Griffins Survive Pre-Halloween Scare, Claim Region III Crown

Fairfield Central’s Joseph Young (21) makes the cutback through Pelion’s defensive front. (Photo/DeAnna Robinson)

PELION – Fairfield Central’s back was against the wall, and their Region III title hopes were rapidly dwindling. The Pelion Panthers had mashed the Griffins all night long, hammering away at the Fairfield defense with their ball-control wing-T ground attack. Clinging to a 16-13 lead with less than three minutes left in the third quarter, the Panthers needed but a yard to move the chains and continue to grind down the Griffin defense. Lining up at their own 35, the Panthers called for the quarterback keeper, a play that Pelion’s Zach Hawkins had executed to perfection all night long.

Up until now.

The Griffins’ defensive front collapsed the Pelion line, erupted into the backfield and threw Hawkins for an 8-yard loss, forcing Pelion to bring out their punting unit for – astonishingly – the first time. It would prove to be the proverbial turning point of the game.

Compton Walker fielded the punt on the run at the Fairfield 47 and flashed untouched down the visiting sidelines, slicing into the end zone for the go-ahead score.

“Everybody was looking around waiting for someone to make a play, and Compton stepped up and made it,” Griffins’ head coach Demetrius Davis said. “That return by Compton opened it up for us. Without that return, I don’t know . . .”

The defensive stop and the explosive return ended Pelion’s domination of the Griffins and tore the lid off Fairfield Central’s scoring machine as the Griffins ultimately rattled off 26 unanswered points to lock up the 2A Region III title, 33-16.

“They were running that quarterback dive because we were in a three-man front,” Davis said. “So we went more to four hands. We put an extra D lineman in the game and that kind of closed the middle off a little bit and made them have to go to some other stuff.”

The Griffins controlled the ball for only four possessions in the first half, the fourth of which only long enough to take a knee and head to the locker room to decipher their 8-7 deficit. Fairfield’s only score of the first half came on their first possession, taking over on downs after Pelion’s 6-minute, 55-yard opening drive ran out of gas at the Griffins’ 30. Fairfield then used nine plays and a little more than three minutes before Joseph Young blasted into the end zone from 10 yards out. Walker’s kick put the Griffins up 7-0, a lead that would stand until midway through the second frame.

A promising Griffin drive was snuffed out in the second quarter when a DeAndre Belton pass was picked off by Pelion’s Freddie Phillips at the Panthers’ 45 and returned to the Griffin 37. The normally clock killing Panthers then used just two plays to take the lead with Ervin Green breaking off a 34-yard touchdown run. Phillips tacked on the 2-point conversion to put Pelion up 8-7 with 6:30 left in the half, where it would stay until the break.

Taking the opening possession of the second half, the Griffins appeared to be reinvigorated. From their own 40, the Griffins used seven plays to shove the ball down to the Pelion 5. A penalty, however, pushed the Griffins back to the 20 where the drive was put to rest by a Pelion defense that could, themselves, smell the region crown. Taking over on downs, the Panthers banged away at the Fairfield defense, chiseling their way to the Griffin 25 whence Hawkins broke free for the 25-yard touchdown run on the keeper up the middle. The 2-point conversion put Pelion up 16-7 with 5:23 to play in the third.

The tide showed its first signs of turning on the next Griffin possession, a trademark two-play, 17-second scoring drive. Taking over at their own 33 after the kick, Fairfield rapidly reached the Pelion 40 on a 27-yard pass from Belton to Tyren White. On the next snap, Belton found Kewaun Squirewell in stride, loping into the end zone as he cradled the 40-yard scoring strike. The point after was botched, but the Griffins cut the Pelion lead to 16-13 with 5:02 left in the quarter. Walker’s punt return at the end of the next Pelion drive shifted the Griffin offense into gear and the flood gates opened.

“I’m happy that we were able to face a little adversity,” Davis said. “It’s been a little while since we’ve been in an adverse situation. I wanted to see how the team would respond to adversity, and they came out and they believed they can win.”

Fairfield’s defense finally solved the Pelion riddle, thwarting the next three Panther drives in successive three-and-out possessions. Fairfield’s offense, meanwhile, returned to form. Taking their next possession at mid-field following a Panther punt, Belton capped a four-play, 50-yard drive on the keeper, accelerating into the end zone from 33 yards out. Walker’s kick made it 27-16 with 10:48 to go in the game. Belton added the finishing touches on the next Griffin possession, hitting Javaris Cook with a 24-yard touchdown pass with 7:16 to play.

“I knew this was going to be a four-quarter game,” Davis said. “I kind of felt it. I felt we needed it. This was one of the first team wins we’ve had where it took all three phases of the game for us to get it done.”

With the region title now in hand, the Griffins get their final playoff tune-up next week at North Central.

 

FCHS – 7-0-13-13 – 33

PHS – 0-8-8-0 – 16

First Quarter

FC – Joseph Young 10-run. Compton Walker kick. (2:36)

Second Quarter

P – Ervin Green 34-run. Freddie Phillips 3-run. (6:30)

Third Quarter

P – Zach Hawkins 25-run. Daniel Hawkins 3-pass from Z. Hawkins. (5:23)

FC – Kewaun Squirewell 40-pass from DeAndre Belton. Run failed. (5:02)

FC – Compton Walker 53 punt return. C. Walker kick. (2:36)

Fourth Quarter

FC – D. Belton 33-run. C. Walker kick. (10:48)

FC – Javaris Cook 24-pass from D. Belton. Run failed. (7:16)

 

FC                                           P

First Downs                                        16                                           11

Rushes/Yards                                    35-218                                   46-215

Passing Yards                                     144                                         26

C-A-I                                                      10-14-1                                 4-6-0

Penalties/Yards                                                7-75                                       4-35

Fumbles/Lost                                    0-0                                          0-0

Third Down Conv.                            5-7                                          2-10

Fourth Down Conv.                         0-2                                          1-4

Rushing: FC – Larry G. Bell 13-65, Joseph Young 9-51, DeAndre Belton 11-89, Javahnne Neal 2-13. P – Ervin Green 16-69, Zach Hawkins 15-67, Freddie Phillips 10-69, Isaiah Jenkins 6-10.

Receiving: FC – Tyren White 2-39, Kewaun Squirewell 4-74, Tavaris Cook 2-8, Javaris Cook 1-24, Joseph Young 1-10. P – Freddie Phillips 1-5, Daniel Hawkins 1-8, Isaiah Jenkins 2-13.

Passing: FC – DeAndre Belton 10-14, 144 yards, INT, 2 TD. P – Zach Hawkins 4-6, 26 yards.

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