Fulton football coach Pat Kelley knows his team may be the underdog heading into Friday night’s game against the Boonville Pirates football team at the BHS Sports Complex.
Although the Hornets have played several teams close throughout the season, they will enter Friday’s game with a record of 0-6 overall and 0-3 in the North Central Missouri Conference.
In the game last week against the Hannibal Pirates, the Hornets took it on the chin in a big way by a score of 42-0. But what is even more disheartening is that Hannibal led Fulton 35-0 at the half while managing just 97 yards in total offense.
“We just got whipped plain and simple,” Kelley said of the game against Hannibal. “We got beat up on both sides of the ball up front. Hannibal is extremely good on the line and the bottom line is that we just got beat at the point of attack.”
As for the Boonville Pirates football team, they have been on a role since its 0-3 start with three straight wins against the Knob Noster Panthers 35-13, Mexico Bulldogs 26-0 and last week the Kirksville Tigers 42-26 to improve to 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the NCMC.
Although Fulton and Boonville appear to be headed in opposite directions for the season, Pirates skipper Devin Brown said you can never take a team too lightly.
“They were actually winning the Moberly game 13-12 at the half,” Brown said. “They just get off to a slow start and hopefully we keep them to that Friday night. Their scores are closer than they were last year so they are playing better obviously. We have to take care of us and do our jobs and assignments and take care of the football. But you are always concerned. That’s why we go out and play  the game and find out what works and try to stick with it offensively and defensively and try to win the game.”
In the game last week against Kirksville, Brown said he thought his team took a step back despite putting up a season-high 42 points and over 400 yards in total offense.
Boonville senior tailback Kelsey Callaway also had another big night on the ground against the Tigers while rushing for 159 yards on 16 carries and four touchdowns.  Since the Knob Noster game in Week 4, Callaway has scored a total of nine touchdowns carrying the ball.
Kelley said you watch Boonville lineup in a lot of different formations and see a lot of weapons.
“You see both quarterbacks back there and you have to prepare for that, and then you have No. 31 (Damario Walker) back there at times and he is awful fast, and then the Callaway kid is probably the best back that we have seen at least on tape. I am sure he is as good in person. I know he is as good as anybody we have seen all year. We just have to slow Boonville down. I don’t know that we can stop them with so many weapons they have, but we have to try and slow them down and not let them get those huge strikes.”
As for the Pirates defense, which has also been stingy as of lately, Kelley said Boonville has some tough kids and play in the traditional four-man front. Along with having linemen who are both big and quick, Kelley said the Pirates also have a slew of linebackers that read and flow very well.
“The key for us offensively is just try to stay on the blocks,” Kelley said. “We also have to be consistent. We had a nice drive early last week against Hannibal and then got down to the 15 and just couldn’t do anything with it. Again we have played well at times but our biggest problem is getting off to a good start. That’s what we have been talking to the kids all week about. No matter what happens win, lose or draw we need to get off to a good start in a ballgame because we just haven’t done that yet.”
While losing to a good Osage team in the season opener 50-14, Kelley said the Hornets were down 21-0 with seven minutes left in the first quarter.
“We let them drive down the field and then fumbled the kick off and threw an interception,” Kelley said. “I think we ran three offensive plays for the first-five minutes before they scored 21 points. Osage scored 30 points in the first quarter and then we outscored them for the rest of the game but you can’t play catch up like that.”
In Week 2 against the Versailles Tigers, Kelley said the weather hurt his team a little bit but again it was a slow start and the fact that Fulton had poor field position and gave them a short field twice.
“That was the difference in the game,” Kelley said of the 19-7 loss against Versailles. “The North Callaway game in Week 3 was about the same way where we had a chance to put a couple of scores up early and didn’t do it. We were close at half and then came out the second half and gave up two quick scores and played catch up the rest of the night.”
Although the loss to North Callaway was disappointing to say the least, imagine how Coach Kelley felt after leading Moberly 13-12 at the half in Week 4.
“Again, we didn’t play well in the first quarter against Moberly,” Kelley said. “We played pretty well the last-three quarters. We were down 12-0 at the end of the first quarter and then rallied to lead 13-12 at the half. We threw an interception right at the beginning of the third quarter and then they ended up scoring on that. We had two different chances to go down and take the lead but shot ourselves in the foot and then they scored one late to kind of put it away.”
While the Spartans wound up winning the game 26-13, Kelley said he felt like his team also had a chance the following week on the road against the Marshall Owls.
The Owls defeated Fulton by a score of 45-14.
“Marshall scored 18 points pretty quick in the ballgame and then we were able to score two minutes left in the half to make it 18-7,” Kelley said. “But then we lost a couple of starters on back to back plays with 20 seconds left in the half and what momentum we had going into the half was kind of knocked out of us. We came back out in the second half and went three and out and they returned a punt and that was kind of it.”
Despite being outscored 217-57 this season in six ballgames, the Hornets have still put up some big numbers with junior quarterback Joe Schlemeier completing 55 of 121 passes for 625 yards with two touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Meanwhile, on the ground, junior running back Kegan Lee leads the Hornets in rushing with 93 carries for 315 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior wide receiver Randall Cole has also been Schlemeier’s favorite target when the Hornets throw the ball while hauling in 25 passes for 385 yards and one touchdown.
As for the defense, which has given up a lot of yards this season, the Hornets have three players with 40 or more tackles. Lee leads the team with 27 solo stops and 21 assisted tackles for a total of 48 while Cole has 27 solo stops and 15 assisted tackles for a total of 42. Sophomore Sam Christensen, meanwhile, has a total of 41 tackles with 22 solo stops and 19 assisted.
Brown said the Hornets have several returning players from last year at quarterback and running back.
“They also bring back some guys on the offensive line and at wide receiver,” Brown said. “They were young last year and played a lot of sophomores. Now those guys are juniors so they are bringing a lot of guys back. Offensively they are running basically the same plays as they always have but they have changed a little bit. We have to be able to lineup to what they are doing and be able to tackle.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Brown said the Hornets used to be a 4-4 but now they have switched to a 3-5 look.
“We have seen that a couple of times this year but they have changed it up because they have more skilled guys and lighter guys on the outside than lineman, so they changed it to more linebackers and with that kind of look we have to be able to get to the edge,” Brown said. “They are going to stunt a lot and send blitzes so we have to be able to pick them up.”
With just three games left in the regular season, Brown said the overall key for his team is just to get better.
“We need to get better each week and hopefully that is what we are doing,” Brown said. “I think one of the reasons we have been successful the last-three weeks is because offensively we are helping the defense out with possession of the ball and keeping it away from our opponents and running the clock. By doing that we are helping the defense and playing field position. We are also starting to make some explosive plays. We have made plays and that is what you need to do to win games so hopefully that will continue.”
Kelley said up until last week’s game against Hannibal the Hornets were also starting to show improvement. “Our spirits are still good and we feel like we have three ballgames left before districts,” Kelley said. “We just have to go out and play as hard as we can and try to eliminate our mistakes and see what happens. We haven’t scored a lot of points lately so from our standpoint we would like to break that trend Friday night against Boonville.”
For the Boonville Pirates football team this season, senior running back Kelsey Callaway continues to lead the Pirates with 100 carries for 657 yards and nine touchdowns. Junior quarterback Jacob Francis, meanwhile, has completed 20 of 50 passes for 221 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. As far as receiving yards, senior Damario Walker has 18 catches for 285 yards and two touchdowns. On defense, senior linebacker Jalen Poindexter leads the Pirates with a total of 86 tackles with 53 solo stops along with 33 assisted tackles, two forced fumbles and one blocked field goal.