BERNE — Knowing his football career was nearing its end, Randall Fultz had one last opportunity to make a play.
The Madison-Grant senior did not miss out on the chance.
Fultz scooped up a fumble and dashed 77 yards, with another senior teammate running alongside, for a touchdown that may seem inconsequential in terms of the scoreboard but meant worlds to Fultz.
“The first thing I saw was the ball on the ground, and I thought about jumping on it, but we were down, so I thought I’d try to make something of it,” he said. “I pick it up and I see No. 81, Jimmy Rigney, and he leads me all the way to the end zone. It was emotional. I started crying after the play.”
The fumble return happened in the third quarter with the Argylls down 47-6 to the Class 1A No. 2-ranked South Adams Starfires.
The running clock was in effect after South Adams junior quarterback James Arnold threw eight touchdown passes in the first half. He threw five in the second quarter to break open a 13-6 game while piling up 390 yards through the air by halftime. The Starfires went on to a 47-20 win over M-G to claim the Sectional 43 championship.
“(Arnold) was dropping dimes like I’ve never seen before,” M-G coach Brady Turner said. “We blew some coverages, but there were times we were there, and he just dropped it in there perfectly.”
Arnold, despite missing the first game of the season and typically not playing the second half, now has 44 touchdown passes to go with over 3,100 passing yards this season. He did not play in the second half Friday as South Adams won its eighth sectional title and its fourth of the decade, with wins also coming in 2013-14 and 2016.
In the first half, the Argylls offense sustained a pair of drives. Near the end of the first quarter, down 13-0, M-G drove 60 yards in 12 plays, including a fourth-down conversion by quarterback Jackson Thompson, before Thompson scored on a 1-yard keeper to pull the Argylls within 13-6 going to the second quarter.
Another ended in a failed fourth-down conversion deep in Starfires territory.
But, in the second quarter, South Adams scored on drives of five, six, two, two and two plays to blow the game open. The Argylls had no answer for the Starfires’ big-play capability as Arnold connected on scoring strikes of 53, 41, 36, 27 and 84 yards in the quarter.
“We couldn’t keep up with them,” Turner said. “You can’t really prepare in practice for something like that. We don’t have the people on the scout team that can run the routes like those guys were running.”
The Argylls scored the final points on the final play of the game as Clayton Powell scored on a 20-yard run. During the final drive, as a teammate drove a defender backward to finish a block, senior lineman Jacob McClintick was quick to celebrate the moment.
“That’s what they’ve been doing all year,” Turner said. “We preach 0-0, all game long. That’s just the mentality they have, not to give up.”
The season ends for the Argylls at 4-8, but two of those wins were in sectional. They represent the first sectional football game wins for M-G since 2011, when Fultz and his senior teammates were in the fourth grade.
Fultz, the team’s leading tackler and rusher, hopes the program keeps improving after a winless sophomore season and just three wins last season.
“My message to the younger kids is to get in the weight room,” Fultz said. “That’s really important. I feel like that’s what made me what I was this year.
“It means a lot,” Fultz added of the sectional wins over Taylor and Union City. “Especially with it being the 50th anniversary of the Madison-Grant football team existing.”