The number of different themes coexisting at Friday's Mexico varsity home football game was as unique as it was varied and included Senior Night for each fall sports program and Think Pink for cancer awareness.
Those were just the subplots to the evening, though, because the main storyline featured the 54 Bowl Trophy that celebrates the fact the Bulldogs and Fulton have been competing against one another for 96 years now. Complicating the evening even further was the fact Fulton was ahead in the series 63-56-6, but hadn't beat Mexico since 2012. Then they played the game and the Bulldogs weren't shy about running directly at Fulton time and time again until they eventually claimed a 28-7 victory.
"(Offensive/defensive lineman) Wyatt Turner has gotten so much better this year, and he had to because because other teams are focusing on Terrese Aaron," said coach Steve Haag. "When they focus on (Aaron) it opens things up for (Turner). That's what we needed from him. They're both having really good senior years. We have at least two more (regular season contests) with them and we're looking for more."
The initial score for Mexico came in the in the first quarter on its second possession and began with numerous runs both inside the tackles and out. Once Fulton had sold out completely to stop the ground attack, Bulldogs quarterback Jonathon Grubb connected with Avion Williams on an 18-yard pass at :49 to make it a 7-0 game after Gage Gilmore knocked in the point after attempt.
"We knew they were pressuring us. We kept running the ball and they were right on the line of scrimmage, so we faked a sweep and they bit on it," Haag said. "Williams crossed over the middle and he was wide open. I actually thought (Grubb) should have ran the ball, but he threw it and that's what we need. That's how we want it to work."
The momentum in this contest almost turned on Mexico in the second quarter after Grubb ran for six yards on second down and four to make it first and goal at the eight yard line at 7:50. What followed was Williams recovering his own fumble on first down for a two-yard loss prior to Cameron Holman working a swing pass for a six yard gain on second down and losing another two yards on a third down run. Grubb then ran for two yards on fourth and four for the Bulldogs to turn the ball over at 5:54.
"That was probably my fault. I called a play that I shouldn't have called," said Haag. "We were trying to work on some things because we were up a little bit. We wanted to see what would work and what wouldn't, but our defense did a great job tonight. We had one busted play, but it was a good job all around."
While some teams might have lost focus at this point, Mexico's coaching staff got on their players and it worked as Fulton signal caller Cameron Vaughn found himself rolling right in his own end zone on third down and 11 at 4:44. Vaughn's response was to toss the ball weakly back to the other side of the endzone, and even though there didn't appear to be an eligible receiver in sight, the referees called it an incomplete pass instead of a safety or intentional grounding.
That put the Bulldogs on the path to redemption at the Fulton 29 yard line on the ensuing possession with 4:29 left before halftime. When Holman then busted out a 10-yard jaunt that didn't conclude until he left the field holding his right hip, Mexico knew it had the Hornets on the ropes. That's why it just kept blasting the ball up the middle before Dillon Nichols eventually directed things outside on a first and goal from the five yard line to extend the lead to 14-0 after Gilmore's PAT.
"(Nichols) has been great for us. He's getting so much better at the option game," said Haag. "He's hard to see behind the (offensive line). (Nichols) has really worked at running his lines, and when he runs his lines, he's tough and he's quick. He's like a hiccup back there. He's quick as a hiccup. He gets open, shows some speed and has done a really good job all year."
The second half began with a bang for the Bulldogs as Jasean White took the opening kickoff back to the Fulton 38-yard line. Not one to be outdone, Nichols took the opportunity to break free and score on the very next play to widen the gap to 21-0. The fourth quarter also had an action-packed launch highlighted by a 42-yard scoring sprint for Grubb that turned this into a 28-0 contest.
"(Grubb) has done such a great job off the field and in the weight room. He's also improved on the field and as a leader," Haag said. "He's getting better and better at reading the option. You can see the confidence in him. He wants to get the job done, and that's what you want in a quarterback. You want a guy that wants to read it and you want a guy that wants to run it. That puts pressure on defenses to stop him, so when you add that other element, it's tough."
Fulton did respond with a touchdown at 8:50 on a four-yard run by running back Taeon Logan, but once that happened, Mexico simply ran out the clock with its methodical ball control.
Fulton is now 2-6 overall.
Mexico, 6-2 overall, has another North Central Missouri Conference game at Moberly on Friday.