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story.lead_photo.caption Fulton receiver Seth Sayler leans forward for extra yardage after making a catch during last Friday night's game against Hannibal at Robert E. Fisher Stadium. Photo by David Shawley/Special to the Fulton Sun

Since a four-touchdown outburst in the second quarter of their season opener at School of the Osage, the Fulton Hornets have scored five touchdowns — in the last 14 quarters.

That lack of efficiency might be troubling four games into a season, but Fulton coach Trey Barrow has cause for optimism.

Despite a resounding loss to the Hannibal Pirates in their North Central Missouri Conference opener, the Hornets established a kind of offensive rhythm and consistency that had been missing since that opening game.

Barrow and his squad hope to continue that pace when they return to NCMC play tonight against the Moberly Spartans. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Robert E. Fisher Stadium.

Fulton (0-4, 0-1 NCMC) posted three rushing touchdowns in last week's 56-19 home loss to Hannibal. But it was the Hornets' opening drive that provided a glimpse of what Barrow always envisioned this offense to be.

Fulton took the opening kickoff and ate nearly 9 minutes off the first-quarter clock, converting a pair of third downs and extending the drive twice on fourth down.

The possession was capped off by a 3-yard touchdown from running back Josh Dunmire and an early lead for the Hornets, just its second of any kind this season. The edge lasted less than 2 minutes, but the drive itself and its results were ideal.

"I thought we executed well on the opening drive," Barrow said. "We actually missed a couple throws that would have expedited the drive, but overall the team showed toughness and executed well. We made plays when we needed to."

Quarterback Courtland Simmons completed 3-of-6 passing attempts on that first series and hit receiver Seth Sayler on a pair of third-and-long connections to extend the possession. The presence of the short-to-intermediate passing game with Sayler, Brynn Bynum and James Walker is a welcome addition to a Fulton offense wanting to play its own game.

"We always try to take what the defense is giving us," Barrow said. "Situationally, we will use runs and short passes in the right scenarios, but we are fortunate to have some good receivers and a quarterback who can get the ball to the athletes when necessary."

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On any night and any play, Simmons' dual-threat ability can rack up yards and points, a sentiment Moberly is all too familiar with. It was last season's home game against the Spartans that Simmons made his first start under center, a game in which the then-freshman accounted for 300 total yards and four touchdowns, including a 94-yard scoring run and an 84-yard touchdown pass that pushed the Hornets to a 38-34 win.

An experienced offensive line and another year under his belt at quarterback makes Simmons an even more explosive option for the Fulton offense.

"Courtland is a dynamic playmaker that has the ability to take it the distance every time he touches the ball," Barrow said. "He has a better line in front of him this year and that has helped him to rush for over 100 yards in every game we have played this year."

The Hornets will attempt to move the ball against a Moberly defense fresh off a 27-0 shutout of Kirksville in its own conference opener last week. Fulton and Moberly split two games in 2019 as the Spartans ended the Hornets' season with a 35-0 win at home in the district opener.

"Moberly is a very physical team," Barrow, a Moberly alum, said. "They are disciplined defensively and have some big playmakers on offense."

But if Fulton can string together a few more drives like the opening one from last week, Barrow is convinced the Hornets can be an issue for the visiting Spartans (4-0, 1-0 NCMC).

"I think if we do our job and execute offensively, we should be able to move the ball," Barrow said. "We need to stay together for all four quarters."

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