Fairfield’s run game dominant in victory over Hamilton

Fairfield's Juseters Fataki (20) runs the ball in for a touchdown defended by Hamilton's Donovan Ripley (12) during their football game Friday, Sept. 24. 2021 in Fairfield. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
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Fairfield's Juseters Fataki (20) runs the ball in for a touchdown defended by Hamilton's Donovan Ripley (12) during their football game Friday, Sept. 24. 2021 in Fairfield. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Indians rush for 293 yards

Coach Jason Krause told his Fairfield football team during Hamilton week that Friday night’s game was about starting anew. Forget about the three losses. Get ready for the playoffs.

To win the rivalry game, Indians junior defensive back Matthew Humbarger said the key to the coach’s message was to start playing four solid quarters.

The Indians checked enough boxes. They got an early lead, survived momentum shifts and tightened up on defense when necessary to defeat Hamilton 28-14.

“It means a lot to us because we have a lot of talent on our team,” Humbarger said. “We started off very slow, but after the win tonight we’re starting to pick things up.”

Fairfield (2-3, 2-2 GMC) is sitting at No. 11 in the Division I, Region 4 playoff points. More wins will only help the Indians move up to a better seed in this year’s 16-team format.

The Indians outgained the Big Blue 328-271 and rushed for 293 yards. Jordon Jackson rushed for 135, and quarterback Talon Fisher rushed for 80 and a touchdown. Juseters Fataki scored late in the first quarter, and Kavi Bivins scored the first of his two touchdowns early in the second for a 13-0 Indians lead.

Hamilton (1-3, 0-3) can certainly make the playoffs as well, but this was a game coach Nate Mahon thought his team had a chance to win. Too many big plays weren’t quite enough, or penalties called them back.

“We didn’t play well enough early to give our guys a chance late,” Mahon said.

Hamilton’s best chance came in the first half.

Quarterback Kerry Ware hit Breeon Ishmail over the middle for 71 yards to the Fairfield 9-yard line where Ishmail was caught by Rais Fataki. A penalty and a tackle for loss led to fourth-and-goal from the 16. A pass to Ishmail at the goal line was just a little high.

An interception downfield late in the first half by Josiah Jackson was another stop for Fairfield.

“We had a lot of opportunities in the first half and guys running open and throwing picks or guys running open and just not making plays,” Mahon said. “It just felt like guys were in the right spots and we just didn’t make plays.”

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Early in the third, the Big Blue finally made a play pay off. On fourth-and-two, wide receiver Elijah Givens threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Ware.

“Coming out for the third quarter they showed up and it was pretty tough,” Humbarger said. “Our coaches talked to us about a few plays we had to change up and we kept our energy.”

Fairfield responded with a long kickoff return and a 19-yard touchdown run by Fisher. Hamilton star running back Kaleb Johnson, bottled up for 66 yards on 13 carries, returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. But it was called back because of holding. Still, the Big Blue drove and scored on Ware’s 19-yard pass to Ishmail and trailed 20-14 with 4:24 left.

Fairfield drove again but this time Juseters Fataki, a sophomore, fumbled at the 2. Senior teammates Kendrix Goodman and Quentin Gehm wouldn’t let him get down.

“They came up to me and said keep your head straight,” Fataki said. “They’re always there for the team. They’re always bringing us together.”

The Big Blue had their big chance to take the lead. Ware threw deep to Givens for an apparent 81-yard touchdown, but Givens was flagged for offensive pass interference. Then another long pass to Givens that would have kick-started the drive was called back for holding.

After Hamilton punted, Fairfield drove for the game’s final score, a four-yard run by Bivins.

“Two of the holds were with quick passes and there was almost max protect,” Mahon said. “So unless a guy just grabbed him at the point of attack and chucked him immediately that was hard to swallow. And the kickoff return was hard to swallow. I think our guy got ran over and they called a hold. That’s high school football. You get high school refs.”

The Indians were happy to see the flags fly.

“When I saw the penalty flags I was excited,” Humbarger said, “but some of them were kind of like, ehhh …”

Keeping Ware, Ishmail, Givens and Johnson under control was a difficult task for Fairfield.

“A lot of pressure on our defense,” Krause said. “We had to win the line of scrimmage. We had to get to the quarterback and not let him sit back there and throw deep balls to those athletes. That’s what we did later in the second half.”