By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
Early on in Friday night’s Class 4A, Region 6 game against St. Clair County, Fairview had too many penalties, too many drops, too many mistakes and not enough tackles.
If the Aggies were going to make a comeback, there was no doubt they’d have to play a whole lot better in the second half than they did the first.
And boy, did they.
Justin Bryan began the third quarter with an electrifying 67-yard return, Luke Bailey scored four unanswered touchdowns and the Fairview defense showed the Fighting Saints no mercy in a 30-16 winning effort on homecoming night.
“We knew we could do it,” Bailey said. “We had a rough day on Tuesday and then we knew it Wednesday. We came out and we knew if we played like we practiced Wednesday that we were going to win.”
With the Aggies trailing 16-8 at halftime, the Purple and Gold’s star signal-caller had a clairvoyant conversation with one of his teammates. During the intermission, an injured Dakota Harris asked Bailey how he thought the second half would go.
With 24 minutes left to play, who knew the quarterback’s answer would be so spot on?
“I told him, ‘If we do our jobs and play like we’re capable of playing, we’ll win by two touchdowns,’” Bailey recalled. “And then we ended up winning by two touchdowns."
After such a miserable first two quarters of play that included four offsides penalties, a couple of costly drops and over 100 yards of rushing by St. Clair County’s Kartez Carr, the second half couldn’t have started any better for Fairview.
Bryan took the opening kickoff toward the right side and looked as if he was going to be tackled by multiple defenders before breaking free, reversing direction to the left and sprinting all the way to the Fighting Saints’ 3.
Bailey bulldozed ahead for the score two plays later, bringing the Aggies within two after a failed two-point conversion.
“I feel great,” said Bryan, a man of few words who also recovered a crucial fumble at Fairview’s own 11 in the third quarter. “They had me wrapped up and then I got out.”
Up until that score, St. Clair County (3-3, 3-1) appeared to be the stronger team. But after it, the Fighting Saints didn’t have a prayer.
The Aggie D forced St. Clair County to turn the ball over on downs their last three possessions and then watched on in delight as Bailey put the ballgame away on the ground with touchdown runs of 1 and 13 yards in the fourth quarter. He also scampered 24 yards for a score in the second quarter.
“The holes were huge,” said Bailey, who rushed 17 times for 98 yards. “Then I just had to do the rest. It was one-on-one with the safety most of the night.”
The quarterback only had 106 passing yards but quite a few of his receivers came up with big-time receptions. Bryant Powers had three catches for 45 yards, Marco Rodriguez roped in a 32-yard screen pass, and Jake Chandler and Dexton Gregory both pitched in on a pair of successful two-point conversions.
The Fighting Saints took a 16-0 lead on a 2-yard touchdown run by Carr in the first quarter and then a 36-yard scoring heave from Taylor Mickens to Joshua Hardrick midway through the second.
The win bumps Fairview up to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the region. Heading into consecutive games against top-ranked Oneonta and then Sardis, the Aggies are in prime position to contend for homefield advantage come playoff time.
“This sets us up for a region title,” Bailey said. “That was our goal before the season because Fairview has never won a region title. That’s just one step on our ladder.”
‰ Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.