South Xtra: Titans rely on their explosive QB
West Mifflin quarterback Derrick Fulmore has rushed for 754 yards and thrown for 726 in 11 games this season.
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They call him "Dynamite."
He's West Mifflin senior quarterback Derrick Fulmore.
But even Fulmore isn't completely sure why his teammates gave him the nickname.
"I never asked," he said, laughing. "I just thought it was because I'm explosive."
Fulmore, a West Mifflin resident, is the less heralded, other half of the Titans' explosive one-two running punch, one that has knocked out 10 opponents this season and has the Titans knocking on the door of reaching the WPIAL Class AAA championship game.
The No. 7 seed Titans (10-1) play No. 3 Central Valley (9-2) in a semifinal Friday at North Allegheny.
Jimmy Wheeler -- nicknamed "Wheels" -- has made a big name himself this fall as one of the WPIAL's top rushers, but Fulmore has played just as big a part in igniting the West Mifflin offense with his athleticism and decision-making abilities. Fulmore has rushed for 754 yards and 14 touchdowns, and has passed for another 726 yards and seven touchdowns.
"We have a good combination," said Wheeler, a junior who has rushed for 2,000 yards and 27 touchdowns. "We know if one of us is getting stopped, the other can make something happen."
Fulmore, a two-year starter at quarterback who has started at safety since he was a sophomore, has been making things happen frequently over the past few months. His impact has been particularly felt during the postseason.
In a 28-14 first-round win against Knoch, Fulmore rushed for 145 yards and scored on a game-changing 71-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Against No. 2 Mars in the quarterfinals, Fulmore ran for 108 yards, including a 47-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter, to help the Titans win, 28-13.
Fulmore said that when he got his first taste of playoff action last season, he was a bit overwhelmed. The Titans fell to eventual champion Montour in the quarterfinals. This year, the experience and increased maturity has allowed Fulmore to flourish in the most important portion of the season.
"This year I know what's coming. I'm more calm," Fulmore said.
As for West Mifflin's opponents, they don't seem to know what's coming. Will it be Wheeler using his standout speed after taking a handoff or pitch? Or will Fulmore keep the ball and use his own quickness to burst by tacklers for big games?
While it's just a part of the Titans' offense, the option is one of their most dangerous weapons. Fulmore and Wheeler run it well and appear to be on the same page at nearly all times, which in turn makes life difficult for opposing defenses.
"Derrick is deceiving when he runs that option," West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo said. "He gives us another element. Teams are focusing on Jimmy, so it's good to have that other phase."
Said Wheeler: "[Derrick] helps me a lot. I know a lot of teams focus on me. When they focus on me, I know that we have someone [else] who can run the ball."
Of course, much of this wouldn't be possible if it weren't for an offensive line that has paved the way for the Titans throughout the season. The line is anchored by three seniors, tackle Jim Popa, center Jim Keys and guard Joe Faiello and they are joined by junior guard Tyler Bornak and junior tackle Shawn Devey as well as senior tight end Marcus Martin, a dual threat as a blocker or pass receiver.
"It's all about our offensive line blocking, and me and Jimmy picking the holes," Fulmore said.
Fulmore doesn't attempt a lot of passes -- just 72 on the season -- but has a knack for creating big plays when he takes to the air. He averages more than 20 yards per completion and his favorite receiver is Martin, who has hauled in 13 catches for 375 yards (28.8 yard-per-catch average) and four touchdowns.
Will Fulmore produce another dynamite performance Friday? If he does, there's a good chance he and his teammates will advance to play at Heinz Field the day after Thanksgiving.
"It would mean everything," Fulmore said of making it to the WPIAL championship game. "We've worked for that all season, all summer, ever since we were freshmen. It's what every player wants to do."
• Game: West Mifflin (10-1) vs. Central Valley (9-2).
• When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
• Where: North Allegheny's Newman Stadium.
• Skinny: The winner of this one will play for the WPIAL Class AAA title.
First Published November 15, 2012 12:00 am