FULLERTON — In avenging their only loss of the season on Thursday, Fullerton got off to a quick start and then used a difference making second-half drive to advance in the Class D-2 playoffs.
The eighth-ranked Warriors (Omaha World-Herald) broke a 24-24 halftime tie with an 11-play, 43-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard Brandon Rasmussen run to start the second half and then held on for a 30-24 win.
“Sometimes in high school football it’s not about X’s and O’s,” Fullerton coach Ryan Haughton said. “It’s about mentality and guys having composure.
“We give up 24 straight points in the second quarter and we just said it’s all going to be about keeping our poise and staying together.”
On a big lineman type of night, the Warriors leaned on two of their three seniors to get most of the work done. Senior Kole Prososki recovered a fumble on the third play of the game that set up John Wetovick’s 1-yard run.
“Coming off the last time we played them, we wanted to get off to a good start,” said Prososki, a 6-5, 285-pound senior center and defensive lineman, of the Bulldogs 38-12 regular season win. “We wanted to come out and prove we were the better team.”
Fullerton did just that, taking a 24-0 lead when Rasmussen threw a 16-yard pass to TJ Dubas that gave the Warriors a 24-0 lead with 6:12 left before half.
Then Caden Theis set out to change everything.
He returned the ensuing kick 69 yards for a score, stripped Hunter Friend of the ball on the next play and then three plays later scored from the 6 to cut the lead to 24-16.
After a three-and-out, he then carried six times on a 7-play, 41-yard drive that tied the game at half.
“That first quarter we really shot ourselves in the foot,” Osceola coach TJ Nielsen said. “To come back and get the game tied speaks to the character of our kids and how they battled all season.”
When Fullerton took the lead in the third quarter, it appeared Osceola would answer right back. After Fullerton used nearly six minutes of clock to score, Theis looked like he broke free for a touchdown on third-and-2 from his own 24, but he was called down after gaining a first down.
Five plays later that drive stalled and the Bulldogs only got that ball back once. On that drive a long Theis run was negated by a penalty.
When Fullerton took over with 7:06 left, the Warriors never gave the ball back grinding out grinding out four first downs to run out the clock. Just how Prososki wanted it.
“That’s just how we want it,” he said. “It was a great team win, a great team effort.”
Playing in nearly 40-mile-per-hour winds, both teams leaned on the ground game. The other senior the Warriors leaned on was running back Hunter Friend. He carried 36 times for 129 yards for Fullerton (8-1), who ran 59 times for 194 yards.
The Bulldogs, who finished 4-5, got 112 yards on 28 carries from Theis.
The Warriors advance now to play top-ranked Bruning-Davenport/Shickley next Wednesday in the second round.
Osceola (4-5)........0 24 0 0—24
Fullerton (8-1).........16 8 6 0—30
RUSHING—O, Theis 28-112, Bryan 6-30, Fisher 2-13, Team 1-(minus 6). F, Friend 36-129, Jo. Wetovick 12-42, Dubas 4-9, Rasmussen 4-19, Team 3-(minus 6).
PASSING—O, Theis 2-36-0. F, Rasmussen 3-6-35-0.
RECEIVING—O, Fisher 1-3, Ienn 1-3. F, Dubas 1-16, Friend 1-8, Jo. Wetovick 1-11.