FULTON — Turnovers almost always change momentum in high school games.
That certainly was true Friday night in Fulton, but not in the way that one would usually expect. The Fulton Steamers used a costly fumble as a motivator on defense, and that carried over to the offense as the Steamers beat the visiting Bureau Valley Storm, 20-12, in a Three Rivers Rock game.
“I think that fumble motivated us on defense,” Fulton’s Kyler Pessman said. “We knew it was up to us to make some big plays and get the ball back.”
With Storm (1-2, 0-1) having just taken the lead 12-7 on a TD reception by Tucker Hartz, the Steamers answered by driving to the BV 10-yardline. On first down and goal, Fulton’s Nick McQuistion lost control of the ball, and BV’s James Macklin picked it up and scampered 50 yards into Fulton territory.
BV’s first two plays on the ensuing drive went backward as Fulton’s Eli Pannell greeted Mac Nugent in the backfield on both plays. Pannell, a 220-pound senior, was disruptive all night from his defensive tackle position.
“We wanted to be aggressive,” Pannell said. “We weren’t letting their guards pull out, and we were penetrating into the backfield. We needed to have this one.”
On third down, Pessman sacked BV quarterback Tyler Gustafson for another 10-yard loss, forcing the Storm to punt.
Pessman wasn’t done with making big plays. Two plays into the next drive, Pessman took the pitch from quarterback Max Lemke and then uncorked a deep pass to Anthony Miller, who caught the pass and rumbled to the 4-yard line. Moments later, Ethan Rush put Fulton ahead for good with a 2-yard run.
“I told the coaches this week that we should put in the halfback pass,” Pessman said. “I knew it would work, and thankfully, it really worked great tonight.”
Fulton (1-2, 1-0) sealed the game after another turnover. This time Larson Barnett picked off Gustafson in the fourth quarter. The Steamer offense proceeded to drive the ball 59 yards over the next 5 minutes, finishing the drive with a 4-yard pass from Lemke to Kyle Schipper.
Bureau Valley had two more chances with the ball, but were not able to score.
“I can’t say enough about the heart that we showed tonight,” Bureau Valley coach Joe Schmitt said. “Fulton comes out and drives down and scores, but we don’t let that keep us down. They kept fighting, Fulton just made a few more plays tonight.”
• Bureau Valley returns home to play Monmouth-Roseville in Week 4.