Late-season surge lands Fairfield a home playoff game: ‘It’s a huge deal for us’

Fairfield's Jordan Jackson carries the ball during their football game against Lakota West Friday, Oct. 1, 2021 at Lakota West High School in West Chester Township. Lakota West won 42-10. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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Fairfield's Jordan Jackson carries the ball during their football game against Lakota West Friday, Oct. 1, 2021 at Lakota West High School in West Chester Township. Lakota West won 42-10. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Four weeks ago, Fairfield High School looked like a team still rebuilding. A few adjustments flipped a switch for a late-season surge, and now the Indians are hosting a playoff game.

After losing four of the first six games and having to cancel in Week 2 because of COVID protocols, the Indians (5-4) turned things around and finished with three straight wins.

The reward was big. They are set to play Mason (4-6) on Friday in a Division I, Region 4 opener at Fairfield Alumni Stadium.

“It’s a huge deal for us,” Fairfield coach Jason Krause said. “We love playing at Alumni Stadium in front of our fans and our amazing student section. We’re undefeated at home, so there’s no better place for us to be.”

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Fairfield struggled to get into a rhythm early in part because of the Week 2 cancellation. After falling to Centerville in the opener, several players ended up in quarantine because of COVID protocols and 27 of them weren’t back on the field until the day before their Week 3 game at Sycamore.

The Aves made the Indians look rusty, rolling to a 42-18 win, but things started to turn over the next two weeks. Krause started seeing the biggest change, ironically, in the team’s third loss. The Indians fell 28-27 to Princeton, despite missing five or six starters because of COVID, and they had a chance to tie the game on an extra point, but the kick hit the upright.

Krause knew then they could make a run. Fairfield bounced back with a win against Hamilton the next week and its only loss over the final five games was against Greater Miami Conference champion Lakota West.

“It was hard to get going with some of that happening to us early on, but we got back on track and made some position changes that have been huge the last four weeks,” Krause said.

Fairfield moved Josiah Jackson from safety to cornerback, Trent Stephenson switched from wide receiver to free safety and Jordan Jackson moved from cornerback to running back.

Josiah Jackson had an interception, returned 67 yards, against Hamilton and a fumble recovery in the loss to West. Stephenson had an interception in a 28-21 win over Lakota East in Week 9, and Jordan Jackson leads the team with 703 yards rushing, the majority of those coming in the last six games.

“After the first couple weeks, we looked at our run game and didn’t have a home run threat,” Krause said. “We didn’t have a guy with the ability to break it and score, so we looked at the two-deep and I coached Jordan in track last year so I knew he was a guy that can go. We spoke to him about it, and he wanted to give it a shot.”

Ki’Arran Love had been playing running back but also serves as the backup quarterback and plays in the H spot and as a receiver and punt returner and has shown to be a selfless player.

The move with Jordan Jackson to running back also helped open things up for sophomore quarterback Talon Fisher, who teams were trying to key in on the first few weeks. Fisher now ranks third in the GMC for passing with 1,317 yards to go along with 532 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. Seven of his 12 interceptions were in the first three games.

“I definitely believe he is turning into a passer,” Krause said. “Last year, he didn’t throw a touchdown pass. He’s maturing as far as developing in the offense, making good reads, developing into a guy that can throw it. He’s helping us get back to that. He had a great offseason and it’s been a good year, his leadership and maturity are big things you can’t put a number on.”

After the loss to West, Fairfield beat Mason 27-22 on a Fisher touchdown run with 40 seconds left, and the Indians beat Lakota East 28-21 the next week on a Jordan Jackson touchdown run with 23 seconds left. Last week they shut out Middletown 23-0.

Beating Mason again will be a tough task, Krause said. He expects both teams to make adjustments, and it always seems to be a close game between the two schools. The Comets’ four-win record isn’t indicative of what they are capable of either.

Krause said the key to success Friday starts with the defense, limiting big plays from Mason’s dual threat quarterback. Larson Brown threw for 210 yards against the Indians but was held to negative rushing yards. Michael Molnar has come in as a rushing quarterback at times, including a 109-yard performance last week against Hamilton.

“We had to make a late drive with two minutes and change to make a touchdown to win it,” Krause said of the first meeting. “We converted two fourth-and-10s and overcame some huge obstacles, so that really bodes well for our confidence, but it’s hard to beat someone twice so we know we can’t take Mason lightly and we’re going to show up to play.”

FRIDAY’S GAMES

Division I, Region 4

9 Mason at 8 Fairfield

15 Hamilton at 2 St. Xavier

14 West Clermont at 3 Lakota West

12 Sycamore at 5 Lakota East

Division II, Region 8

12 Sidney at Edgewood 5

Division III, Region 12

16 Vandalia Butler vs. 1 Badin at Hamilton

15 Alter at 2 Monroe

13 Chaminade Julienne at 4 Ross

12 Franklin at 5 St. Marys Memorial

SATURDAY’S GAMES

13 Carlisle at 4 Reading

(All games at 7 p.m.)

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