The scoreboard didn’t necessarily reflect a blowout, but Fairfield High School’s football team was in fine form on both sides of the ball Thursday night.
The Indians outgained host Sycamore 423-132 in yardage and totaled 12 tackles for loss in a 21-7 victory that kept Fairfield unbeaten in Greater Miami Conference play.
“We’ve gained confidence every week. We’re getting stronger and stronger as a team,” said FHS junior quarterback Jeff Tyus, who completed 14 of 19 passes for 161 yards and ran 11 times for 93 yards.
“The defense has been playing well all season. It was just on the offense to start picking it up and playing to our potential, and that’s what we’ve been doing the last few weeks.”
Junior linebacker Del Thomas and senior tackle Malik Vann tallied two sacks apiece for the Tribe, with Vann forcing a fumble that Thomas recovered.
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Fairfield improved to 4-2 overall and 4-0 in the GMC with its fourth straight win. The Aviators slipped to 4-2, 2-2.
“I’m feeling great,” Indians coach Jason Krause said. “It was tough sledding out there, a physical football game. We were in a fight at halftime. We just had to man up and take care of business on both sides of the ball, and I think our kids responded.”
It was 14-7 at the break as Taimar Boykin and Vann ran for FHS touchdowns, and Sycamore’s Drew Altemuehle hit Myron Williams for a 33-yard score.
Fairfield pushed its lead to 21-7 on Chico Robinson’s 6-yard TD run with 3:37 left in the third quarter. That was followed by the key sequence of the night for the Aviators.
First, Jonathan Malek had a 62-yard touchdown burst negated by a penalty. The hosts remained alive on that drive and advanced to the Indians 1-yard line, but Vann dropped Malek for a 9-yard loss on fourth-and-goal to open the fourth stanza.
“That has been a bugaboo for us all year, our short yardage on the goal line,” Sycamore coach Scott Dattilo said. “We had a feeling we weren’t going to be able to cram it up in there for 2 or 3 yards, so we tried to go outside, and we had it blocked well. We just didn’t get the big boy.”
It was that kind of night for the Aviators’ ground attack. Sycamore carried the ball 24 times for minus-32 yards.
“Honestly, I feel like it’s all of the above,” said Thomas, who was asked if the Tribe’s defensive success was more about athletic ability or confidence. “We feel confident coming into the game because all we do is watch film together. We talk about it and then we just talk about the problems on the sideline, and then we just finish it.”
Fairfield hasn’t been known for its running game in recent years, but that part of the Tribe’s offense is on the rise.
Even with Jutahn McClain being a game-time scratch because of a groin injury, the Indians piled up 262 rushing yards against the Aviators. Boykin rushed 21 times for 109 yards.
“Our O-line played really well. The ability to run the ball like that starts up front,” Krause said. “Boykin did great. He ran hard and picked up a couple tough first downs to chew the clock away down the stretch.
“And Tyus played really well with his feet tonight, just picking things up and moving forward. He did a really good job of staying alive and working toward the goal line with his feet and his arm and his eyes.”
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Tyus has only thrown one interception in the last five games. His rushing total represented a career high.
“I’m getting more and more comfortable with our offense every week,” Tyus said. “I can make plays with my feet and arm. Whatever the team needs me to do.”
Robinson had seven receptions for 83 yards and also totaled 46 yards on six rushes. Erick All added 57 yards on three catches.
“We were able to run the ball whenever we wanted, no matter what down,” Tyus said. “When our team needs a play, any of our skill players will make it. We’re just running behind the big O-line that we have. In my opinion, we’ve got the best O-line in the GMC, maybe the city.”
Vann and Drew Bartolovich contributed three tackles for loss apiece for the Indians. Nashon Bell and Thomas both had two.
For Sycamore, Altemuehle converted 9 of 17 passes for 164 yards. The Aviators lost two-way lineman Tate Goodyear to a knee injury in the fourth quarter — Dattilo didn’t know his status after the game.
“I was really disappointed in our play in the first half,” said Dattilo, Fairfield’s head coach from 2003 to 2005. “We had a bunch of mistakes on offense, and at the time, I didn’t think we were playing very physical defensively. It just turned out that they were that good on offense.
“Fairfield’s very good. They’re going to be a tough team to contend with down the stretch.”
The Aviators have been outscored 63-7 in losses to the Indians and Colerain, but the season is not lost. Sycamore is capable of winning out and making the Division I, Region 4 playoffs.
Last season, the Aviators were 2-4 after six weeks and finished 8-5, losing in the regional title game.
“We’re all disappointed, but we do have a lot to play for,” Dattilo said. “We’ve just all got to be better, starting with me and trickling down to the players.”
Both teams will return to action next Friday, Fairfield at home against Oak Hills and Sycamore at Hamilton.
F: Taimar Boykin 10 run (Elgin Phillips kick)
F: Malik Vann 1 run (Phillips kick)
S: Myron Williams 33 pass from Drew Altemuehle (Jacob Hasselbeck kick)
F: Chico Robinson 6 run (Phillips kick)