Hamilton tops Fairfield for first time since 2012

With the clock ticking down and Fairfield moving the ball, it felt all too familiar for a Hamilton team desperately trying to pull off a win in a close game.

Usually those games go the other way for the Big Blue.

This time, Hamilton stopped Indians fullback Kavi Bivins behind the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-1 at the 13-yard line with 1:03 remaining to seal a 28-25 win Friday at Virgil Schwarm Stadium. It marked the Big Blue’s first victory of the season and first against Fairfield since 2012.

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“It’s everything,” Hamilton coach Nate Mahon said. “We haven’t beaten a program like that since 2012, and I don’t care if they lost a lot of guys or not. It’s a very respectable program and very respectable coach and I’m just proud of our guys continuing to fight. We have not won many games where we are the underdog, and it’s nice to be able to do that again.”

Even Mahon admitted he didn’t want to move closer to the line of scrimmage to watch that play. Fairfield had been running the ball well the last two drives, and he knew the ball was going to Bivins. Bivins had been successful in short-distance situations all night, as he had three touchdowns inside the 3-yard line.

“I think everyone was thinking that way,” Mahon said when asked if it felt like the game was slipping away as Fairfield moved down the field. “That’s what ‘always happens around here,’ right? That’s what always happens except for Sycamore last year and this one, so if we can continue to get the ones that go our way, the whole mantra changes. It was kids buying in and continuing to rep it and have great practices and believing in themselves.”

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Hamilton two-way player Keyshawn Stephens said his heart was racing. Two weeks ago in the opener, the Big Blue had lost a close game against Princeton in a similar situation.

Three or four defensive linemen quickly got to Bivins, though, and he had nowhere to go.

“Oh my gosh, it’s amazing,” said Stephens, who finished with 165 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and six tackles from the cornerback position. “First win of the year. We’ve been working so hard. It’s been the best week of practice we’ve had all year, so we knew what we were getting into this week. We came out a little slow in the third quarter but we picked it back up in the fourth quarter. I knew we were going to step up.”

Bivins opened the scoring to give Fairfield a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but Hamilton answered with two touchdowns in the next period and remained ahead for good even though the Big Blue opened the second half with a botched punt attempt on the first drive.

The teams traded touchdowns after that with Fairfield getting a two-point conversion after one Bivins' score to make it a three-point game. His final touchdown ended the scoring with 8:56 left.

“We had a chance to make a play at the end, and we didn’t make the play,” Fairfield coach Jason Krause said. "They made the play, and that was the ball game. Our kids fought and battled and came out short.

“I felt like things were going well for us on that drive,” he added. “It kind of felt like we had them tired and we were able to run the ball pretty well the last two series, actually. I thought we had their two-way guys sucking wind a little bit. That’s why we went for it, and I just felt like we had the line of scrimmage controlled the last two drives.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Stephens ran well all night but it was his fourth-down carry for a 32-yard touchdown that proved key in making sure Hamilton didn’t lose control in the third quarter. That extended the lead to 21-10 with 5:59 left in the quarter.

Hamilton’s final touchdown was a 20-yard pass from Quincy Simms-Marshall to Breon Ishmail on third-and-18 with four seconds left in the third quarter. Ishmail finished with 61 yards and two touchdowns on three catches.

“You could sense the tide turning to make plays,” Mahon said. “The Princeton game didn’t go our way, but we were in positions to win all night and I could just see the growth and the maturity in all our guys when we started to make plays like that.”

Krause said his young team just needs “to learn to bounce back.” Fairfield has another tough game coming up with unbeaten Lakota West on the schedule for next week.

“There’s going to be tough losses, there’s going to be great wins and you’ve got to learn and develop from both situations,” Krause said.

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