COLUMBIA - Jerome Fulcher had never played a game of organized sports in his life, never mind football. So forgive Rock Bridge High School head coach A.J. Ofodile for calling the ending to Friday’s 24-20 Providence Bowl win over cross-town rival Hickman “storybook.”
Fulcher hauled in a pass from quarterback Mark Pickerel, spun away from what looked like a sure tackle by Kewpie safety Jeff Treadway and sprinted into the end zone with 1:09 remaining to restore a Bruin lead that had slipped away after a furious Hickman second-half rally.
“It’s incredible,” Ofodile said of Fulcher. “I can’t imagine a better story.”
Fulcher, a senior, joined the team in 2010 because he says he was tired of sitting around. It may be tough for him to top the experience of his first-ever game, but he’s sure it beats sitting around.
“My whole body is tingling,” he said after taking a lap in front of the Rock Bridge cheering section and hugging friends and family. “I’m just so happy I was able to make a play.”
Defensive coordinator Justin Conyers told Ofodile that he had been watching Fulcher in his physical education class for two years but Ofodile had never been able to get Fulcher to commit to playing.
“He came on his own this year,” Ofodile said. “He’s had to do a lot of changing. More than anything he needed to get used to the team structure type stuff, getting used to being on time and all the other things that go along with being a team.”
Pickerel had known Fulcher from some previous classes at Rock Bridge and knew he had ability as soon as he stepped onto the practice field for the Bruins.
“The first day he came out I knew,” Pickerel said. “He has some great shakes.”
The shakes were on display as the Bruins pulled a victory out of what 36 seconds prior looked like it would be a bitter defeat.
Rock Bridge took a 17-0 lead to halftime on a 45-yard Pickerel run, a 50-yard Pickerel pass to Sheldon Gerau and an Ian Patterson field goal.
Hickman junior quarterback Logan Fitch had seen enough however, furiously rallying the Kewpies back with 19 second-half completions, including one to Tyler Sprigg with 1:45 remaining to put the Kewpies up 20-17.
At that point, the sideline was ecstatic and the Kewpie cheering section, nicknamed the Dawg Pound Order, was in full celebration mode.
“I told the guys it wasn’t over,” Fitch said of the moments after the Hickman score. “There was a lot of time left for them."
Enough time for Pickerel to step up in the pocket and find Fulcher on a play that Pickerel says was designed for the rookie.
“I was looking to him all the way,” Pickerel said. “We had worked on it in practice, it’s just our offense.”