One of the top running backs in the area will run headlong into one of the top run defenses.
Through 7 weeks, Fulton’s Austin Schroeder has been putting up eye-popping numbers, carrying 111 times for 1,132 yards and 14 touchdowns. His 248 yards in the Week 2 win over Monmouth-Roseville was only the beginning. Two weeks later, he put up 319 yards and four touchdowns against Rockridge.
“It’s a good feeling to be in that zone,” Schroeder said. “You know you can trust your line to create holes, because they’ve been doing it all game. It’s pretty good to have that feeling and be in that spot.”
Schroeder was the area’s leading rusher until Week 6, when a 181-yard game from Dixon’s Arthur Cox leapfrogged the Dukes senior to the top. Schroeder credits that success in the rushing attack to “just the line doing their job, creating holes for me to find.”
It’s not just Schroeder that the Comets have to worry about. Austin Rash has run 105 times for 612 yards and seven TDs. In the Steamers’ Week 7 win over Riverdale, both Schroeder and Rash broke the 100-yard mark, with Schroeder going for 186 yards and Rash for 133.
“They have a pretty balanced backfield, which leaves us a lot of threats to handle,” Newman defensive lineman Drew Ackman said. “If we all stick to our assignments, we should be fine.”
Fulton’s running game will have its hands full this week with Newman. The Comets’ run defense has limited opponents to 1.6 yards per carry this year and just 374 total rushing yards in seven games, 53.4 rushing yards per game.
“I think our scout team gives us a pretty good look,” Ackman said. “We have a deep backfield, which allows our scout team to give us a pretty balanced attack too.”
Newman’s success in run defense is matched by its success in run offense.
Easton Bianchi might not have the same rushing total as Schroeder, but his 15 rushing touchdowns and 803 rushing yards still put him near the top of the leaderboard.
“Once you do get into a rhythm, it helps everyone play so much smoother,” Bianchi said. “You already know who you’re going to block, and most of the times, the defense is lined up in the same thing against our wishbone.”
Fulton’s defense knows it will have its hands full against the No. 1 team in the state in Class 2A.
“We have to be big up front and stop the line so they don’t get as many holes like they’ve been doing lately,” Fulton defensive lineman Ethan Fish said.
Bianchi’s runs combine with those of Cade Gorzny and Luke Olson to power a Comets run game averaging 7.7 yards per carry, and score a touchdown every 7.7 rushes.
“The Newman Comets haven’t changed much over the 19 years that I’ve been here,” Fulton coach Patrick Lower said. “They’re very physical running their downhill style. They’re very good at what they do. There’s no secrets to what they do, it’s just if you stop it or not.”
Bianchi and Schroeder have both put up big numbers, but get there in different ways.
“Easton being a state champ in the 100 and 200 [in track], he’s quick,” Fish said. “Schroeder’s not that quick, but Schroeder’s very fast also. Schroeder can get down and dirty, also. Easton, they want to run him outside to use his speed. Schroeder’s not afraid to run between the tackles.”
“I think small-school football around the state is usually mostly running,” Lower said. “We possess a couple or three very good backs in our backfield. So do they. We attack a little differently than they do. We try to throw a lot of formations at you and we try to get different guys the ball in different spots. [Newman] is more straightforward in what they’re doing.”
Lower said one of the keys for his defense against Newman is to make sure when the Comets face third down, they still have a ways to go to get to the first-down marker.
“If they’re in third-and-2 all night, we’re in trouble,” Lower said. “If you can get them in third-and-5, maybe third-and-7, I think that favors us a bit.”
Fulton at Newman
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Roscoe Eades Stadium
Radio: 102.7 FM