By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
Friday night’s matchup between Fairview and Douglas isn’t likely to go down as one of the most memorable games ever played inside Dafford Smith Stadium.
Nor will it go into either teams’ record book for being played with tremendous efficacy or consistency.
All that aside, however, you won’t find George Redding or his football team complaining too much, as the Aggies fought and battled a resilient Eagle squad to pick up their first victory — and region win — of the season by a 13-6 score.
“We’re never going to take wins for granted,” Redding said. We didn’t have one this year before tonight, so we’re excited to have one now. We maybe didn’t play our best and shot ourselves in the foot with a lot of self-inflicted wounds, but our guys continued to fight. It took all four quarters to hang on for the win, and that’s what our kids did tonight.”
Fairview (1-1, 1-0 in Class 4A, Region 6) certainly didn’t have its “A” game on Friday evening, as the Aggies committed nine penalties, turned the ball over twice and even had two punts blocked on special teams.
The Purple and Gold also struggled mightily at times on offense with dropped passes and misreads, acculmulating just 253 total yards as opposed to the 454 they gained last week.
“Some of that comes from new faces, some comes from lack of focus,” Redding said. “But none of it came from lack of effort. What we’ve got to do is learn to play at a high level but still keep the details, still keep the focus and get things executed up front.”
Both teams got off to sluggish starts with Douglas (0-2, 0-1) taking the first real advantage of the contest on a blocked punt inside Aggie territory.
However, the Eagles’ drive was upended on an interception by senior Hunter Brewer, giving possession back to Fairview.
Three plays later, quarterback Hayden Maples connected with wide receiver Bailey Strong on a post route for an 85-yard touchdown to give the Aggies a 6-0 cushion.
From there, the two teams traded punt after punt late into the second quarter, where the Purple and Gold got an early Christmas present when Eagles’ quarterback Tyler Garrett mishandled a snap inside his own 15-yard line
Facing a fourth-and-7 with 14 seconds remaining in the half, Maples avoided a fierce pass rush and rolled to his left, eventually finding senior Ethan Arbet wide open in the corner of the end zone for an Aggies’ touchdown and a 13-point advantage heading into the locker room.
The score remained the same until early in the fourth, when Douglas’ Wesley Garrett faked a handoff before rushing around right end for the Red and White’s lone touchdown of the game.
Following a punt on Fairview’s ensuing possession, the Eagles launched one final threat, driving the ball inside the Aggie 40-yard line before a desperation pass on fourth down sailed just long of a receiver’s outstretched hands.
Although the offense did struggle at times, the Purple and Gold defense did more than enough to pick up the slack.
The unit — led by senior CJ Waters — allowed a mere 147 yards to the Eagle offense, while collecting two picks and numerous tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
“Douglas’ misdirection got us out of position a few times,” Redding said. “But I really thought our defense played well all night. They burned on us on a couple of plays early in the game that we were able to stop when it counted.”
Maples finished his second start 6 of 16 for 115 yards. The junior signal-caller threw the same number of touchdowns — two — as interceptions. Arbet’s and Strong’s scoring receptions were their lone catches on the night.
Austin Harris powered the Aggies on the ground with 138 on 27 carries, several of which came in the fourth quarter allowing Fairview to bleed time off of the clock.
“That’s important for us,” Redding said. “We want him to be a consistent back. We want him to bang out 2- and 3-yard carries every time to keep us out of long-down situations. He was able to do that tonight. We feel comfortable giving him the ball 20-25 times a game.”
Redding and the Aggies will likely celebrate their first win of the season through the weekend before getting back to the grind on the practice field early Monday.
Fairview heads to Guntersville next Friday night for another significant region matchup. The Wildcats outlasted the Purple and Gold in last season’s contest 21-14 and have won five of the past six games in the short rivalry.
“They’re a great team,” Redding said. “We know they’ll be tough, but we are excited for the opportunity to play them.”
Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.