By Lionel Green
For The Sand Mountain Reporter
Sophomore Austin Harris scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run with 9:55 left in the game, and the Fairview defense thwarted a late Crossville drive as the Aggies beat the Lions 32-28 in a thrilling Class 4A, Region 6 contest Friday at Crossville Memorial Stadium.
Fairview (5-4 overall, 4-3 in the region) clinched a playoff berth with the win. As the No. 3 seed, the Aggies will travel to Haleyville in the first round of the playoffs.
Crossville dropped to 2-7 overall and 1-6 in region play.
“We are definitely excited about being in the playoffs,” Aggie coach George Redding said. “We had a big win last week, and our big win tonight gave us this opportunity.
“They've done a good job. We are proud of them. Coming out of Week 5, we knew what we were up against and they responded to the challenge.”
Down 32-28 with 3:56 remaining, Crossville’s offense started the Lions final drive on their own 19. Junior quarterback Brody White converted a fourth-and-9 hitting senior Ty Cole on a 13-yard pass over the middle.
White then connected with senior Austin Peppers on a 17-yard pass, setting up Crossville at midfield. The drive stalled after an intentional grounding penalty was followed two plays later by a 9-yard sack of White on fourth down with 40 seconds left.
After a 7-7 defensive battle in the first half, both teams scored almost at will in the second half.
White opened the scoring on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Cole at the 1:09 mark of the first quarter. Senior kicker Erik Rodriguez booted his first of four extra points for an early 7-0 Lions lead.
Crossville held the Aggies offense in check thanks to spectacular defense in the red zone by Peppers and Cole. Peppers also intercepted a pass in the second quarter.
But late in the second, junior Fairview quarterback Hayden Maples completed six of seven passes on a fast 85-yard drive, the last one a 24-yard touchdown toss to senior Hunter Brewer with six seconds remaining before halftime to knot the game at 7-7.
The Aggies opened the third quarter with a five-play, 79-yard scoring drive, capped by a 19-yard touchdown run by Harris. The extra point sailed wide right, and Fairview led 13-7 with 10:12 left in the third.
The Lions responded immediately when White threw a 58-yard scoring strike to senior Kyle Kilgo on the next offensive play of the game. The Rodriguez point-after gave Crossville a slim 14-13 lead at the 9:57 mark of the third.
Four plays later, Harris scored on a 1-yard run to put the Aggies back up 19-14 with 8:30 remaining in the third.
Crossville didn’t blink as White hit Cole for a 9-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1 to give the Lions a 21-19 advantage with 5:34 left in the third.
Harris capped another four-play Fairview drive with a 7-yard touchdown run to send the Aggies in front 25-21 at the 4:14 mark of the third.
The Lions scored their final time on the first play of the fourth quarter when White connected with Peppers on a clutch 23-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-6.
Harris led Fairview with 225 yards on 25 carries, including 180 yards and all four of his touchdowns in the second half.
Maples was 19 of 24 passing for 254 yards to go along with a touchdown and an interception.
Ethan Widner hauled in 11 catches for 118 yards, while Brewer added 78 yards and a score on five receptions.
White led the Lions, completing 18 of 25 passes for 233 yards, four touchdowns and one interception, according to unofficial statistics compiled by The Reporter.
Peppers led the receiving corps with four catches for 81 yards and one touchdown.
Cole had five receptions for 58 yards and two touchdowns.
Kilgo finished with four catches for 66 yards and one score.
Crossville only managed 13 totals yards rushing.
Fairview will close out the regular season next week versus county-rival West Point.