High School Football: Fairfield has a chance to get back in GMC title hunt

Two weeks after suffering its lone loss of the season, the Fairfield High School football team has an opportunity to get right back into the Greater Miami Conference title race.

The Indians (6-1, 5-1 GMC) host GMC leader Lakota West (7-0, 6-0 GMC) on Friday at Fairfield Alumni Stadium with a chance to potentially move into a three-way tie for first. West is the only team still unbeaten in conference play, while Fairfield and Princeton -- who beat the Indians in Week 6 -- both have one loss. West beat Princeton on Sept. 16.

Fairfield, which hasn’t won a GMC title since sharing it with Colerain in 2005, finishes the regular season at Mason and home against Lakota East.

“The message is about the opportunity we have in front of us,” Fairfield coach Jason Krause said. “We’ve played them one week at a time, and this is the biggest game on our schedule at this point. We’re preparing for the opportunity. We’re playing at home, it’s our homecoming, and there is lot of pride at stake.”

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Fairfield dropped a 28-14 decision to the Vikings two weeks ago after opening with five straight wins, but the Indians bounced back in a big way last week, topping rival Hamilton, 34-13, on the road.

The loss might have served as a wake-up call following such a smooth start to the season; however, Krause said it wasn’t difficult to “get up” for the rivalry game. Fairfield discussed the corrections that needed to be made from the Princeton loss and had a good week of practice, but it wasn’t a surprise to him when he saw the players execute on gameday.

Quarterback Talon Fisher led the way. Krause had been praising Fisher’s development into more of a passing threat this season, and that especially proved to be the case against the Big Blue when he completed 12 of 19 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns. He also did his usual damage with his legs, rushing for 123 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

The Indians will need more of that against West.

“We want to be more balanced,” Krause said. “To beat a team like West, we have to throw the ball. That’s kind of our goal. Last week was a good week to see Talon throw more, complete passes and throw touchdowns. That’s what we need to see the offense grow and he’s doing that.”

West, which is seeking a three-peat GMC title this season, won’t make that goal easy to reach. The Firebirds have three senior defensive backs committed to Division I colleges. Malik Hartford is committed to Ohio State, Joshua Fussell is headed to Northwestern and Ben Minich is Notre Dame-bound.

On the other side of the ball, West is very similar to Fairfield but relying on quarterback Mitch Bolden for even more of the production as little yardage has come out of the backfield. Bolden leads the league with 1,293 yards passing and adds a team-leading 296 yards rushing, while Fisher follows with 916 yards in the air and a GMC-best 884 yards rushing.

“They are a very good football team,” Krause said. “It starts with their quarterback. “He’s a good player, dual threat, does a lot with his feet, but he’s coming along with his arm as well. Containing him is the No. 1 priority for our defense. They have three Power 5 defensive backs, which allows them to do a lot defensively, so we have to crack that code, protect the football and get things going with Talon running our offense. They haven’t given up a lot of points so it’s going to be a challenge.”

The Indians were 2-3 going into last year’s matchup and fell 42-10, but Krause notes that both teams were very different. Fairfield was still young and developing into the more competitive team that stepped on the field this year. After losing to West, Fairfield won three straight games, then defeated Mason in the first round of the Region 4 playoffs.

Even this year, Krause has seen continued development, especially up front on offense and defense. The offensive line graduated a number of players last year but that group is “jelling nicely” and allowing Fairfield to do more on offense. The defensive line has seen players like James Thomas and Amir Rogers step into bigger roles after Thomas moved positions midway through 2021 and Rogers became a regular starter this year.

“We’ve grown a lot since that game last year,” Krause said. “A lot of that is Talon’s development and others stepping up. They were a different team, too. They were really good up front and graduated a bunch of guys, you’ve seen Mitch develop last year to this year as well. He’s throwing at a higher percentage than last year. It’s about what they are this year and what we are this year. And we’re in a much better place now.”

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