A cold, steady rain could not dampen the play of the Mexico Bulldogs football team Friday night as they shut out the Fulton Hornets 21-0, reclaimed the 54 Bowl sign and nailed down a Homecoming victory.
"I am very happy and excited for the seniors and all the kids." said Mexico head coach Ty Harrison. "They wanted this one bad and it was a very deserving win."
The win improved Mexico's record to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the NCMC conference while Fulton fell to 4-4 overall and 1-4 in the conference.
A 10-play drive by the Fulton offense put the Hornets near the red zone just as time expired in a scoreless first quarter. On the first play of the second quarter, Mexico's Tyler Bracht make a diving interception in the end zone to stop the Hornets' threat and give Mexico the ball on the 20-yard line.
The Bulldogs took advantage of the turnover, marching down the field on an 18-play, 80-yard scoring drive that took just over 7 minutes. Bracht took off on a 9-yard run into the left corner of the end zone for the touchdown and the first of Cole Jaramillo's three PATs put Mexico up 7-0 at the 4:41 mark of the second quarter.
"Against a team as explosive as Fulton is on offense, controlling the clock is huge," Harrison said. "That was our game plan coming in and we did a good job of executing it. Finishing drives in the end zone has been a problem for us this year, so it was nice to finish against Fulton."
Fulton took the second half kickoff but the Mexico defense forced a three-and-out and after the punt, the Bulldogs started on their own 34-yard line. Runs by Jamel Taylor, Bracht and Karsten Ekern moved them up to the Fulton 46-yard line. With the Bulldogs facing a third-and-five situation, Bracht took the ball and found himself in trouble, running to the left side and then scrambling back to the right, dodging tacklers until he found an opening and turned on the speed, breaking free down the right sideline to the 2-yard line.
Two plays later, Ekern scored on a 3-yard run and the PAT put them up 14-0 with 7:32 left in the third quarter.
"The best thing Tyler brings to our team is his competitive fire," Harrison said. "The plays he made out of nothing were because he has a never die attitude. His athleticism and big plays on offense and defense were key plays in the game."
Mexico controlled the ball much of the second half. Fulton's most serious threat to score came midway through the third quarter when a long pass play set up the Hornets on the 5-yard line. A false start by Fulton moved them back to the 10-yard line before the Mexico defense held strong, stopping the run and three pass attempts, stopping the Hornets just short at the 4-yard line.
Page 2 of 2 - "Some keys for us were controlling the ball and limiting their offensive plays in the second half. I felt we wore them down," Harrison said.
Fulton has had little trouble scoring this season and came in to the game averaging 37.1 points per game but the Mexico defense was steady throughout the game and also came up with three interceptions, two from Bracht and one from Skylar Harrington.
"Our defense was excellent. They were the highest scoring offense we have played all year and to hold them to a shutout was a big deal," Harrison said. "The goal line stands were at critical times and were huge."
The Bulldogs, sporting their pink socks in support of those fighting cancer including teammate Matt Brown, would score one more time. Bracht connected with Ekern on an 11-yard touchdown pass with 4:05 to go in the game after a 10-play drive. The successful kick put Mexico up for good 21-0.
After a turnover-filled game last week against Kirksville, Mexico played a much cleaner game this week.
"Offensively we did what we needed to do to win," Harrison said. "We controlled the clock and more importantly we didn't beat ourselves with turnovers. We talked and worked all week on ball security, no turnovers and no penalties."
The Bulldogs will travel to Moberly next week to close out the regular season against the Spartans who are undefeated at 8-0 and lead the NCMC.
STATS LEADERS: Passing: Bracht 2-7 for 23 yards, 1 INT, 1 TD. Receiving: Skylar Harrington 1-12, Ekern 1-11, 1 TD; Rushing: Bracht 18-94, Jamel Taylor 25-64, Ekern 8-30, 1 TD, D'Milo Nunnelly 4-26; Tackles: Ekern 11, Payton Turner 10, Chance Harper 8, 1 QB sack, Bracht 2 INT.