ROSENBERG—Fulshear's football team delivered a wake-up call of sorts last week with its impressive 38-17 win over then-No. 3 state-ranked El Campo. On Saturday afternoon, the Chargers were on the receiving end of a reality check.
Fulshear fell to Manor, 20-14, at Traylor Stadium, failing to score on five trips to the red zone. That included a relentless Manor defensive stand with less than three minutes. With first down on the goal line, Fulshear went backwards and was ultimately thwarted on 4th-and-3 for its fifth turnover on downs of the game.
"There's no such thing as a good loss, but sometimes you need that reality check," Fulshear first-year coach Nick Codutti said. "I think a lot of our kids woke up today. Defensively, our kids played their tails off. It was unbelievable. Offensively, it took us an entire quarter to wake up."
Codutti, regarded as a smart offensive mind by his coaching peers, was aggressive in going for it on fourth down. He is confident in his ways, what he believes works, and his ability to use personnel appropriately.
Simply put, the good was on showcase against El Campo. The bad affected the Manor game. Punting or going for a field goal on fourth down may be the traditional value in football, but Codutti saw 35 potential points to be had and couldn't resist.
Whoa. @fulshear_fball stuffed on 4th-and-goal from the 3-yard line with 2:53 left. That might be game. Impressive d… https://t.co/Zcv34IWZ3q— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)1631391885.0
His players agree with the philosophy.
"We've got to get the ball in the end zone when we're in the red zone," said junior quarterback Parker Williams, who had 94 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and completed 11 of 18 passes for 115 yards. "That's the main thing. You can't win the game when you can't put points on the board. We need to be firing off the ball and punching it in. We run the ball. That's what we do."
Added senior linebacker Luke Guzzetta of the aggressive offense: "It's different from last year, but we're super confident and we love it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It's a chance we're willing to take. We feel pretty confident in our defense that we've got their backs, and we want them to take those chances."
The outcome marred an admirable effort by the Fulshear defense, which had three takeaways and three sacks.
Junior linebacker Germany Williams and senior defensive back Luke McCurdy had fumble recoveries. Junior defensive back Maverick Schomberg had an interception.
Guzzetta, senior linebacker Grant Davis and senior defensive lineman Anthony Okeke had sacks.
.@fulshear_fball senior LB @luke_guzzetta talks about the Chargers’ strong defensive performance in a 20-14 loss to… https://t.co/USJexlyYZT— VYPE Houston (@VYPE Houston)1631394086.0
The kids are studs defensively, Codutti said. Through the first three games of the season, Fulshear has surrendered only 37 points.
"It's a brotherhood," Guzzetta said. "A lot of three-year starters that grew up playing together. I don't think many teams have what we have on defense. We're so close and we play for each other. There's no selfishness, and I think that's what separates us from other defenses."
After the game, Codutti relayed to his players the significance of using the loss as a wakeup call and turning a negative into a positive. The offensive line had a slow start and had big breakdowns at pivotal moments. Williams, playing just his third game at quarterback, has to get better trusting those around him, Codutti said.
"What it boils down to is, if you get the ball inside the 10-yard line, you've got to score," Codutti said. "You just have to have the want-to. We had missed blocks, fumbled snaps, penalties. Those are things that get you beat. We've got to clean that up."
Williams said the loss was indeed an awakening, with a semblance of good.
"I just hope we learn that we can play with anybody," Williams said. "We played with these guys down-for-down. We can play with anyone, but we just came up short when we needed it."
.@fulshear_fball junior QB @Park9rWilliams discusses the Chargers’ 20-14 loss to Manor. Williams rushed for 94 yard… https://t.co/2QpeS6dqYC— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)1631393697.0
RICHMOND — Before Tuesday's district showdown against Fulshear, Foster volleyball coach Morgan Hunter reminded her players they are better than they think they are. All they had to do was "put it all together," an essential intangible that had eluded the Falcons to that point.
Against Fulshear, Region III-5A's premier team, Foster heeded Hunter's words. And then the Falcons delivered.
