Fulton Playoff Primer

For the Fulton Falcons, making the playoffs in 2006 was a whole lot easier than making the playoffs last year.

The 2005 team overcame a rash of early-season injuries and a 0-2 region start to battle their way into the playoffs. This season, the rash of injuries came after the Falcons had already earned the #2 seed from Region 2-3A.

Three key Fulton starters have missed playing time over the last two weeks, and their status is questionable for Friday's 1st round playoff game against 8-2 Claiborne High at Bob Black Field.

The Falcons have made 14 consecutive playoff appearances under Head Coach Buck Coatney, the longest streak of any team in the KFL. Friday night will mark the school's 17th overall playoff appearance.

The Falcons have a 22-14 record in playoff games, advancing to the championship game four times, taking home the coveted gold ball in 2003 and 2004. Fulton has a nine-game winning streak in playoff games played at home, and has an 11-2 record in the playoffs at Fulton Stadium.

Injuries on the offensive side of the ball have meant that Mr. Football candidate Dennis Rogan has carried much of the load for the Falcons. Rogan rushed for 221 yards and 4 touchdowns on a muddy track in Fulton's 54-0 victory over defending 3A champion Livingston Academy last Friday. He broke Jeff Mitchell's FHS career rushing yard record of 4145 yards in style, taking his first carry of the game 49 yards for a score to set the record. For his career, the Tennessee commitment has 4345 rushing yards and 68 touchdowns, including 17 consecutive 100-yard rushing games, the third longest streak of its kind in state history.

Junior Jonathan Blair and Senior Dennis Freeney have filled shared time at the QB position during Fulton's last two games. Blair has shown good poise in his two starts, hitting on 9 of 14 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. Freeney connected with Ken Tyson for his first career touchdown pass against Livingston Academy, and gives the Falcons a running threat behind center.

Blair and Freeney have a large corps of receivers at their disposal. Seven different Falcons have caught scoring strikes, led by Derrick Humphrey with three. Vic Smith has emerged as a clutch receiver for Fulton, and Tyson has recovered from an injury to work his way back into the rotation.

The Fulton defense posted three shutouts during the regular season, only allowing opponents 8.4 points per game. The senior-laden defense held both Boyd Buchanan and Livingston Academy to negative total offense yards. Fulton's front seven have been effective in stopping the run and pressuring quarterbacks.

Nine of Fulton's top-ten tacklers come from the tackle, end, and linebacker position. Junior LB Bubba Stokes leads the Fulton defense with 85 total hits. Senior linebackers Blake Gildner and Brandon Winters currently rank third and fifth respectively on the tackle chart. Tackles Antonio Hamilton and James Higgins have combined for 81 tackles. Fulton has also received strong play from ends Terrence Cobb, JaMichael Mathis, and Tawaud Mattress.

The previous two times that Fulton entered the playoffs as a number two seed saw Fulton win the state title. Fulton's playoff road begins with the Claiborne Bulldogs. Despite finishing the season 8-2, Coach Barry Liles's team earned third place in Region 1-3A.

It will be Claiborne's second consecutive playoff berth. Liles has led two other schools, Tellico Plains and Lenoir City to the playoffs. Bulldog running back Ryan Helton ran for over 400 yards in a 74-27 win last week over Pigeon Forge. Fulton won both prior meetings with the old Claiborne Co. High School in 1993 and 1994. Claiborne Co. has won a game on Bob Black Field. Claiborne Co. defeated Wartburg 27-6 to win the first and only St. Mary's Bowl in 1991.

The Falcon-Bulldog tilt kicks-off on Friday at 7PM. WKCS 91.1 FM will have the live radio broadcast of the game.

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