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NCAFA Football
Heisman-esque effort by running back Fulton lifts Giants over Panthers
By Fred Sherwin
OrleansOnline,ca

North Gloucester Giants head coach Moe Salehe gives a game ball to running back Scott Fulton, who rushed for 341 yards and two touchdowns against the Cumberland Panthers on Saturday. Fred Sherwin/Photo

In a battle between the two best peewee football teams in the city on Saturday, it was the Herculean effort of a running back that proved to be the difference as the North Gloucester Giants upset the two-time defending champion Cumberland Panthers to lock up first place in the division.

Scott Fulton carried the ball 38 times for 341 yards and two touchdowns in leading his team to victory. He had 27 carries for 205 yards in the second half alone. In fact, Fulton carried the ball on every Giants' play in the second half save for the final play of the game which was a nine-yard, game-winning touchdown toss from Noah Allen to Raphael Malouin.

What made Fulton's performance so remarkable is that anyone and everyone who was at the Gil-O-Julien Field knew he was going to get the ball, including the Panthers coaches and the entire defence, and they still only managed to stop him twice -- once on a third and five play in the third quarter and again on a third and goal play from the five yard line. On both plays he came up just inches short. On every other player he lowered his head and ran full steam ahead into the heart of the Panthers' front seven

On one series he had nine consecutive carries, each one more punishing than the last. As an OVFL all-star middle linebacker for the Panthers' summer bantam varsity team, Fulton was feared for dishing out bone crunching tackles. On Saturday, he was delivering bone crunching hits from the other side of the lone of scrimmage.

The game was one of the most highly anticipated on the National Capital Amateur Football Association calendar. Half of the Panthers starting offence played on the bantam varsity team, as did half of the Giants starting defence.

The two head coaches, Jeff Koradi for the Panthers and Moe Salehe for the Giants are both very good friends having coached together on the varsity team. They are also passionate rivals. Salehe was the head coach of the Orleans Bengals team that upset Koradi and the Panthers in the 2013 NCAFA A-Cup semi-finals. Before Satuday, it was the only loss that Koradi and many of the core second year players on the Panthers had suffered in the past six seasons.

Heading into the game they were a combined 59-1 since 2010 with four A-Cup championships to their credit, If they want to win a fifth championship in November they will have to find a way to stop Fulton, assuming the two teams make it to the final, which will be held at Millennium Park. Given the wet and muddy conditions at Gil-O-Julien on Saturday, that should work out in the Panthers favour.

Cumberland's all-star running back Fabrice Mukendi had all kinds of trouble with the conditions on Saturday. He was unable to change directions on a dime as he can on artificial turf and it slowed him down considerably along with the Giants defence which is the best D-unit the Panthers have ever faced at the NCAFA level.

The game itself was a nail-biting, emotionally draining, suspense filled classic.

The Cumberland Panthers defence had their hands full against North Gloucester Giants running back Scott Fulton on Saturday. Lynn Gibault/Photo

After neither team was able to much with the ball on their first possession, Panthers quarterback Christian Veilleux hit a wide open Jonathan Aoude for a 54-yard gain that set up four yard touchdown pass to Maxime Dery. A two-point convert would give the visiting Panthers the early 8-0 lead.

The Giants answered back with a 65-yard drive of their own that included a 52-yard run by Fulton on third and two and capped by a five-yard touchdown pass from Allen to Malouin. Unfortunately, Allen hit the upright on the two point convert attempt which left them trailing 8-6.

Cumberland's second touchdown came early in the second quarter on 19-yard pass from Veilleux to Aoude. Veilleux then ran the ball in on the two-point convert to extend the Panthers' lead to 16-8. The Panther QB flew through the air on the final three yards to sneak just inside the pylon, but he injured his shoulder on the play, which severely limited the Panthers' passing game the rest of the way.

After the change of possession, Fulton took over the game. Starting on the Giants' 46-yard line, he carried the ball five times, interrupted only by an incomplete pass. His fifth carry of the series was a 34-yard tackle-busting effort into the house to narrow the deficit to 16-12 at the half.

The Giants came close to taking the lead near the end of the third quarter but Panthers defence was able to keep Fulton out of the end zone on third and goal from the two. The Panthers took over possession on the one but were caught for a safety in the end zone on their second play from scrimmage.

Beside making it a two-point game, the safety gave the Giants possession of on their own 35. What followed were runs of 38, 28, 15, 7, 4. -3 and 4 yards by Fulton, the latter of which gave the Giants their first lead of the game.

In a demonstration of their championship pedigree, the Panthers responded yet again with another touchdown drive led by Veilleux who was able to complete three of six pass attempts, including a 15-yard pass to Aoude on third and 10, despite his injured shoulder.

The lead, however, was fleeting. A poor kick combined with a descent return allowed the Giants to start their final drive on the Panthers' 53. With less than three minutes to go, the Fulton methodically chewed up the clock with runs of 5, 13, 4, 12, 12, 4, 5 and 6 yards, to set up Allen's game-winning touchdown pass to malouin

After the game, Salehe was asked about the rather risky decision to place all their eggs in one basket and placing it on Fulton's back.

"That's football. Football comes down to putting the ball into the hands of the players who you think can make the plays and for us that's Scottie," said Salehe. "It's his first year playing running back. So for him to do what he did today was unbelievable."

For Fulton, who has spent the last five years on the defensive side of the ball and has never been on the winning side against the Panthers, Saturday's win and the role he played in leading his team to victory was especially sweet.

"They like to play hard, but I came out and played harder. We all did," said Fulton.

As for the Panthers, they were already looking forward to a likely rematch in the A-Cup final which will be played on the artificial turf at Millennium Park..

"It still should be another close game, but we're built for speed," said Koradi. "Turf suit us better. It doesn't mean we will win on turf, it just suits us better (than on a muddy field."

As for Saturday's game and the outcome, the Panthers' head coach heaped a ton of praise on both teams.

"It was a great game. It was probably one of the best peewee games that I've seen in a long time and one of the best games we've played in about six years and we knew it would be. They're a good football team," said Koradi.

Before either team can focus on the A-Cup playoffs and a possible rematch, they must finish out the regular season next weekend.

The Giants will wrap up their schedule against the East Ottawa Generals on Saturday and the Panthers will get to tune up for the playoffs against the Kanata Stallions the same day.

(Posted 10 p.m., Oct. 8)

 

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