Mason Rutherford and Elijah King had no doubt they would play on the same team again, and Fairview couldn’t be happier.
The two seniors, who have known each other since sixth grade, have been through a lot this year. But they are glad they went through it together.
When asked to describe each other, the two responded in unison, “Brother.”
“I love him too, and would protect him against anything,” Rutherford said. “I couldn’t ask for a better best friend or person to be around me.”
The two came to Fairview this May, and have been key cogs in the Eagles’ run to Friday’s Class A state championship game against Mayfield.
King and Rutherford have had their share of controversy since transferring.
According to court documents, the two had an altercation with another minor while at their old school, Huntington High. This stemmed from an allegation that the other minor had assaulted a family member of one of the two.
King and Rutherford were expelled, but the penalty was eventually lifted.
After the ordeal at Huntington High, the two wanted to find a new place to call home. That’s where the small school in Westwood came in.
“We checked with other schools, but we always heard about how successful Fairview was,” Rutherford said. “It was close to our friends, it wasn’t a dramatic move and we saw the success they had. We wanted to be a part of it.”
“A lot of schools we checked with wouldn’t accept us,” King said. “We came to Fairview and they accepted us. We talked to Nate (McPeek) and he said he would accept us. We knew right then he was a good coach.”
McPeek wanted the two to know that Fairview would be there for them, but he had some ground rules. The same rules everyone else on the team had to abide by.
“We’re here for them, and for them to learn the ropes from our program,” McPeek said. “I told them we’re going to work hard and get in the weight room. We’re not going to skip practice, we’re not going to skip lifting sessions and they’ve been all in with that.”
Heading into the season, the two had to not only get used to a new system, but also had to get used to playing with new teammates.
Both admitted it wasn’t perfect on the first day, but they said it still felt like a family atmosphere when they arrived in Westwood.
“It took some time,” King said. “But most of the team took us in like family, and since day one we’ve been family ever since.”
“We’re just trying to find a place to play football and trying to find a home,” Rutherford added. I’ve talked to a couple of backup running backs and they said it’s perfect, they just want to win.”
McPeek said Fairview’s returning players not only accepted King and Rutherford, they accepted the idea of allowing them into what he calls a “Fairview Family.”
“You’re not 14-0 without a family atmosphere,” McPeek said. “That’s one thing we created, and that’s one thing I really believe in. We have each other’s backs and Mason and Elijah have each others back along with everyone else.”
Because of a Kentucky High School Athletic Association ruling, the two were deemed ineligible at the beginning of the season. They missed the first three games.
King and Rutherford could only watch as their team won those first three games. And while they were happy the team was winning, they were also broken up that they couldn’t contribute to the team.
“It was tough watching our senior season go by so slowly,” Rutherford said. “It was good that I had Elijah with me and that the team was winning. But it was hard to not be out there helping my team.”
A temporary court injunction filed in September allowed the two to finally get on the field.
Then in early November, a Boyd County judge ruled in favor of King and Rutherford, deeming them eligible to play the remainder of the season.
The two haven’t looked back since.
“We’re here now,” Rutherford said. “Now that the court and all that is done with, we finally jumped over that hump. It’s time to focus and win a state championship.”
Both players have been huge pieces in Fairview’s run to state during the 11 games they have been eligible.
King has rushed for 1,333 yards and scored 20 touchdowns, including three trips to the end zone in the Eagles’ semifinal win against Hazard.
Rutherford, the team’s top receiving threat with 567 yards, is also a contributor to the Eagles’ defense.
McPeek said there is no doubt the two are athletic kids. But while the on the field stats get the attention, it’s their attention to detail that really impressed McPeek.
“They’re very smart football players who understand schemes and game plans,” McPeek said. “They do a lot of film study. On Sundays they ask if they can get game film because they want to watch it. That’s a rarity for a high school kid to act that way.”
According to McPeek, both are looking to play football in college with some schools showing interest in the two seniors.
King and Rutherford agreed that if they had the chance, they would like to play at the next level together.
While that remains to be seen, they know they have at least one game left with each other.
“This could be my last game with Elijah and that’s a big deal,” Rutherford said. “We might not get to go to the same college. I want to remember my last game with him in my last high school game ever, and that we won a state championship.”
“All of the seniors are going to go hard,” King said. “Hopefully we can bring that state championship back to Westwood.”
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658.