The Fullerton Warriors unofficially clinched a Class D-2 playoff spot with their 54-28 win over High Plains Community Thursday. *(photo courtesy of the expert Cathy Cook)
The regular season finale for both the Fullerton Warriors and the High Plains Community Storm basically came down to a “Winner advances to the Class D-2 playoff field/Loser says home” football game.
With the stakes as high as it gets in a high school football season, it was a resilient Fullerton team that had to fight back from a 14-0 first quarter deficit to take a huge 54-28 win over the visiting Storm.
All-State candidate Brady Cook blitzed the High Plains defense with a game high 237 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 32 carries, elevating the Warriors star over the thousand yard rushing mark for the second straight season.
Sophomore quarterback Fletcher Dubas, a pinpoint passer and crafty runner as well, added a pair of touchdown passes to go with his pair of rushing touchdowns, as the Warriors turned away a High Plains team that refused to quit.
This High Plains team came to play some football and hit the ground running, chewing up the first 7:24 of the opening quarter with a terrific 21 play drive, culminating with a Wyatt Urkoski 2 yard touchdown run.
Fullerton thought they had forced a 3 and out on that High Plains opening drive, only to give up a 23 yard, 4th down and three scramble by sophomore quarterback Haden Helgoth…all 5-7, 140 pounds of him.
Seventeen plays later, big Wyatt Urkoski was crashing in from two yards away, giving the Storm a 6-0 lead with 4 minutes, 4 seconds left in the first quarter.
The first time the Warriors touched the football in the game, the clock reading 4:36, came to an abrupt halt after one play when Brady Cook had the ball stripped from his grasp by Wyatt Urkoski on Fullerton’s very first play from scrimmage.
High Plains fell on the football on the Fullerton 26 yard line and six plays later QB Haden Helgoth slipped through a small left A-Gap opening for a 2 yard Storm touchdown.
Wyatt Urkoski bowled over some stunned Warrior defenders for the double PAT, and High Plains had themselves a 14-0 lead with 1:26 left in the opening stanza.
When Fullerton did finally get the football again, all but 1:22 was left in the first quarter, but then it was all Warriors from that point on until halftime.
Fullerton drove 55 yards in 8 plays on their 2nd possession of the game with Brady Cook doing the scoring honors from 4 yards out. Fletcher Dubas found defensive tough guy Max Voichahoske for the 2-point conversion, and the High Plains lead was cut to 14-8.
After forcing the Storm to a 3 and out, Fullerton once again fashioned a scoring drive, this time 54 yards in 8 plays and a second Brady Cook touchdown coming from 2 yards out. Cook ran in the 2 point PAT.
Fullerton was up 16-14 with 6:39 left in the 2nd quarter and would never relinquish the lead again in the contest, although the game was far from being over.
Fullerton capitalized on a 15 yard, personal foul, face mask penalty assessed against High Plains on a Brady Cook punt return.
The face mask infraction, which moved the ball to the High Plains 13 yard line, seemed to fire up Brady Cook and the Storm paid the price for the remainder of the game.
Fullerton had only one point, five seconds left before halftime after penalty yardage was marched off, but the deadly marksmanship of Fletcher Dubas arm, coupled with the superior pass blocking of the Warriors offensive line, resulted in a stunning 13 yard Dubas to Brady Cook scoring pass with 0:00 showing on the scoreboard 2nd quarter clock.
Once again, Cook ran in the double PAT, and the Warriors had themselves a 24-14 lead at the break.
Fullerton came right out in the 3rd quarter, marching 61 yards to a score with Brady Cook slashing through the Storm defense for bruising runs of 15, 14 and 6 yards before Fletcher Dubas covered the final 7 yards for the score. Cook ran in his third straight 2 point conversion and Fullerton padded its advantage to 32-14 just 3:18 deep into the third quarter.
Ball Game? Nope.
Just when it appeared Fullerton had stuffed High Plains on their opening possession of the second half, the Warriors were flagged for pass interference, a call that would keep the High Plains drive alive long enough for speed merchant Mario Lesiak to break a 21 yard touchdown run.
Wyatt Urkoski added the double PAT, and the Storm was within 32-22 just like that.
Speaking of quick strikes, on Fullerton’s ensuing possession, disaster struck at the Warriors 23 yard line when Wyatt Urkoski picked up a loose ball and proceeded to ramble 51 yards down the Fullerton sideline for a touchdown.
Now the Storm trailed Fullerton just 32-28 with 2:37 left in the third.
Instead of panicking, the Warriors turned to Brady Cook and Fletcher Dubas and owned the remainder of the game.
The Warriors added three more touchdowns on a scoring pass 36 yards) from Fletcher Dubas to a glaringly wide-open Tyler “Sure Hands” Gochenour and a pair of scoring gallops by Brady Cook (27 yards) and Fletcher Dubas (24 yards).
Cook was especially impressive in that 2nd half, slicing through High Plains for 174 of his 241 total yards.
High Plains Community completes the regular season with a 3-5 record and must await the NSAA playoff pairings to be released Saturday, to find out whether their football season will continue.
Fullerton completes their 2022 regular season with a 4-4 record and an apparent Class D-2 playoff berth.
The 8-Man postseason begins next Thursday, October 20th.
Fullerton’s Brady Cook led all rushers with 237 yards on 32 carries with 4 touchdowns and has an unofficial 2022 rushing total of 1,037 yards. Fletcher Dubas added 72 yards on 12 totes with two rushing touchdowns. Dubas also completed 4 of 5 passes for 97 yards, which included a pair of scoring strikes to Brady Cook and Tyler Gochenour.
Mario Lesiak led the High Plains ground attack with 68 yards on just 11 carries and a touchdown. Sophomore QB Haden Helgoth added 38 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown, and completed 3 of 3 passes for 31 yards.
On the defensive side for the Warriors, it was Brady Cooks leading the way with 10 tackles. Max Voichahoske was next with 9 stops (ALL Solos), and sophomore Nolan Dubas chipped in with 7 tackles of which 6 were solos.
Trey Swertzik, a fine defender, had a pair of sacks in the contest, part of his 4 stops.
As a team, Fullerton had 45 tackles with a stunning 41 being solo stops.
High Plains (3-5)....14…… 0…….14…….0……….28
HP-Wyatt Urkoski 2 run..PAT-Run failed (4:44)......6….0
HP-Haden Helgoth 2 run..PAT-Urkoski run (1:26)..14…0
F- Brady Cook 4 run..PAT-F. Dubas pass to Max Voichahoske (8:08) 14…8
F-Brady Cook 2 run..PAT-Cook run (1:39)...............14-16
F-Cook 13 pass from Fletcher Dubas..PAT-Cook run (0:00)...............14-24
F-Fletcher Dubaas 7 run..PAT-Cook run (8:42).......14-32
HP-Mario Lesiak 21 run..PAT-Urkoski run (4:42)...22-32
HP-Wyatt Urkoski 51 fumble return..PAT-run failed (2:37)................28-32
F-Tyler Gochenour 36 pass from F. Dubas..PAT-Pass failed (10:22)...28-38
F-Brady Cook 27 run..PAT-Cook run (6:42)..............28-46
F-Fletcher Dubas 24 run..PATCarter Meyesenburg run (2:13)............28-54