Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

September 19, 2013

Another tough task for Eagles

Fairview and Hazard ready for Class A state semifinal rematch

WESTWOOD — No. 6 Hazard (1-2)at No. 5 Fairview (3-0)

Kickoff: Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Series: Hazard leads 2-1

Last Year: Fairview won 40-6 in playoffs

Radio: WLGCRadio.com; WLGC 105.7-FM at 11 p.m.

For the past few seasons the Fairview community has heard the same thing — the Eagles’ schedule is too easy. So Fairview coach Nathan McPeek has done his best to beef up the schedule.

After tough games at Lawrence County and against Bellevue, No. 5 ranked Fairview welcomes No. 6 Hazard for a Class 1A state semifinal rematch on Friday.

For the third straight week Fairview plays a team that has a legitimate chance to put a dent in the Eagles 24-game regular season winning streak. But after getting beat 55-8 by Mayfield in the state championship game last season, McPeek said he felt his team needed to improve its schedule.

“If you’re going to be a state champion you have to play good people,” McPeek said. “We got there last year and saw what a true state champion looks like (in Mayfield). We haven’t played anyone like that since I’ve been here. And we have some good teams on our schedule, so I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of challenges our kids are up against.”

The past two weeks Fairview has been in adverse situations, with Lawrence County and Bellevue almost completing comebacks against the Eagles.

McPeek was happy to see his team respond positively, especially after not facing much adversity last season — Fairview outscored opponents 687-245.

According to third-year starting offensive lineman Anthony Roark, that’s what McPeek has been preaching at practice.

“He’s been saying to reach our state championship goal you have to play a harder schedule,” Roark said. “That’s what we’re doing. I think it helps us out a lot. Because if you play teams you beat 50-0, you never get that down feeling. We’ve already had a few of those this season.”

Last week Bellevue put up 377 passing yards and 50 points against the Fairview defense. Two weeks ago Lawrence County came within a touchdown of tying Fairview before falling 35-21.

And with a 69-man roster that features only nine seniors, McPeek said it’s understandable to find themselves in those kinds of situations.

“Some of those moments are very correctable and we shouldn’t have been in those situations,” McPeek said. “At the same time they were good teaching moments for, to be honest, a young football team. We’re playing some freshmen, but we’re very sophomore and junior dominated.”

Hazard (2-1) features a balanced attack of running and passing. Junior running back Brandon Jones has 708 yards and seven touchdowns in three games. Freshman quarterback Tanner Morgan has completed 69 percent of his passes for 551 yards.

Last season Fairview and Hazard met in the Class A state semifinal in Westwood, which the Eagles won 40-6. Roark said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Hazard make it that far again this year.

“They’re just a really physical team,” Roark said. “The main thing is they know how to win, obviously because they won a state championship a couple years back. They are going to be one of the better teams we’ll face this year.”

McPeek added that the team that this Hazard team is just as good as the one that made the state semifinal last season and different from any team they faced so far this season.

“Hazard is a different kind of animal,” McPeek said. “They are going to be bigger and more physical than Bellevue. (Hazard head coach Mark) Dixon does a good job and they are very good run-pass oriented team. We’re the opposite of that. We have to get better at throwing the ball and (Hazard) knows that. We’re expecting a lot of people in the box.”

And while the passing game concerns McPeek, the coach admits the No.1 weakness his team faces is their maturity, or lack there of. He said Friday’s game could go a long way in determining how things will shape out this season.

“We have to mature and mature quickly because (Hazard) is a good football team,” McPeek said. “This is a big stepping stone with how this team is going to go. We have as much talent as we’ve had the past few seasons, it’s just we’re young.”

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