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Fullington’s kickoff return for touchdown helps Grafton spoil Pirates’ homecoming

After a scoreless first half with little offensive spark for either team, something had to change in the second 24 minutes of last Friday’s football game between Grafton and host Port Washington.

Grafton’s Nic Fullington made it happen in 13 seconds.

The senior fielded the second-half kickoff at his own 13-yard line and broke down the middle of the field. Cutting through a hole, he shifted to the left sideline and turned on the jets.

No Pirate got close to touching him on an 87-yard touchdown return that helped propel the Black Hawks to a 21-6 victory that spoiled Port’s homecoming.

“I thought it would break through the edge and not the middle,” Fullington said. “That’s another team effort. I’m just trying to compete and spark something.”

It was just what the doctor ordered for Grafton, which snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 2-3 in North Shore Conference play.

“It’s a beautiful game when you play with emotion,” Grafton coach Fritz Rauch said.

Fullington’s clutch return did more than put Grafton on the scoreboard. It ignited

the entire sideline and fan base, energy that fueled the Hawks the rest of the night.

“We talked about our energy, and that’s a good shot of adrenaline,” Rauch said.

“We played a very good half defensively in the first half. We moved the ball. We just didn’t finish drives. Getting us home right away started our adrenaline.”

“It was huge,” Fullington said. “I think that’s what sparked us.”

The Pirates, who fell to 0-5 in the conference, could have used a spark themselves.

After losing starting quarterback Tanner Orten to a broken collarbone the previous week, backup Jackson Struebing played the first half but was then sidelined with a foot injury.

Third-string quarterback Graeme Biskobing was pressed into duty the rest of the way.

That meant the offensive load fell to running back Matt Ruppel, who struggled to find open space against Grafton’s tightening defense. The junior ended up with a game-high 63 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.

But by the time Ruppel scored, there was only 2 minutes, 34 seconds left. All the Pirates could do was avoid a second straight shutout loss.

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