WESTWOOD The Fairview Eagles used an opportunistic defense, a veteran running back and big plays from a couple of newcomers to grind out a 20-6 over Morgan County in their season opener Friday night.
On the Cougars' opening play from scrimmage, the Fairview defense recovered a fumble at the 33-yard line. It would be the first of four takeaways on the night for the Eagles.
The Eagles appeared to take a quick 6-0 lead on a scamper by sophomore quarterback Tanner Johnson but a holding call took the touchdown off the board. It was one of seven penalties for 60 yards on the night for the Eagles.
The majority of the first was dominated by both defenses. Safety Cody Caldwell picked off a Morgan County pass and returned it 47 yards to the Cougar 33 to set up another scoring opportunity for the Eagles. Running back Landon McDowell broke a 17-yard run to the Cougar 14, but once again the drive stalled for the Fairview offense.
The Eagle defense stood tall once again and stopped Morgan County on downs at their own 33. This is where the veteran Gracin Smith took over for the Eagles.
He carried the ball four times for 37 yards behind the left side of the experienced Fairview offensive line. The newcomer Johnson, in his first football action since middle school, found his favorite target of the night, Jeremy Harper, streaking behind the defense for a 31-yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles a 6-0 lead with 20.2 seconds left in the first half. Johnson then found Gage Crooks for the two-point conversion and 8-0 halftime lead.
“Tanner did a great job on the first touchdown to Jeremy. He wasn’t the primary receiver on the play. It shows a lot to make that play in your first varsity game at quarterback," second-year Eagle coach Daniel Armstrong said.
The tandem of Smith and McDowell came out running hard to start the second half. The two combined for 22 yards on four plays to move inside Morgan County territory before the Eagles' only turnover occurred to give the Cougars excellent field position at the Fairview 48.
Fullback Jordan Sexton came off the bench and bulldozed his way for 39 yards to the Eagles 4-yard line. Two plays later, Sexton scored the only Cougar touchdown of the night on a 2-yard run but his conversion run was stopped to keep the score at 8-6.
The two teams held each other on downs before the Eagles started their second scoring drive of the night. Smith, McDowell and Caldwell each ripped off runs of over 10 yards to set up the Eagles at the Cougar 14-yard line to end the third quarter. On the first play of the final stanza, Johnson found Harper for a touchdown pass down the sideline for a 14-6 lead. A penalty after play proved to be costly for the Eagles.
The Cougars returned the kickoff into Fairview territory and embarked on a drive to try to tie the score. Junior Daniel Trussell went 33 yards in just four carries to set the Cougars up at the Eagle 6-yard line. A Cougar penalty set them back five yards and then Eagle defense capitalized on a botched option pitch for their third takeaway of the night.
The ensuing drive began at the 7:39 mark and it was just what Armstrong wanted to see — Smith and McDowell continue to churn out yardage and burn time off the clock. The 10-play drive was stopped at the Morgan County 41, but Harper then pinned the Cougars back at their own 6-yard line with a perfectly-placed 35-yard punt.
On the Cougars first play, newcomer Caldwell grabbed his second interception of the night and sprinted in from 22 yards out to seal the 20-6 win for the homestanding Eagles.
“I coached Cody in basketball last season and every time I saw him I thought he would be the perfect safety for our team. I am really a proponent of two-sport athletes. He is a hard-nosed kid and we are glad he decided to play this season,” said a smiling Armstrong.
Smith led the Eagles with 110 yards rushing on 13 carries, complemented by McDowell with 54 yards on nine carries. Johnson finished 4 of 8 passing for 51 yards and two touchdowns. Harper snagged all four passes for 51 yards and a pair of scores.
Armstrong was pleased with the play of McDowell. “Landon is hard working kid. He played all of the offensive snaps tonight and gave us some great inside running.”
The Eagles return to action next Friday as Greenup County makes a rare visit to Westwood.
Morgan County 0 0 6 0 6
Fairview 0 8 0 12 20
F- Jeremy Harper 31 yd pass from Tanner Johnson (Johnson to Gage Crooks) 20.2
MC- Jordan Sexton 2 yd run (Run Failed) 7:01
F- Harper 14 yd pass from Johnson (Pass Failed) 11:53
F- Cody Caldwell 22 yd INT Return (Kick Failed)
First Downs 9 13
Rushing Yards 113 183
Comp-Att-Int 8-15-2 4-8-0
Passing Yards 50 51
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 2-1
Punts Avg 0-0.0 2-20.0
Penalties-Yards 1-5 7-60
Morgan County Rushing:Sexton 5-42, Trussell 5-36, Fugate 7-23, Lindon 4-5, Potter 2-(-3), Sandifer 4-(-4), Conley 1-(-12)
Fairview Rushing: Smith 13-110, McDowell 9-54, Johnson 8-13, Caldwell 2-6, Miller 1-1, Harper 4-(-1)
Morgan County Passing: Potter 8-15 for 50
Fairview Passing: Johnson 4-8 for 51
Morgan County receiving: Sandifer 4-33, Lindon 3-13, Trussell 1-4
Fairview Receiving: Harper 4-51