Dillon Defense Dowses Griffins’ Championship Hopes

Dillon’s Anthony Blue (3) is stopped short of the goal line as Fairfield’s Kevin Bannister (55) strips the ball free.

Fairfield Central’s championship run of 2012 came to a crashing halt Friday night, dashed against that rock-solid behemoth out of the Lower State, Dillon High School. In their first state title appearance since 1997, the Griffins fell behind early at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium in Columbia and could not claw their way out of the hole, falling to the Wildcats 21-6 in the Class 2A/Division 1 championship game.

“We just couldn’t make enough plays,” Griffins head coach Demetrius Davis said. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to make plays to win these kinds of games. If we could have made a play to get things rolling – we’d run the ball down the field, get into the red zone and then get a tackle for a loss. We just didn’t do a good job of executing today.”

Dillon was led to the Promised Land by freshman quarterback sensation Avery McCall, who threw for 128 yards and three touchdowns, including a 23-yarder on the ‘Cats’ first possession. McCall hit Ereon Hayes in the end zone on a fourth-and-3 with 7:05 to go in the first quarter to give Dillon the early lead.

The Griffins responded on their ensuing drive, taking the ball from their own 41 to the Dillon 17 in three plays. From there, Damien Bell delivered the goods, hammering his way into the end zone for six. The point after wobbled wide, and the Griffins trailed 7-6.

That’s where the score would stay until midway through the second quarter, as the two heavy hitters felt each other out on the artificial turf.

A fumble recovery by Antonio Lewis at the Fairfield 43 gave the Griffins the first of several golden opportunities to rattle Dillon’s collective cage, but Fairfield gave the ball right back three plays later when Dorian Davis intercepted a DeAndre Belton pass at the Dillon 18, returning it to the 38 before being brought to the ground. Where the Griffins could not capitalize, the Wildcats followed through. Running back Anthony Blue plowed through the Griffin defense, pushing the Wildcats to the Fairfield 33. On first-and-10, the Wildcats called the reverse-pitch-pass, with McCall eventually hitting Blue with a 33-yard touchdown.

The Griffins, now trailing 14-6, would see another promising drive end in frustration on their next possession. Carried by the legs of Belton and Bell, the Griffins surged from their own 26 to the Dillon 35 in eight plays. Bell then broke free and darted to the Dillon 17, and it appeared as if Fairfield would soon close in on the Dillon lead. But Belton was picked off at the goal line, again by Davis, who returned the ball to the Dillon 27 with 3:15 left in the half.

The Wildcats wasted little time in bringing the hammer down, driving the ball all the way to the Fairfield 18 before the Griffin defense bowed its back, forcing a fourth-and-5. With 29 seconds to play, Dillon rolled the dice, and McCall, eluding a sack, found Ezra Lighty in the end zone.

It would be the final points of the game, for either team.

“He (McCall) is a good player. I’m scared that he’s a freshman,” Davis said. “He made a throw in the last couple of seconds in the first half that I hadn’t seen in a long time. This kid is about as poised as I’ve seen in a long time. Right now, he’s just having fun. I don’t think he realized the magnitude of this game tonight.”

The Griffins had opportunities in the second half to get back in the game, but couldn’t find the power switch to what had, for most of the season, been an electrifying offense. Dillon’s defense came up big in key situations, holding the Griffins short on a forth-and-1 at the Dillon 20 with 6:53 to go in the third quarter, as well as on fourth-and-8 at the Dillon 18 early in the fourth quarter and fourth-and-3 from the Griffin 38 with 6:42 to go in the game. The Griffins could also make no hay from two Dillon fumbles in the fourth quarter.

“It’s not like we didn’t have our opportunities,” Davis said. “Our defense played good enough for us to win this football game.”

Indeed, the Griffin defense shut out the Wildcats in the second half – but the Dillon defense returned the favor.

“We just couldn’t help them on offense,” Davis said. “All we needed was to get one score to open that lid in the second half and I think we could have won that football game.”

The Griffins finish the season at 11-3, holding the Region III crown and the Upper State title. With a solid core returning for 2013, Davis is confident moving forward.

“My kids never flinched,” Davis said. “They never quit. This is a moment our kids can learn from and come back and get to work. This was a good experience for my young kids. We’ll be back.”

DHS 7-14-0-0 21

FCHS 6-0-0-0 6

First Quarter

DH—Ereon Hayes 23 pass from Avery McCall. Tara Grimsley kick. (7:05)

FC—Damien Bell 17 run. Kick failed. (5:53)

Second Quarter

DH—Anthony Blue 33 pass from A. McCall. T. Grimsley kick. (6:36)

DH—Ezra Lighty 18 pass from A. McCall. T. Grimsley kick. (0:29)

Team Stats

FC             DH

First Downs                  15                 17

Rushes/Yards            44-216       47-319

Passing Yards                94              128

C-A-INT                   10-22-3        12-18-0

Fumbles/Lost             1-0                5-3

Penalties/Yards        5-26               6-51

Time of Possession   21:42            26:18

Individual Stats

RUSHING: FC—DeAndre Belton 16-68. Damien Bell 19-65. Joseph Young 7-51. Raheim McDaniel 1-0. DH—Anthony Blue 24-202. Joe Blue 16-96. Avery McCall 5-12.

PASSING: FC—DeAndre Belton 10-22-3INT. DH—Avery McCall 12-18-0INT 3TD.

RECEIVING: FC—Kewaun Squirewell 3-12. Raheim McDaniel 3-38. Kevin Workman 1-18. Javin George 1-11. Tyren White 1-9. Javaris Cook 1-4. Damien Bell 1-2. DH—Anthony Blue 3-39. Breon Page 2-40. Ezra Lighty 2-26. Pete Ingram 2-0. Ereon Hayes 1-23.

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