Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 24, 2012

AARON SNYDER: Savoring moment a little longer

Aaron Snyder
The Independent

WESTWOOD — How monumental was Fairview’s state semifinal victory on Friday night?

Eagles coach Nathan McPeek is throwing his weekly 24-hour rule out the window following a 40-6 throttling of Hazard.

“We’re going to enjoy this one for 48 hours,” said the 30-year-old coach, who has his team playing its best football of, forget the season, all-time.

“I can’t ask for anything better,” McPeek said. “I want the players to get the credit.”

The players, while many young and some not born-and-bred Eagles, seem to truly get it. They have a refreshing understanding of what it means to have just broken the mold of a program that began in 1970.

From seniors, such as Cody Sammons ...

“It’s insane. (Some of us) who have always played together, we’ve dreamed about this, going to a state championship game,” said the starting center. “Everybody was doubting us, nobody thought we could do it. But here we are.”

... to freshmen, such as Tanner Dolen, who scored two touchdowns on Friday ...

“This is a great team, it’s like family,” he said.

... to newcomers, like senior Mason Rutherford, who was quickly stripped of stranger status by Fairview after joining the Eagles this past summer.

“You see the look on these people’s faces just because we’re going to State, and it just makes your heart pound,” Rutherford said. “I’ve never felt a feeling like this.”

What usually might take years to fully comprehend, the players all seem to firmly grasp what they’ve just accomplished — a second straight undefeated season, back-to-back district titles and school firsts in a regional championship and state semifinal win — and its resonating impact.

Westwood is riding a tidal wave.

Scott McIntyre, a former player and an assistant coach within the program for 20-plus years, has enjoyed the entire ride. To get one step from the top, well, that’s nearly indescribable for the 1989 graduate.

“I’ve been chasing this for so long,” an emotional McIntyre blurted. “I can’t even talk. What we’ve done is phenomenal. This is the greatest feeling in the world. This brings us that much closer together, people are crying and hugging one another.”

Senior fullback/linebacker Chris Brewer said the team’s unique awareness is a reflection of the Eagles’ coaches.

It’s ingrained in them from the get-go, that their supporters should drive them to be better. But when they win, of which they’ve done a lot lately — Fairview is 53-13 under McPeek — they have to remained focused.

Now at 14-0, the Eagles started off a little rocky. They had scares from both East Carter and Fleming County in Weeks 2 and 3 of the season. Last season, Fairview never even trailed until its loss in the regional championship game against Pikeville. The early adversity, Brewer said, helped this year’s bunch.

“This year we had to pick it up and come together as a team, and to peak right here as we are,” Brewer said.

“We’re really good about putting the last (game) behind us,” added the three-time 1,000-yard rusher. “After last week at Pikeville (a 36-14 win) we could’ve had a big head. It’s Coach McPeek’s 24-hour rule, it really is. He reminds us all week that we cannot put our head into the past.”

When informed of the extra full day of wallowing in the joy of Friday’s sweet victory, responded Brewer: “We might need it.”

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.

com or (606) 326-2664.