After the game, Fairview coach Nathan McPeek told his team they are 1-0. He then said it’s time to get better.
Fairview defeated East Carter 27-6 on Friday night at East Carter High School to extend its regular season winning streak to 22 games.
The Eagles had a slow start though, having 22 yards of total offense in the first quarter. But McPeek said some kinks are expected in the opener.
“Honestly, you could tell it was our first game,” McPeek said. “I told them after the game congratulations on being 1-0, but we have to stay humble and hungry. We got to see a jump because our schedule doesn’t get any easier.”
Fairview did open the game with a spark after sophomore Kurtlen Brown took the opening kickoff to the end zone for an 89-yard touchdown.
After letting Fairview get points on the scoreboard early, East Carter coach Zack Moore said it would have been easy for his team to give up. But the Raiders’ defense kept Fairview from scoring the rest of the quarter.
“I think it’s how you respond to what happens,” Moore said. “I thought we responded well, because that six-spot stayed up there for awhile. It could have been easy for us to go in the tank and not respond right there, but we did. And I’m real proud of that.”
But as the game went on, East Carter fell into a problem that plagued the Raiders last week against Raceland — a lack of depth.
With much of his team playing both ways, Moore watched as Fairview’s big running backs beat up on the Raiders’ defense.
“Our problem right now is we have a lot of guys playing both ways,” Moore said. “And we started to wear down as the game went on. Fairview is just big and physical and they are going take advantage of it when you get tired.”
Late in the second quarter, Fairview used a 60-yard drive to get back on the scoreboard. The drive was capped off by Caleb McKnight’s 1-yard touchdown.
After a long first half, it was going to be tough for East Carter to stop the 5-foot-10, 240-pound fullback from getting in the end zone. McKnight finished with 64 yards on 12 carries.
Even after drives like that, McPeek still sees room for improvement.
“We weren’t coming off the ball like I wanted to offensively,” McPeek said. “We were tip-toeing in the first half. That’s typical early in the season. If we’re doing that late in October I’d be concerned.”
In the second half, Fairview was able to showcase one its main strengths — a talented stable of running backs.
Leading the way was sophomore Tanner Dolen, who was the game’s leading rusher with 15 carries and 102 yards. He scored early in the third quarter after taking a direct snap 35 yards into the end zone.
Isaiah King ran 70 yards, Jalen Thomas had a big 24-yard run and Armonde Yetts had a 12-yard touchdown run.
After losing so much in the backfield, McPeek was thrilled to see each running back bring something to the game.
“I need to do a better job of rotating all those guys,” he said. “We may not be as experienced as we were last year in the backfield, but we have a lot of weapons.”
East Carter did get a 29-yard touchdown from junior Jordan Ratcliff.
After his original hole closed, Ratcliff found a new one on the line, broke three tackles and outran the the Fairview secondary for the score.
“He kept his eyes up, his pads low and his feet moving,” Moore said. “When you do that as a running back you’re going to make some plays. Jordan has been a great running back for us, but the bad thing is he has to play both ways.”
Along with the touchdown, Ratcliff had 40 yards on six carries. Chase Steele was the Raiders leading rusher with 43 yards on eight carries.
East Carter gained 199 yards of total offense, and along with the defense, Moore is seeing some improvement in his team heading into a bye week.
“I saw some improvement from last week,” Moore said “But there are no moral victories. When we come out here, we prepare to win, not to play close.”
For McPeek, whose team is coming off a Class A championship game appearance, he hopes to see improvement when his team hits the practice field this week.
He said it’s going to be needed when Fairview travels to Lawrence County next week.
“They played extremely hard and I’m proud of them for that,” McPeek said. “At the same time we need to see improvement this week in practice. (Lawrence County) is going to be ready for us.”