Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 18, 2013

No small game

Defense, rushing fortify Fairview streak vs. Rams

Aaron Snyder
The Independent

ASHLAND — During its current three-game winning streak over Raceland, Fairview’s had two constants: at least 250 rushing yards on offense; and at least three interceptions on defense.

To run its roll to an unprecedented four in a row over the Rams, Fairview must continue to cook up a similar recipe, according to coach Nathan McPeek.

“If you look back at the last several years in this game, it’s always turnovers and penalties that decide it,” McPeek said.

Raceland, ranked No. 7 in Class A in the latest Associated Press poll, hosts the third-ranked Eagles tonight at 7:30 at Rams Stadium.

Fairview (7-0) is coming off its “best game of the year,” said McPeek, a 44-7 defeat of Paintsville. It racked up 369 total yards of offense and held Paintsville to 169.

Raceland (5-2) rocked Nicholas County, 51-8, and was off the week prior. Adam Elkins and Connor Messer highlighted an air attack that supplied four touchdowns.

While Paintsville is much improved as is Fairview’s overall schedule, McPeek admitted “Raceland’s a way different animal.”

The Eagles’ focus has been sharp in practice, said the coach who holds a 3-3 record against the District 7 rival.

Raceland coach T.J. Maynard has also been impressed with the Rams’ approach, calling it “businesslike.”

Fairview is on pace to produce three 900-yard rushers for the third straight season. Tanner Dolen (771 yards), Kurtlen Brown (725) and Armonde Yetts (663) have 25 touchdowns between them.

Paving the way to huge yardage has been a powerful offensive line, monstrous for Class A. Raceland offers experience and size in the trenches, too.

Individual matchups along the front line should draw some intrigue. Cody McPeek, Fairview’s junior 6-foot-4, 310-pound left tackle garnering major Division I attention, will clash against Raceland’s Mac Boggs (6-4, 250). The Rams’ Alec Risner (6-1, 285) will take on Fairview right tackle Anthony Roark (6-5, 295).

“Boggs and Risner are just unreal,” McPeek said. “Those will be some good matchups.”

Raceland brings more balance on offense, with 1,890 rushing yards and 1,135 through the air.

Elkins, a senior and third-year starting quarterback, has tallied 975 passing yards and 13 touchdowns to go with just four interceptions.

“It all starts with Adam,” Maynard said. “He’s really developed. (Quarterbacks coach and former Raceland QB) Scott Grizzle said you usually see a major jump between junior and senior years. That’s been the case with Adam. He’s always been a great leader for us, but he’s more of a weapon than last year.”

Elkins has been finding receivers Connor Messer and Rodney Vance with fluidity. Each has 21 catches, with Messer having 557 yards and eight TDs.

Daylin Beach leads Rams rushers with 622 yards and seven scores on 73 carries. Kane Snyder has 416 yards on the ground.

The Rams are without senior Zack Litteral, who rushed for 83 yards against the Eagles a year ago. Litteral suffered both tibia and fibula fractures last Friday.

“It’s very unfortunate for him,” Maynard said. “He’s such a hard-working kid.”

Fairview defensive tackles Aaron Fitchpatrick (broken leg) and Billy Davis (back) are out for the season, as is Isaiah King (broken collarbone). King could return for the playoffs.

Despite King’s absence, Fairview’s secondary has performed well — the Eagles gave up only 90 yards on 17 passing attempts against Paintsville.

Some teams, such as Bellevue and Pike County Central, have managed great passing success against Fairview this season.

The Eagles picked the Rams off three times last season in a 40-27 win. Fairview’s defense also forced a fumble and blocked a punt in the contest that was tied 21-21 late in the first half.

Fairview’s defense also enjoyed a flurry of takeaways in the 2010 and 2011 meetings, including seven total interceptions between those games.

The Eagles’ special teams play has been a strong point so far, helping make up for the departures of some key players from last year’s state runner-up team.

Returners Brown, Fred Hightower and Jalen Thomas present plenty of speed, which means concern for Maynard.

“I don’t know if we’ve seen anybody with multiple return guys with that much speed,” Maynard said.

Fairview is going for its 29th consecutive regular season victory.

Maynard said both teams have agreed to shake hands after the game. The KHSAA issued a directive last week discouraging postgame handshakes due to several incidents occurring after games over the past few years.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.