FULTON – Larry Petersen's last high school football game left a sour taste in his mouth.
The one on Friday night hardly could have been any sweeter.
Peterson hauled in the game-winning touchdown pass, set up another one and made two sparkling defensive plays to lead Fulton to a 12-6 victory over Amboy in an Alumni Football USA contest at River Bend Field.
Petersen's last game for the Steamers was a playoff loss to Byron on this field in the fall of 1996. He barely played, due to an injury in the first quarter.
"I've always wanted a chance to redeem myself," Petersen said.
The Steamers and Clippers were knotted at 6-6, with Fulton facing a third-and-12 from the Amboy 22 and less that 2 minutes to play. Fulton halfback Ben Kuebel took a pitch from quarterback Wyatt Heyvaert, dropped back a few steps and let it fly toward the left side of the end zone.
Amboy defender Eric Murphy appeared to have good position, only to have the ball go through his hands and into Petersen's, and he walked in with the game-winner with 1:29 remaining.
"When I let it go, I thought it was a touchdown for sure," Kuebel said. "Then I saw [Murphy] break on it. Halfway in the air, I got worried."
"We had been setting that play up," Petersen said. "We tried to run it a few times before that. One time we got a penalty, and the other time Ben threw it a little earlier than I expected. I finally got [Murphy] set up perfect to where I got him to open up his hips to the inside. I knew I had him beat. It was just whether I could catch the ball or not."
Petersen also had a hand in Fulton's first score. He came back on an underthrown ball from Heyvaert for a 25-yard gain to put the Steamers in business at the Amboy 1 just before halftime. Tukes Ayangbile's 1-yard plunge was the lone score of the first half.
The Clippers squandered numerous scoring opportunities before finally breaking through late in the third quarter. A 77-yard pass from Luke Payne to Anthony Wells set up a 5-yard run by Payne on the last play of the third quarter. Wells accounted for the last 30 yards of the long pass play with some fancy footwork, eluding a pair of would-be Fulton tacklers before finally getting dragged down at the 5.
A pair of big defensive plays by Petersen helped keep the Clippers from doing any more damage. On the second play of the second half, Amboy speedster Cody Richardson got loose, and had only Petersen to beat. Petersen not only made the tackle on the Fulton 26, but drew a clipping penalty from Wells on the play.
Later in that series, Petersen intercepted a Payne pass to fully extinguish the Amboy scoring opportunity.
The Amboy defense was stout, allowing 177 total yards. Spearheading the D was linebacker John Spinelli, who had pins removed from a broken right wrist on Thursday, but was effective enough to be named his team's defensive MVP.
"I wouldn't have missed this for the world," Spinelli said. "I love playing football, and I just gained 35 more brothers. It was all good out there. We needed one more defensive stand, but things happen and we didn't quite it done. We'll come back next year even stronger."
Fulton, meanwhile, was in a partying mood after pulling out the win. Seemingly the whole town backed their former players, evidenced by a pre-sale of about 900 tickets, 400 more than Alumni Football USA's target for each school.
"The players got incredibly excited about this right away," Kuebel said, "and the whole town got involved. The camaraderie just built between us and the town. It was a special night, and I'm glad we won the game."
* Luke Payne (Amboy offense)
* John Spinelli (Amboy defense)
* Ben Kuebel (Fulton offense)
* Larry Petersen (Fulton defense)