The last time Darius Fullwood took to the football field for Good Counsel, the Falcons were sitting at 3-1 and set on extending their 20-game -win streak in Washington Catholic Athletic Conference play.
Now, as Fullwood prepares to return after missing the last six games with a broken foot, the junior defensive lineman stands as a key cog in the Falcons’ mission to shake off a rare 3-3 showing in WCAC play and win their fifth straight conference title.
Though the task is a tall one with Good Counsel having lost to all three playoff qualifiers (DeMatha, Gonzaga and St. John’s), Fullwood’s return marks another positive step for a Falcons team that appears to be finding its footing at the right time.
In just four games, Fullwood racked up three sacks and 11 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, from the defensive end position, using his high motor and power to break through the line.
With standout senior and Maryland commit Jesse Aniebonam also back at the other defensive end position after missing four games with a neck injury, the Falcons possess two strong pass rushers who bring experience to a young defensive unit.
“It was definitely tough watching from the sideline when you think you can make a contribution,” said Fullwood, who got the boot off his foot last Thursday and gradually returned to full speed practice. “The whole season has been tough for us, but with the bye week, we should come back strong and healthy and ready to take on teams that we feel are beatable if we play to our ability.”
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Fullwood emerged as one of the nation’s top juniors last offseason, picking up offers from Florida State, Michigan State, N.C. State, Penn State, Stanford, Virginia and Virginia Tech, among others.
Once the season is over, Fullwood said he hopes to visit N.C. State, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest during the weekend of a game. The junior, who does not have a list of top schools at this point, chose these three because of their close proximity to home.
“I haven’t had a chance to see those schools, so I’d like to visit them and get the gameday experience to see how I fit in,” Fullwood said. “But that’s not my main priority right now. I’m focused on coming back strong for the playoffs.”
Though Fullwood’s recovery has been far from easy, the junior’s injury pales in comparison to what he endured as a freshman at Gonzaga.
While undergoing a physical, it was discovered that Fullwood had a heart murmur. As the doctors further investigated, they found that one of Fullwood’s arteries was on the wrong side of his heart. Without surgery, Fullwood would be unable to play sports again. With surgery, he would undergo an intense, four-hour procedure that didn’t guarantee full recovery.
Ultimately, Fullwood convinced his parents that he wanted to have the operation so he could play sports. Following a successful surgery, Fullwood sat out the football season before returning to play basketball at Gonzaga as a means of getting back into shape.
After transferring to Good Counsel for his sophomore season, Fullwood immediately made an impact during the Falcons’ championship run, playing in 10 games and evolving as a dangerous pass rusher. The junior hopes he and his teammates can experience a similar return to success when the conference playoffs begin on Nov. 10.
“All glory to God, I had the surgery with zero complications and was able to play again,” said Fullwood, who takes no medication and gets annual check-ups at the cardiologist. “To overcome that was a blessing, but I was never really worried. Football is my passion and I’m glad to be able to still play.”
NUMBER CRUNCH: 480
Yards thrown by Rockville quarterback Chuck Reese during a 64-41 comeback win against Magruder last week, marking what could be a MPSSAA record, pending third-party review.
VIDEO OF THE DAY
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WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY
Girls’ Soccer: Leonardtown at No. 9 Broadneck, 5 p.m.
In a Maryland 4A East quarterfinal, top-seeded Broadneck host fourth-seeded Leonardtown, which will look to extend its nine-game unbeaten streak and reach the region semifinals.