WABASSO - When Wabasso slotback T.J. Fulton leaped up to catch a desperation pass with less than one minute on the clock, it did not look like he was going to come down with it.
Fulton battled Martin County West's Wesley Cook for the pass from Neil Eichten, nabbing it and springing for the end zone to give Wabasso the go-ahead score in its 22-14 upset of Martin County West on Friday night in Southern Minnesota Conference football action.
"The defender had a good read on it," Fulton said. "Me and him went up at the same time. I think he had it for a second, the next thing I remember I ripped it out of his hands and I was running for the end zone."
Fulton's touchdown grab solidified Wabasso's first 6-0 start since 2007, which was the last time it went undefeated in the regular season.
"Time was running down and we had two timeouts in our pocket, but I didn't want to give them a shot at the ball," said Wabasso coach Joe Kemp. "We were getting to the point where we were either going to score or time was going to run out.
"Words can't describe that last play. T.J. just made a play."
The Mavericks (5-1) relied heavily on sophomore running back Thor Larson for most of the night. Larson, who weighs in at an above-average 220 pounds in the backfield, carried the ball 37 times for 196 yards and one touchdown.
"He's a great player for only being a sophomore," said MCW coach T.J. Schmidtke. "He's a physical kid and he can do anything. We really haven't had to run him that much this year, but with injuries he got the ball a lot and he did great."
MCW starting quarterback Jake Faber went down in the second quarter with bruised ribs. He was 3-for-5 for 33 yards before the injury.
"He was running with the ball and their big No. 70 [Alex Schroepfer] just picked him up and slammed him on the ground and kind of pile-drived him," Schmidtke said. "It was a dirty play, if you ask me."
Sam Baker stepped up in relief of Faber, but who went 1-for-7 with two interceptions.
Eichten led the Wabasso offense to quick scores on its first two drives of the game.
On the first drive, Eichten marched the Rabbits for 2:13 on a seven-play, 31-yard drive that was capped off by a 15-yard strike to Fulton for the first points on the board.
The second drive took two plays and was concluded with a 58-yard touchdown scamper by Fulton on an end-around run.
"Offensively, we played great tonight," Kemp said. "We had a couple nice drives in the second half, we had a nice drive in the first half, we played well."
The Mavericks ate up a majority of the clock in between those scores with a 14-play stomp down field that saw Larson punch it in from 1 yard out.
Even though Larson bowled his way for almost 200 rushing yards, the Wabasso defense kept him and the rest of the Mavericks out of the end zone after the first quarter. Martin County West came into the game averaging 44.6 points per game - the highest in the Southern Minnesota Conference.
"I thought we outplayed them physically for three quarters," Schmidtke said. "We just gave up big plays and we didn't make plays ourselves."
Eichten finished the night 9-for-14 in passing with 135 yards, two touchdowns and one interception from behind center.
The elation from the upset is something Wabasso hopes to carry over to next week's matchup at Sleepy Eye St. Mary's (6-0).
"I think the momentum carries itself," Kemp said. "When you've won six ballgames in a row, it kind of feeds off each other.
"We looked at Martin County West as one of the big boys in the conference and we've over and over and said nobody expected that out of us. So it's a fun ride and we want to keep it going."
MCW 14 0 0 0 - 14
Wab 14 0 0 8 - 22
W - Eichten to T. Fulton 15-yard TD pass (Deutschmann PAT good), 8:17
M - Larson 1-yard TD run (Fuller PAT good), 3:39
W - T. Fulton 58-yard TD run (Deutschmann PAT good), 2:59
M - Baker 86-yard kickoff returned for TD (Fuller PAT good), 2:46
W - Eichten to T. Fulton 52-yard TD pass (2-pt. conversion good), 0:24