After picking up a big lead early, Fairview had to hang on until the final whistle.
The Eagles racked up 390 yards on the ground and defeated Lawrence County 35-21 on Friday night at Lawrence County High School.
Fairview cruised to a 28-7 first-half lead and was looking to put the game to bed early.
But Fairview coach Nathan McPeek said that while that may be the case with some teams, Lawrence County wasn’t going to roll over.
And he was right. The Bulldogs scored 14 straight points in the third quarter, but couldn’t find the game-tying score in the fourth quarter.
“Most teams we play, if we get it to 28-7 at the half, we put it in the cooler, it’s over,” McPeek said. “Give credit to them because they are a good offensive team. But I thought our defense played outstanding.”
In its first two games, Lawrence County put up more than 1,000 yards of offense. Against Fairview it could only manage 268.
Lawrence County coach Joe Cecil said Fairview’s defense took the Bulldogs out of their offensive plan after building the 21-point leader.
“They forced us to do some different things and took us out of what we normally do,” Cecil said. “They have the stuff that kills you. They have the size up front and speed in the backfield and that is a tough combination.
Fairview (2-0) started the scoring off 47 seconds into the game with junior Isaiah King ran 67 yards for the first touchdown of the game.
King finished as the game’s leading rusher, running for 106 yards on 16 carries.
After a Caleb McKnight touchdown, Fairview drove into the red zone again. The Eagles reached the five-yard line, but turned the ball over on down.
Lawrence shot itself in the foot on the next possession, losing the ball on the Bulldogs’ first fumble of the year.
“Big plays and turnovers are keys to games like this,” Cecil said. “We gave them too many plays early and turned it over early and dug ourselves too big of a hole.”
Armonde Yetts scored after the fumble for Fairview. Lawrence County then fumbled again on the ensuing kickoff — which eventually turned into another Yetts touchdown.
“That was big,” McPeek said. “And we have to do that all year long if we’re going to make a run after Week 10.”
Down 28-7 heading into the second half, Lawrence County (2-1) gave Fairview a taste of its own medicine.
The Eagles fumbled a snap, on their own 20-yard line. Lawrence recovered and followed with Derek Ferguson 11-yard touchdown run. Later in the quarter, Bulldogs’ quarterback A.J. Cyrus found receiver Timmy Dalton on for a 79-yard scoring reception to bring the Bulldogs within 28-21.
Cyrus made a nice play scrambling out the pocket, then Dalton broke two tackles to scamper into the end zone.
“Timmy is talented and A.J. just made a great throw,” Cecil said. “We expect that out of them and hopefully we can continue to make those kind of plays.”
With the score 28-21, Lawrence County (2-1) had three different chances for a game-tying drive.
But starting positions on their own 20-, 18- and 2-yard lines made it hard for the Bulldogs to sustain a drive. The third drive ended when a Cyrus pass found its way into King’s arms for an interception.
“We never could get rolling tonight,” Cecil said. “And we just never had good field position. We wanted to try to throw the ball up to Timmy a few times, but we never got into the position to do that.”
After saying quiet for most of the game, Fairview sophomore Tanner Dolen exploded in the second half. He finished with 99 yards, 77 coming in the second half. He also had the game-clinching touchdown, going 32 yards to put Fairview up 35-21 with three minutes left.
Dolen had some runs where it looked like he was stopped before the first down marker, only to see him go a few yards past it.
“I thought Tanner Dolen took over the game in the fourth quarter,” McPeek said. “Tanner is a big physical guy who can cut really well. And that’s nothing but him working in the weight room and continuing to work and get strong.”
Fairview had to be strong, as both teams we’re very physical. The game also featured 18 penalties for 166 yards. McPeek said his team is going to have to heal up and get ready for next week.
“This was a big physical game for us, we have to lick our wounds and get healthy Saturday and Sunday,” McPeek said. “We also learned a lesson in the second half that we have to finish drives and finish the team off. We are a young football team, and not as experienced as last year, and these are lessons we continue to learn.”
After picking up a big lead early, Fairview had to hang on until the final whistle.
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VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
- Fleming hangs tough to beat Lewis Fleming County locked into another fight against Lewis County, which beat the Panthers earlier this season, before winning 66-58 on Monday in Morehead. Wilder Williams posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Panthers, who face Ashland on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
- GALLERY: Ashland gets by Greenup County, will meet Fleming in region final Ashland's Steven Friley scored 21 points Monday to lead the Tomcats to an 81-61 win over Greenup County in the 16th Region semifinal in Morehead.
Kittens clamoring for more at state
Ashland girls basketball coaches went the extra mile, and a whole bunch more, to get a first-hand scouting report on the Kittens’ opponent for the State Tournament.
Head coach Bill Bradley and assistant Phil Wittich drove all the way to Henderson — 5 hours, 20 minutes one way Bradley said on the way home — to take in Sunday’s Second Region championship game.
Henderson County, playing on its home floor, defeated University Heights 67-54. The Lady Colonels went unbeaten in their region this season and are 24-5 overall.
EKC hands out hardware
The Eastern Kentucky Conference handed out its 2014 awards on Monday afternoon at a luncheon at Carter Caves.
Barracudas earn kudos from coach
Ashland Area YMCA swimmers impressed coach Ryan Ferguson from start to finish in the three-day Kentucky Y Competitive Swim League State Meet.
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- VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights