CHURUBUSCO – Boy were the Eagles rolling.
After a slow start on Friday night in Turtle Town, Churubusco had found its groove against undefeated Southwood. A pair of touchdowns – one a short run by Gage Kelly and the second a long rush by Jake Fulk – had given the Eagles a 12-point lead late in the second quarter.
The Eagles were starting to really wear down the Knights’ defense will its downhill running attack, while Southwood was beginning to let negativity take over the huddle and the sideline.
An innocuous run by Fulk moved the chains again, with Churubusco inside the Southwood 30 yard line. But Fulk didn’t get up.
Instead of returning to the huddle, the senior writhed in pain, grabbing at his left leg. He was joined by an athletic trainer, a doctor and a pair of paramedics. As they examined him, Fulk unbuttoned his helmet and yanked it off, the frustration obvious from Blitz’s vantage point 30 yards away.
Fulk was helped off the field and emotion overcame him as he sat on the bench getting further evaluation. Soon after, he was taken away in a golf cart for further evaluation.
The loss of their best player shocked the Churubusco sideline and galvanized Southwood. The drive was stopped on fourth down at the 20 and was followed up by a pair of Knights touchdowns in the final four minutes of the half.
The Eagles did not score again. Final: Southwood 21, Churubusco 12.
When talking MVPs in the area, the short list includes Bailey Parker of East Noble and Fulk, a guy who entered Friday having rushed for nearly 1,700 yards on the season. A two-way player, Fulk is also a beast on the defense. His loss was immediately felt.
As soon as Fulk was injured, the running game for Churubusco dried up. The Eagles had already utilized the senior in standard formation as well as taking the direct snap out of the Wildcat. Southwood was having trouble corralling the stud runner, evidenced by the 83-yard touchdown that made the score 12-0 in the second quarter.
The injury changed everything. When Southwood (10-0) got the ball after the turnover on downs, it went down the field and scored. Churubusco (7-3) then went three and out and saw its punt get blocked. With less than two minutes to go before half, the Knights scored on another Alex Farr to Jackson Simons touchdown.
Blitz isn’t calling Churubusco a one-man team, but its success this season is largely predicated on the effective running and leadership of Fulk. Eastside was able to bottle up the senior offensively earlier this year. The result? A 42-14 beatdown by the Blazers on Churubusco’s home field.
It wasn’t as lopsided on Friday, and the Eagles put up plenty of fight in the second half against Southwood. But without No. 20 on the field, it almost felt to Blitz that the game was over at halftime. Despite just the two-point deficit, it felt like 20 without the senior.
Football is a fickle game, full of twists and turns, some of which we can control, others not. What happened to Fulk on Friday was one of those uncontrollable moments. The important thing is that Fulk recovers from whatever injury he suffered, but Blitz’s thoughts are also swimming around in the “what if” portion of his brain, wondering if Southwood had any chance of getting back into Friday’s game if Fulk does not get injured.
This game can be cruel and unpredictable. Maybe that’s why we can both love it and hate it on the same cool, fall night in October.
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