FULTON, Mo. — The California Pintos football team (2-0) is off to its best start since the 2014-15 season following a 49-0 shutout win Sept. 4 over the Fulton Hornets.
The game was much closer in the first half than in the second. At the end of the first quarter, the Pintos and Hornets were tied at 0, with neither side finding a breakthrough.
In the second quarter, the scale began to tip in California's favor. The running game helped the Pintos march down the field as they got inside Fulton's 30-yard line. On a fourth down with two yards to go, Tagen Higgins converted the fourth down attempt as he ran to just outside the Hornets' 10-yard line. Later in the drive, Calen Kruger threw his second touchdown pass of the season as he found Drake Schlup, but the Pintos missed the extra-point attempt and took a 6-0 lead with 10:53 left to go in the second quarter.
On the next Hornet possession, the team got the ball into California's side of the field — however, a sack by Cody Williams on second down made it third and 18 for Fulton deep in Pintos territory. Kruger then made a play on defense as he almost intercepted a pass on third down. California ended up stopping Fulton on fourth down on the Pintos 30-yard line and took possession of the ball.
The Pintos again used their running game to their advantage as they worked their way down the field, finishing off the drive with a touchdown run by Higgins. After converting the two-point attempt, California led 14-0 with 5:35 left in the first half.
The Pintos were helped on that drive by two penalties against Fulton that gave the visiting Pintos some extra free yards. Head coach Derek Scroggins said taking advantage of such mistakes is important for the team.
"I think it is huge. Same thing with turnovers, we wanted to make sure we were ahead in the turnover count," Scroggins said. "Really, it is just taking every advantage we could find out there. (Fulton) made a couple of mistakes and we were able to capitalize on them."
Fulton started the second half with an onside kick attempt, but California recovered it and started with good field position. On a fourth and four at the Hornets' 44-yard line, the Pintos picked up a first down on a 15-yard run to around the 29-yard line. Later, with the ball inside the 15-yard line, Higgins ran for his second touchdown of the game with a 12-yard run. After another two-point conversion, the Pintos led 22-0 with 9:01 left in the third quarter.
California's defense then forced another turnover on downs on the Pintos 45-yard line. On the next drive, Kruger found Dawson Gump for a 22-yard touchdown catch and run to make it 29-0 with 6:16 left in the quarter. After the Pintos' defense recovered a fumble, the Pintos scored again — Higgins ran for a six-yard touchdown, his third score of the game, to make it 37-0 with 4:46 left in the quarter.
The Pintos were able to find success running the ball during the game while preventing their opponents from finding any success of their own on the ground. Scroggins said his team never stopped believing in its game plan.
"We knew that our front line guys on both sides of the ball were coached up real well and knew that it would probably come down (to) what they could do. We dominated on both sides of the line tonight," Scroggins said.
With just less than six minutes to go in the game, Bryant Davis scored an eight-yard touchdown to make it 43-0. The Pintos' defense then contributed a score as Kaden Bax intercepted a pass that went over the head of Fulton's receiver and straight into his arms for a 40-yard pick six to give the matchup its final score of 49-0 with 3:36 left in the game.
This was the second game in a row for the Pintos with a pick six. California's defense made it difficult for the Hornets to get anything going on offense, as it also contributed two sacks in the game.
"Their quarterback is a special kind of athlete and I felt that we did a pretty good job containing him, and with the shut out, the proof is in the pudding there," Scroggins said.
There is a lot that California's players can learn from this win, Scroggins said.
"When you look at how we came out in the second half, we were just up by 14 and in the second half we were able to keep the foot on the throttle and finish things off. I think we learned how to win by doing that," Scroggins said.
The Pintos' next game is their home opener at 7 p.m. Sept. 11 against the Blair Oaks Falcons (2-0). The Falcons are coming off a 49-0 win over Knob Noster.