With seven of the 10 Greater Miami Conference football teams beginning the season 0-2, Fairfield High School coach Jason Krause viewed Week 3 as a fresh start to the year.
The visiting Indians managed to turn a single touchdown into a win Friday night as they outlasted the Lakota West Firebirds 10-3 in a GMC opener.
Trailing West 3-0 at halftime, Krause challenged his locker room to step up and make a big play. Just over two minutes into the third quarter, junior quarterback Jeff Tyus connected with tight end and classmate Erick All for a 29-yard touchdown down the right sideline.
“I told the guys at half that someone was going to need to make a play,” Krause said. “Erick is a guy who can do that. We knew that it was our time to take a shot, and Jeff threw it up for him and gave him a chance to go get it.”
All was well covered down the right sideline, but was able to outmaneuver the Firebirds’ Dylan Jones to make the grab and eventually stumble just over the goal line.
“I was able to shake (my defender) at the line and get up the field,” All said. “I saw the ball in the air and made an action on it.”
All made just one other catch on the evening, finishing with a pair of receptions for 47 yards. Tyus, who spent much of the evening under pressure, completed 9 of 18 passes with an interception.
“In a one-on-one with a corner, I’ll take Erick over any other receiver in the state,” Tyus said of his tight end. “If he has one-on-one, I’m throwing the fade to him. Every time.”
The touchdown was set up by a crucial giveaway by the Firebirds. On the opening play of the second half, West quarterback MyJaden Horton lost the handle of the snap, allowing the Indians to start their eventual scoring drive on the Firebirds’ 4-yard line.
“That was obviously a critical turnover,” West coach Larry Cox said. “Look what happened. They scored seven points off of it. It was a critical, important moment of the game.”
Horton had a busy night for the Firebirds, completing 9 of 21 throws for 70 yards as well as rushing for 24 yards on 17 carries.
The importance of that turnover, the Firebirds’ only turnover of the game, cannot be understated. Removing the drive that followed the fumble from the total statistics, the Indians outgained West by a slim 177-140 margin.
“If I’m a fan, I got to watch two very talented teams play their best games of the year,” Cox said. “I thought that we did a lot of things very well tonight. We just could not finish drives, but I thought we fought hard. Fairfield just made a few more plays than we did.”
Fairfield (1-2) stretched its lead to 10-3 with seven minutes left to go in the game when Nick Maddy split the uprights from 26 yards out, capping off one of the Tribe’s better offensive drives.
On the ensuing West drive, the Firebirds (0-3) briefly thought that they had tied the game. After punting on an uneventful three-and-out, Fairfield’s Raqwon Williams attempted to catch the punt after a bounce on the turf. Williams, however, misjudged the bounce and was only able to get his fingertips on the football, and Cedric Thomas was able to catch it out of the air in stride and cruise into the end zone for a 26-yard score.
But on the opposite end of the field, a penalty flag was lying at the line of scrimmage. The false start penalty it signaled cancelled the touchdown and forced the Firebirds to redo the punt.
“I don’t know. It is what it is,” Cox said of the penalty that cost his team a touchdown. “Regardless, we have to take advantage of the scoring opportunities that we have.”
On the redo of the punt, the Firebirds were given new life when Fairfield’s Malik Vann was flagged for roughing the kicker. The penalty, one of Fairfield’s 12 on the night, gave West a first down near midfield. Three plays later, the Firebirds punted again with no dramatics.
“We found a way to fight through some moments of adversity tonight,” Krause said. “We cannot continue to have these sorts of mental mistakes. We will need to clean them up going forward.”
The Indians will be at home against unbeaten Lakota East next Friday, while West will head to Oak Hills.
Lakota West 0-3-0-0—3
L: Nick Hjort 25 field goal
F: Erick All 29 pass from Jeff Tyus (Nick Maddy kick)
F: Maddy 26 field goal