PIKEVILLE — For the first time in its 42-year history, Fairview has a football region crown.
Fairview used 625 yards rushing to defeat Pikeville, 36-14, to win the Class A, Region 4 championship on Friday night at Pikeville.
After coming up short the past two seasons at this same juncture, the Eagles finally found that elusive title.
“It’s amazing,” said Fairview senior Devon Turner. “Leadership goes a long way and you just have to believe in each other. And I’m just blessed and thankful to experience this in my last year.”
On their opening drive, it seemed the Eagles were putting themselves in a difficult situation again — they committed five penalties for total of 50 yards.
Fairview was not deterred though, finishing that drive with a 10-yard Turner touchdown to give itself a 6-0 lead.
Fairview coach Nathan McPeek credits the opening-drive touchdown to his team having regional final experience.
“When you get in the playoffs you’re going to face some adversity,” McPeek said. “Some of (the penalties) were probably unwarranted, but you have to keep playing. And I think our kids showed we’ve been in the game before and we overcame them.”
After a Pikeville three-and-out, Fairview added another score after senior fullback Chris Brewer found the end zone on a 1-yard run.
After getting the ball following another Pikeville three-and-out, Turner broke free for a 56-yard run that looked to be headed for the end zone. However, a Pikeville defender caught up to Turner and forced a fumble on the 1-yard line.
Fairview answered right back, when Mason Rutherford stepped in front of a Pikeville receiver and made a diving interception.
“Somebody better call about him playing college football,” McPeek said of Rutherford. “Mason can make plays for some schools and it’s about time some of these people look at him.”
After the interception, Turner fumbled again with Pikeville recovering. The Panthers took advantage of the mistake, with quarterback Austin Charles finding Cody Estep for a 60-yard touchdown pass.
Instead of feeling down on himself for the fumbles, Turner responded for Fairview. He found a seam for a 23-yard touchdown run on the next drive.
“As a leader, I think you have to respond to the negatives and the positives,” he said. “As a leader, I don’t want my team to see me down and see it bothers me. I want to try and stay positive.”
Turner finished with a game-high 224 yards on 18 carries. Fellow senior Elijah King added 148 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Brewer tallied 194 yards and two TDs.
And while the yards piled up for the backfield, it was their ability to break Pikeville tackles that really impressed their coach.
“Devon’s just an animal,” McPeek said. “All of our backs ran extremely well. I thought in the second half you could tell we’ve been in the weight room.”
King and Turner combined for 24 carries and 288 yards in the first half.
In the second half, Brewer carried the ball 10 times for 113 yards.
“He didn’t want to go home,” McPeek said. “That’s a senior playing his last play and he doesn’t know when that is. He played like that.”
Most of the second half saw Brewer carrying not only the ball, but also several Pikeville defenders.
During one play in the third quarter, Brewer dragged a defender five yards with the player’s hand inside his shoulder pads.
“Sled-pulling and lifting weights,” said Brewer as to the reason he didn’t go down. “I’ve been doing that my whole life. I’ve been a fullback for many years now and that’s what we have to do.”
Pikeville (7-6) was led by junior running back Chase Hall, who had 128 yards on 17 carries in the game.
Panthers coach Chris McNamee said Hall, who has been playing with a lingering back injury the entire season, helped pace Pikeville by getting tough yards when it needed them.
“Chase is a tough kid,” McNamee said. “He toughed it up and got some tough yards there at the end of the game. And he’s a junior so he’s coming back and we expect big things from him.”
Pikeville was in its second straight region championship game, but featured only four seniors on the young team.
After starting the season 1-5 this year, McNamee was proud his young team finished where they did.
“It was tough and they’ve grown up a lot over the past year,” McNamee said. “And to come this far, I thought they fought hard and tried their best. We just need another year in the weight room.”
Along with Fairview, this was the first region title for McPeek as a coach.
And while he savors the win, he knows it’s not about him, but it’s about the entire program throughout the years.
“It’s not me, it’s the players,” McPeek said. “We had so many players that have played for me the past few years here tonight. About our whole senior class that got beat in the regional finals last year was here.
“It’s a program win not just for the team this year, but for everybody that played for me and built this program to where it needs to be.”
Fairview (13-0) will host Hazard, last year’s state champions, next Friday in the Class A State Semifinals.
And to get the chance to play one more time in Westwood had Brewer almost speechless.
“I don’t even know,” Brewer said. “I’m just so happy right now.”