat Kelley says, "We felt like we made a few steps forward after the last couple of seasons. We got off to a great start but struggled in some of the conference games." Most importantly, he adds, "We were in every ball game." By winning their opening District game the Hornets put themselves in position to make a playoff run, and that is absolutely something to build on.
Also something to build on is the fact that Fulton returns several of its most important players from last year's potent offense. "Our strength will be our skill positions," Coach Kelley says. All-conference, all-district junior Running Back Travis Dean (5-10, 165) will again lead the attack. In a monster sophomore season, Dean accrued 945 rushing yards, 245 receiving yards, and ten touchdowns. Senior Noah Braun (5-10, 160), also a threat to run or catch, will again share time at RB with Dean. Quick senior Dominique Ford (5-7, 152) and junior Zach Franklin (5-11, 170) will work as backups to both.
Senior Sam Christensen (6-2, 195) will take over full time at QB for the Hornets. Christensen started two games last season and accounted for 459 passing yards and another 203 yards on the ground. Christensen, as has already proven to an extent, is the type of player who can beat a team with his arm and his legs. Key for him will be limiting turnovers and not trying to do too much. Senior Devin Gibson (6-3, 190), with his exceptional size, will likely prove to be Christensen's prime target at WR. Gibson missed 2013 due to injury. Senior Ja'Metrius Galbreath (5-10, 150) will also line up at WR. Galbreath may not have ideal size, but showed good speed last year, averaging 10.5 yards per catch. Those two will be joined by sophomore WR Isaac Franklin (6-0, 163).
"But for them [the skill-position players] to be effective we are going to have to be solid up front," says Coach Kelley. "We have some holes to fill on the offensive line, and if we can get some players to step up we will be competitive." Junior Clayton Bristol (5-11, 230), an all-conference performer last season, will anchor the line. Fellow junior Alex Garner (6-2, 225) will return alongside him. Senior Sam Lewis (6-0, 225) and junior Will Tucker (5- 11, 225) are set to fill in two of last year's vacated spots. This crew will have to gel quickly if the Hornets are going to get the most out of its offense in 2014.
Fulton's 2013 defense is something Coach Kelley would best like forgotten. When asked about the amount of points the Hornets D allowed last year, Kelley says succinctly, and half jokingly, "Too many." But he is encouraged by the fact that eight starters return to the defense, bringing with them a wealth of experience. "We have a lot of players back on defense, but we have to find a couple of players to step in at corner and defensive line," Kelley says. The strength then, will be in the middle of the field, at the Linebacker position, where all three LBs return. Braun, a two-way starter yet again, leads the group. He tallied an outrageous 94 tackles a season ago. He'll be joined by junior Kobe Kaminski (6-1, 205) who himself had 85 tackles, and Christensen, who added another 65 tackles. This group looks to be every bit as strong as last year, though it'll be interesting to see whether Christensen's role at QB affects his defensive play. Zach Franklin will also get reps at LB.
Three starters return to the D-line in senior Andrew Wayant (6-0, 195), Bristol, and junior DE Zach Benner (6-1, 195). They'll look to use their strength and athleticism to stuff the run up front and get to the QB. A pair of juniors return to the secondary in Free Safety Andy Baysinger (5-9, 155) and Strong Safety Trenton Clines (5-8, 155). Speedy sophomore Devin Masek (5-8, 140) will line up beside them in the defensive backfield. Coach Kelley will continue to look for additional players to fill roles at the D-line and secondary. The hope is that the strength at LB and the experience elsewhere across the defense will be enough to improve upon the numbers surrendered in 2013.
The Hornets enter 2014 with a strong offensive core and a defense that could go either way. With good quality at RB and WR, Christensen should have no trouble settling in at QB. And if the O-line plays well enough, Fulton will again have an offense teams won't relish playing. The question is on defense, and with a crew who experienced some bad times on that side of the ball in 2013, they'll be doing everything they possibly can to make major improvements happen.
Pigskin's Pick: 5-4