Kristian Fulton knew that his team would be good without him, but they would be even tougher to handle with him.
The junior cornerback missed the first three games of the season after recovering from shoulder surgery, but since then has eight interceptions in six games, including three Friday night to assist Rummel (9-0, 4-0) in a 31-7 victory over District 9-5A foe Holy Cross (5-4, 1-3) at Tad Gormley Stadium.
“I knew the defense would be good without me, but having me come back was only going to bring us up another level,” Fulton said. “I learned the game a lot more sitting out the time I did. I think that’s helped me a lot coming back.”
Rummel, who extended their winning streak to 15 games, played tough on defense throughout the game, forcing four Holy Cross turnovers and holding the Tigers to 215 yards of total offense.
“Our defense came out and played great today, we jumped on them in the first half and made them react to us,” Fulton said. “We gave up the one long play in the third quarter, but besides that, I thought we played great on defense.”
The Tigers’ only score came on their first possession of the second half. Holy Cross quarterback Kyle Hunter connected with receiver Brett Carter on the left sideline, Carter broke a tackle and took the catch 44 yards for a touchdown.
Rummel, ranked no. 1 in LSWA Class 5A polls and No. 11 nationally by USA Today, immediately responded by taking the following drive 61 yards in five plays, ending with a 4-yard plunge by running back Devin Hutton for a touchdown to increase Rummel’s lead to 24-7.
“We gave them the wind in the second half thinking we would just have to hold on, but it almost backfired,” Roth said. “If we don’t come out and answer them, then it might have been a much closer game.”
The dominance of the Rummel defense truly stood out in the first half, yielding a total of six yards before Tigers quarterback Kyle Hunter scrambled 11 yards to give Holy Cross their first first down of the game with two minutes left in the second quarter.
The Raiders forced three first-half turnovers, including two by Fulton that directly lead to Rummel touchdowns.
Fulton’s first interception came on a pass by Tigers quarterback Kyle Schexnayder — his first game back since missing last week’s victory against St. Augustine with an ankle injury. The Raiders took the ensuing drive 52 yards on five plays, capped off by a 24-yard touchdown run by running back Brandon Phillips.
After both teams exchanged turnovers, Hunter tried to connect with Georgia commit Michael Chigbu on a short pass, but the ball was batted in the air and Fulton snagged his second interception of the game. He raced up the left sideline, then cut back towards the middle of the field and returned the pick 40 yards for a touchdown. Rummel led 17-0.
“We’re playing at a really high level right now, this is probably the best team I’ve been a part of in my three years at Rummel,” said Fulton. “Our coaches always get on us about making plays and we just try to transfer that work that we do at practice over to the field.”
Rummel was able to get their running game going early, utilizing nine consecutive running plays to cover 65 yards before kicker Justin Mourn nailed a 22-yard field goal to give Rummel the early 3-0 lead.
Phillips had 110 rushing yards and a touchdown by halftime.
Rummel faces perhaps their toughest test of the season with a matchup against fellow Catholic League-power Brother Martin, in a potential battle of undefeated teams in the final regular-season game.
Brother Martin plays Jesuit on Saturday.
“ I haven’t seen them play live, but I know they’ve got some great athletes on offense and a sound defense,” Roth said. “I’m going to relax tomorrow and just watch Jesuit and Brother Martin battle it out.”