Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 23, 2012

AARON SNYDER: Eagles’ ‘D’ must muzzle Bulldogs

Aaron Snyder
The Independent

ASHLAND — The beauty of a state semifinal high school football game lies in not only the magnitude of the event, but in the fact that we have an entire week to talk about it.

The anticipatory period allows us to delve into the past, and the path that led to this point, explore the storylines and subplots involved, and look into other connections.

With most sports having quick turnarounds, football is unlike any other.

Fairview players are always given a 24-hour relaxation period — a “cool down” mode, so to speak — after a Friday night affair. By Saturday night, it’s on to the next one.

The Eagles have marched on in a businesslike, structured manner.

This week has been a little different.

They’ve never played football this late in Westwood. Also, they were out of school every day for Thanksgiving week.

So, the routine has been changed up slightly, but not enough to throw them off their game.

Hazard (9-3), however, might just have enough to accomplish that.

The Bulldogs are coming in with just six seniors on the team, so the experience thing (“they've been there before”) is a tad overrated. It’s still a factor, but not an overwhelming one.

Evan Whitaker, the senior quarterback with 2,463 total yards (2,113 passing) and 23 touchdowns, is the key.

If Hazard wins, it'll be Whitaker leading the Bulldogs to victory.

That means it's the Fairview defense’s time to shine.

How they respond to the challenge, of course along with the ever-important turnover battle, will determine if the Eagles can move on to Bowling Green.

They haven’t seen a better team than this, and they haven't seen a more prolific passing attack (Fleming County and Raceland were close).

Hazard scored just seven points a week ago, and passed for only 83 yards, but Williamsburg had the best defense in Class A (in terms of points allowed).

Fairview (13-0) saw its ‘D’ rise to the occasion in the second half against Raceland — the biggest test it's seen this season prior to tonight — but a more complete effort is needed tonight.

They're capable, no doubt.

As fast and electrifying as they can be on offense, the Eagles are just as speedy and have the ability to be as effective defensively.

Being Class A, several players play on both sides of the ball. So it's asking a lot from both teams to play perfect in this type of environment, but to win a state semifinal, close-to-perfect play is necessary.

Speaking of perfect, I remember a certain someone predicting last week's final score exactly right.

Hmm … wonder who that was? Sorry, had to boast a bit.

As for this week, I'm sticking with the Eagles. They'll put up some points with their three 1,000-yard rushers and the defense will do the job when it counts.

Fairview 26, Hazard 20.

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