Foster rallied dramatically for an emotionally intense 3-2 win (17-25, 25-21, 12-25, 25-21, 15-11) over Fulshear at Foster High, handing the Chargers, 2019 state champs and 2020 state finalists, their first district loss since Oct. 23, 2018, against Needville.
"It was a lot of heart and a lot of effort," Hunter said. "We talked at the beginning of the year about some goals that we want to set for ourselves. We wanted to make sure we competed and were really out on the hunt to win district, instead of just getting second like we have the last several years. Obviously, we know that's going to come down to the Fulshear-Foster matchup. Our girls just played lights out."
.@Foster_vball coach Morgan Hunter talks about her team’s big district win over Fulshear tonight, 3-2 (17-25, 25-21… https://t.co/gfIQXbn8ix— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)1630464518.0
Foster improved to 13-12 overall and 2-0 in District 24-5A. Fulshear, which had won seven of eight games entering the night, fell to 16-12, 1-1.
"We're just young," Fulshear coach Sydney Zimmerman said. "I think we get ahead of ourselves. We start our sets out pretty quick and then we get a little comfortable. We've talked about how our district is not the strongest district in the area, and so … we get a little comfortable and think we've got it taken care of. Got too relaxed and we struggled."
Fulshear jumped out to big leads in all five sets. But every time the Chargers let up even a little bit, Foster pounced.
Fulshear led 2-1 after three sets (the third, a decisive 25-12 rout) and was up late in the fourth before Foster put together a stirring, gutsy comeback to push the game to its brink.
In the fifth set, the Falcons got clutch play after clutch play from senior outside Kamryn Williams and sophomore middle Jackie Onyechi. Williams had two kills, back-to-back, in the deciding set. Onyechi had three kills and two blocks.
Annnnnnd @Foster_vball does it. Takes the fifth set 15-11 to hand Fulshear its first district loss since 2018.… https://t.co/DV1En3phr2— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)1630462904.0
"We know we're a good team," said Williams, who had 11 kills, two blocks and two aces. "We just have to keep pushing. Even when we felt like we were playing really bad in that first set, the score was still 25-17. We knew we could push through."
Zimmerman said Onyechi especially hurt the Chargers, particularly in system when she used her 5-foot-11 frame and athleticism to hit right over blocks.
"I wanted to come out and do something big for my team," said Onyechi, who finished with nine kills and six blocks. "My coach pushes me really hard to help me get where I am, and I wanted to really prove to her that I'm getting better and doing what I need to do."
Fulshear's Warren sisters, senior Brielle and freshman Bailey, were unstoppable throughout much of the game. Bailey had 22 kills. Brielle had 17 kills and a block.
But in the fifth and final set, they only combined for three points.
"Fulshear has a lot of talented hitters and does a great job scoring points," Hunter said. "We just had to find ways to respond, like making sure we fronted hitters so she could not hit through our block and getting to our spots defensively and making the plays we should."
Zimmerman commended Foster's coaching.
"I felt like Coach Hunter knew exactly what we were going to do," Zimmerman said. "They've got the athletes. Their defense stepped up against our outsides. Credit to them. They worked hard and they did not give up."
Junior Koryn Johnson had a team-high 12 kills to go with 14 digs for Foster. Sophomore Brinleigh Davis had a team-high 21 assists. Seniors Kalani Velasquez and Eliana Zepeda had 17 and 13 digs, respectively.
.@Foster_vball junior Koryn Johnson discusses the Falcons’ big 3-2 district win tonight over Fulshear. It is Fulshe… https://t.co/a3RDWRGmog— VYPE Houston (@VYPE Houston)1630464189.0
"It's a very huge win," Williams said. "We've had a rocky start to the season, and a win like this shows what we can do."
For Fulshear, the loss showed how far it must go.
"I think it'll light a fire under the girls and remind them that they're not where we're going to be in a couple of months when we go into playoffs," Zimmerman said. "We have a lot of work to do. We're not OK with this loss, but we've got to find a way to use it positively."