HS football: Fairfield spoils Middletown’s return

Fairfield host Middletown on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. Nick Graham/STAFF
Fairfield host Middletown on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. Nick Graham/STAFF

The Middletown High School football team opened its season a week late with a bang, scoring a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage at Fairfield.

But the magic disappeared just as soon as it arrived.

The host Indians responded with a long score the very next play on offense, then recovered a fumble at their own 1-yard line and scored on all five first-half possessions to roll to a 35-13 victory Friday at Fairfield Stadium.

Fairfield (1-1) was coming off a loss at Mason in its opener, but Middletown (0-1) did not receive school district approval to begin competition until Aug. 24, which was too late to be ready for the first week of games.

“It feels good,” Fairfield coach Jason Krause said. “… We played a lot of young players last week, and it was their first taste of varsity football, and we started with a league opponent, like Mason, it was a tough road. Getting back here and playing at home and getting to have one under their belt, so to speak, I think they were a little more comfortable this week.”

Middies standout running back Josh Bryant got things started with a 70-yard touchdown run 20 seconds into the game, and Fairfield followed suit when quarterback Talon Fisher scampered 65 yards the next play from scrimmage to give the Indians the 7-6 lead with Nick Maddy’s kick.

Middletown looked ready to answer, as well, with a long kick return followed by a nice catch down the sideline, but Elijah Rockhold fumbled it inside the 5-yard line and Fairfield’s Josiah Jackson was able to recover before it would have rolled out of bounds.

“We knew we had to play on emotion,” Middletown coach Don Simpson said. “We hadn’t played in a game yet, so we had to come out and do what we do best. We had some big plays -- Josh Bryant, what a run to open the game up. That just shows the potential we have as a team. … Our biggest fear was that we would get into the game, game speed and then see the fatigue factor in. We haven’t scrimmaged or played a full four-quarter game, so then we started making mental mistakes. That’s because we haven’t had the reps. That first half, a lot of mental mistakes, but we knew that would happen.”

Fisher stepped up again and moments later busted through for a 48-yard run to put the Indians in the red zone and that set up the second of his four touchdowns on the night. Middletown punted the next two drives and Talon and Kavin Bivins traded scoring runs on each of the next three drives, including one after the Indians recovered their own onside kick.

Krause said Fairfield didn’t use Fisher as much on read plays last week and he did better getting vertical Friday, instead of always looking to get to the sidelines.

“It felt amazing,” Fisher said. “You’ve got to take your opportunities, and I took mine. It just felt amazing. We had a great night tonight. Gotta give it to the linemen. You can’t do it without your blockers, and we executed great this week.”

The Middies’ defense came up with its first stop in the third quarter, and the offense took advantage of the brief momentum swing when Bryant finished off the ensuing drive on a 4-yard run to cut the deficit to 35-13 with 4:20 left in the third quarter.

That ended the scoring in an otherwise sloppy second half, as Fairfield missed a field goal and had a 71-yard touchdown run negated by a penalty in the fourth quarter. Middletown only neared the red zone one other time in the game when Kamari Fuller’s pass was picked off at the 4-yard line.

“We knew the kind of weapons Middletown had coming into tonight, and we knew we were going to be stressed,” Krause said. “I think our guys did a good job just keeping them out of the end zone, huge play down there inside the 5 (on the fumble recovery), that changed probably the first half.”

Simpson said despite the lopsided loss, it was hard to be too disappointed. The Middletown School District suspended fall extracurriculars July 28, and the Middies went almost three weeks without practicing together before the ban was lifted. A week later, they were cleared for games.

“It was really refreshing just to be out here at a time we thought we weren’t going to get a chance to come out here, and to be out here and see all the fan support and the boys just playing their hearts out, minus the outcome, it was very rewarding and a great night for us,” Simpson said.