Eastern Conference game a family feud

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One of the most colorful times in college football took place from 1999- 2007 when Bobby Bowden and son, Tommy, squared off in what was described as the "Bowden Bowl."

Bobby's Florida State Seminoles annually played Tommy's Clemson Tigers in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Nine games were played, and the Seminoles won five.

Something in a similar vein -- albeit much less publicized -- will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday when coach Mike Fulmore's Wilkinsburg Tigers play host to the North Catholic Trojans in a Class A Eastern Conference game at Graham Field in Wilkinsburg.

That's because Fulmore's son, P.J., is enjoying an extremely solid season as a North Catholic running back. Saturday's game could be the first in the "Fulmore Fracas" that might consist of as many as three games. P.J. Fulmore, a 5-foot-6, 170-pound sophomore, already has surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in his first year as a starter in coach Bob Ravenstahl's backfield.

He ran for 114 yards in a 19-15 victory against Avonworth Friday and has gained 1,016 yards rushing with three regular-season games remaining. More games could take place for the Trojans, presuming they qualify for the WPIAL Class A playoffs.

A second meeting is extremely unlikely this season because Wilkinsburg, which is tied with West Shamokin for eighth place in the nine-team conference with 1-5 records, is on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention.

But future games are possible for the 2013 and '14 seasons.

This first varsity meeting has both excited, but it's not the first time they've clashed as opponents. Mike Fulmore coached the junior varsity to a victory against North Catholic last year when P.J. was a freshman. He became the varsity coach this season, and he relishes the opportunity his Tigers have against the Trojans (5-1).

"As a coach and as a father, it's my boys going up against my boy," he said as the father and son sat at an area restaurant with Mike Fulmore wearing a Wilkinsburg warm-up jacket and P.J. Fulmore attired in a North Catholic warm-up.

"I don't think I could be any more excited with the opportunity that we have," Mike Fulmore added. "I think we look at it a little differently. Last year, we beat him in a JV game over at Stone Field. My comment after that game to my team was 'Well, fellas, you stopped the best player I know.' So, I look forward to telling them that again on Saturday."

P.J. Fulmore recalled the taste of that junior varsity loss, and said nothing will be left to chance when the Trojans meet the Tigers in Wilkinsburg's homecoming game that also commemorates the 125th year of Wilkinsburg's founding as a municipality.

"There won't be any holding back against his team," he said. "I just want to go out there and get the win. After the game, we'll have a good handshake, and the better man will win."

Mike Fulmore coached P.J. in the youth football ranks, and he can't say if his son has one characteristic that overshadows the others.

"He's developed so nicely over the offseason, doing so much hard work," he said. "It's hard to say whether his vision is better, his balance or his acceleration or his overall football IQ. He's a formidable opponent, and we take that very seriously."

Some sleepless nights were in the equation this week, Mike Fulmore said. And he has had several opportunities to see video of his son because the Tigers have played an opponent one week after North Catholic has played them.

"We've seen a lot of film on him this year," the coach said. "It's been quite interesting. We've seen a lot of tendencies and things like that. We have a good idea of what North [Catholic] has."

P.J. has gotten to know some of his father's players and counts them among his friends.

"Yeah, they're all good kids," he said. "I know them pretty well. We've gone to camps together, and I'm pretty friendly with all of them."

Wilkinsburg's 27-6 victory last Friday at West Shamokin snapped a five-game losing streak. The coach said the win culminated the success his team has had in short, infrequent bursts this season. The Tigers are coming into Saturday's game with rising confidence.

With the pride a father has for a son's accomplishments, Mike Fulmore wants it known that his team has every intention of putting up a roadblock to his son's success. He said he's able to separate the feelings he has for his son as his offspring and as a tough opponent.

"It's not difficult whatsoever," he said. "As a dad, I teach [P.J.] to compete. As a coach, I have the same message for my team. This is a business of competitors with Type-A personalities, and we all want to win the game.

"I don't think there's anything more fantastic than to have a competitor compete with the guys and show them how to compete. I'm very excited and looking forward to seeing [P.J. and North Catholic] at Graham Field."

The love a father has for a son is evident with these two. But the desire to win runs deep in both of them. As they were leaving the restaurant, Mike offered a quick "Go Tigers!" P.J. offered a "Go North!" retort.


First Published October 12, 2012 4:00 AM


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