Playoff positioning, Senior Night — there will be a lot going on with the Fairfield High School football team when the Indians face Middletown in a Greater Miami Conference football regular-season finale Friday night.
At least that’s the hope of Middies coach Lance Engleka.
Fairfield main concern? Locating an offense that appears to have slipped into the witness protection program.
The Indians (5-4, 5-2) rank eighth in the Division I, Region 4 Harbin computer ratings, still in line for a playoff berth despite having lost two straight games and scored a total of 12 points along the way. The Indians are coming off a shutout loss at Mason, which deploys the GMC’s top-ranked defense. Fairfield scored 12 points the week before against Colerain’s third-ranked defense.
“It goes back to the Colerain game,” Fairfield coach Jason Krause said. “We had that critical error right before halftime where they returned an interception 108 yards for a touchdown. Mentally, we haven’t been the same since then. We’ve been trying to get the focus back on track. We’ve got to simplify the offense. When we had that (five-game winning streak), we were doing less better.”
The Indians are just ahead in the computer ratings of West Clermont (6-3, 5-1), the new Clermont County school formed by combining Amelia and Glen Este. The Wolves wrap up their Eastern Cincinnati Conference regular season at No. 3 Milford (8-1, 6-0) on Friday.
Fairfield needs Milford and Mason to win to clinch a playoff slot, but if one loses, the Indians still can qualify if Moeller (4-5) loses at Division II Winton Woods, Krause said. He believes the playoff push will help sharpen his team’s focus.
“We need to win too,” he pointed out.
Engleka points out that everybody is playing for something at this stage of the season, but Fairfield has a lot on its plate.
“They’ve got a lot of distractions this week,” he said. “As coaches, we don’t like that. Senior Night could take your focus away. They need a win to get into the playoffs, and they need some help in other areas. You want your focus to be solely on what you can control on Friday.”
Middletown (1-8, 1-6) is coming off a 28-21 win over Oak Hills in which Blake Marshall enjoyed a Senior Night for the ages. The senior quarterback piled up 301 yards of total offense and scored all four of the Middies’ touchdowns as they snapped an 18-game losing streak.
“It was great for the kids to get that first win on Friday night,” Engleka said. “Just the setting and the fact that it took place on Senior Night made it a big deal. It was big for the players, big for the other senior athletes, big for the entire high school and community.”
Still, Engleka expects a challenge from Fairfield. The Indians’ defense is ranked second in the GMC in average total yards allowed and first in fewest average rushing yards allowed. Middletown’s GMC-last defense will be challenged by a Fairfield offense led by junior quarterback Jeff Tyus, who is third in the conference with 1,059 passing yards. Much of the Indians’ attack goes through Jack Carman, the Indians’ highly recruited offensive lineman.
“He’s a heck of a player — a high school All-American, offers from all over the country,” Engleka said. “Their entire defense — they’ve got a really good defense over there. They’re well-coached. Their players make plays, and whatever position they need to be in, they get to that position.”
Middletown will count one more time on its two senior stoppers, two-way lineman Ayron Thompson and linebacker Edward Roque. Thompson ranks third in GMC with 69 tackles and leads with 6 ½ sacks. Roque ranks fifth with 68 tackles.
Fairfield walloped Middletown 42-0 last season to give the Indians wins in two of the last three games against the Middies after Middletown won the five previous games. Whoever wins, most of the games have been blowouts lately. The narrowest margin of victory over the last 10 games is 10 points, with scores including 38-2, 41-0, 31-7, 61-27 and 42-20.