No. 7-rated Wabasso nips No. 9 M.C. West
WABASSO – When Wabasso slotback T.J. Fulton leaped up to catch a desperation pass with less than one minute to go, it did not look like he was going to come down with it.
Fulton battled Martin County West’s Wesley Cook for the pass from Neil Eichten, coming down with it and springing for the end zone to give the Class 1A, No. 7-ranked Rabbits the go-ahead score in their 22-14 upset of the Class 2A, No. 9-ranked Mavericks on Friday night.
“The defender had a good read on it,” Fulton said. “Me and him went up at the same time. I think he had it for a second, the next thing I remember I ripped it out of his hands and I was running for the end zone.”
Fulton’s touchdown grab solidified Wabasso’s first 6-0 start since 2007, when it went undefeated in the regular season.
“Time was running down and we had two timeouts in our pocket, but I didn’t want to give them a shot at the ball,” said Wabasso coach Joe Kemp. “We were getting to the point where we were either going to score or time was going to run out and we were going to go into overtime.
“Words can’t describe that last play. T.J. just made a play.”
The Mavericks (5-1) relied heavily on sophomore running back Thor Larson for most of the night. Larson, who weighs in at 220 pounds in the backfield, carried the ball 37 times for 196 yards and one touchdown.
“He’s a great player for only being a sophomore,” said MCW coach T.J. Schmidtke. “He’s a physical kid and he can do anything. We really haven’t had to run him that much this year, but with injuries, he got the ball a lot and he did great.”
MCW starting quarterback Jake Faber went down in the second quarter with bruised ribs. He was 3-for-5 passing for 33 yards before the injury.
“He was running with the ball and their big No. 70 just picked him up and slammed him on the ground and kind of pile-drived him and hopefully he didn’t break his ribs,” Schmidtke said.
Sam Baker stepped up in relief of Faber, but threw more interceptions than he did completions, going 1-for-7 with two picks.
Eichten led the Wabasso offense to quick scores on its first two drives of the game.
The first drive was graced with 31 yards to paydirt thanks to a shifty punt return by Dirk Pistulka from the 50-yard line. Eichten marched the Rabbits for 2:13 on a seven-play drive that was capped off by a 15-yard strike to Fulton for the first points on the board.
The second drive took two plays and was concluded with a 58-yard touchdown run by Fulton on an end-around.
“Offensively, we played great tonight,” Kemp said. “We had a couple nice drives in the second half. We had a nice drive in the first half, we played well.”
The Mavericks ate up a majority of the clock in between those scores with a 14-play stomp down field that saw Larson punching it in from 1 yard out.
Even though Larson bowled his way for almost 200 rushing yards, the Wabasso defense kept him and the rest of the Mavericks out of the end zone after the first quarter. Martin County West came into the game averaging 44.6 points per game – the highest in the Southern Minnesota Conference.
“I thought we outplayed them physically for three quarters,” Schmidtke said. “We just gave up big plays and we didn’t make plays ourselves.”
Eichten finished the night 9-for-14 in passing with 135 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
The elation from the upset is something Wabasso hopes to carry over to next week’s matchup against Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s (6-0).
“I think the momentum carries itself,” Kemp said. “When you’ve won six ball games in a row, it kind of feeds off each other.”
Martin County West (5-1) plays host to Springfield next Friday night in its homecoming game in Sherburn.
MCW 14 0 0 0 – 14
WAB 14 0 0 8 – 22
W – Eichten 15 pass to T. Fulton (Deutschmann kick), 8:17
MCW – Thor Larson 1-yard run (Anders Fuller kick), 3:39
W – T. Fulton 58 run (Deutschmann kick), 2:59
MCW – Sam Baker 86-yard kickoff return (Fuller kick), 2:46
W – Eichten 52 pass to T. Fulton (2-pt. conversion), 0:24