WESTWOOD Lewis County coach Josh Hughes and Fairview coach Daniel Armstrong proved to be prophetic in their comments prior to the Lions-Eagles game Friday night.
Both stated turnovers would play a key role in the matchup, and both were correct. The opportunistic Eagles turned three turnovers into 18 points en route to a 38-28 win over the winless Lions, but it wasn’t easy.
Fairview’s Gage Crooks scooped up a botched option by the Lions in the first minute of the game, and he scampered into the end zone for a quick 6-0 Eagle lead.
Fans may have thought this could be a rout for the Eagles, but the Lions had other ideas. Following an excellent kickoff return by Ethan Sizemore, the Lions went 45 yards on eight plays, all on the ground, capped by Sizemore’s 2-yard touchdown run, and the score was knotted at 6.
The teams exchanged scores on the game’s next two drives. Quarterback Jack Roy scooted down the right sideline from 14 yards out to give Fairview another lead at 12-6. The resilent Lions bounced back with another touchdown run from Sizemore. His second touchdown of the night came from 6 yards, and at the end of one quarter, the Lions led 14-12 on the two-point conversion ran in by Moses Jackson.
The Lions forced a punt by the Eagles and began another drive, only to get bitten again by the turnover bug at the Eagles’ 37-yard line. The Lion defense rose up the next two plays to force a third-and-15 for the Eagles. The the game’s biggest play occurred. Roy found freshman Jeremy Harper on a post route for a 73-yard touchdown pass to take a 18-14 lead Fairview did not relinquish.
Armstrong was impressed by the play the freshman Harper made to score the pivotal touchdown.
“The touchdown play was very important for two reasons,” Armstrong said. “Jack was very poised in the pocket and planted his feet and drove the ball. Harper made an unreal run after the catch to score the touchdown. It was a very special play for a freshman, something you can’t really teach.”
After a Lewis County punt, the Eagles extended their lead to 26-14 on a 7-yard run to the end zone by junior Gracin Smith.
The third quarter saw both defenses play solid football. The Eagles ventured into the red zone twice in the third stanza, converting another touchdown run by Smith to make the score 32-14 heading to the fourth quarter.
The Lions once again refused to give up as Jackson broke off a 50-yard run to set up the Lions’ third score of the night. Quarterback Dylan Hardy dove in from 2 yards out to cut the Eagles’ lead to 32-20 with 9:27 left.
The Eagles, who had three scoring drives of under two minutes, decided to grind out a decisive drive. Starting at their own 17-yard line, the Eagles drove 83 yards on 13 plays, consuming 6:29 off the clock in the process, behind the running of Smith and senior Jay Ferguson.
Ferguson, playing his last home game at Fairview, motored in from 14 yards to give the Eagles a commanding 38-20 lead with 2:30 left to play. The drive brought a huge smile to Armstrong’s face.
“I played in the wing-T and the I, and I absolutely love seeing us run downhill behind our offensive line,” Armstrong said. “It was great to see us grind it out in what turned out to be a winning drive.”
The Lions, in their last game of the season, did not give up. Another long run by Jackson set up the game’s final score. Dalton Frye got into the scoring column on a 16-yard TD run and Jackson ran in the conversion to make the final score 38-28. A failed onside kick by the Lions put Fairview in victory formation as they secured their third win of the season after going winless a year ago.
The Lions’ final loss of the season overshadowed a great performance by Jackson, who finished with 185 yards on 18 carries. The Lions churned out 277 yards rushing but lost three fumbles in the process. Fairview’s hard-running Smith was effective with 137 yards and two TDs on 18 totes.
Roy was 6 of 23 passing for 156 yards but made the completions count to Harper. The speedy wide receiver had two catches for 110 yards.
Armstrong was pleased with the progress he has seen in his first year at the helm of his alma mater.
“Winning is now the expectation here,” he said. “Getting these three wins this year is big. Football is not a one-year turnaround deal. It is a five-, six-, seven-year deal if you want to build an elite program.”
The Eagles will face an elite Class A program next Thursday night at 7 p.m. in Paintsville. The Tigers are ranked fourth in Class A by the AP and own a lopsided win over Fairview in the regular season.
LEWIS CO. 14 0 0 14 — 28
FAIRVIEW 12 14 6 6 — 38
F — Gage Crooks 25 fumble return (Run failed) 11:38
LC — Ethan Sizemore 2 run (Run failed) 7:53
F — Jack Roy 14 run (Pass failed) 6:34
LC — Sizemore 6 run (Moses Jackson run) 1:37
F — Jeremy Harper 73 pass from Roy (Run failed) 5:46
F — Gracin Smith 7 run (Roy run) 48.3
F — Smith 1 run (Run failed) 6:24
LC — Dylan Hardy 2 run (Pass failed) 9:27
F — Jay Ferguson 14 run (Run failed) 2:30
LC — Dalton Frye 16 run (Jackson run) 42.7
First Downs 16 21
Rushing Yards 277 220
Passing Yards 29 158
Turnovers 3 0
Penalties 12-110 7-75
Lewis County rushing: Jackson 18-185, Sizemore 18-58, Frye 10-37, Hardy 2-(-3)
Fairview rushing: Smith 18-137, Feguson 8-47, Roy 8-44
Lewis County passing: Hardy 4 of 7 29 yards, Jackson 0 of 2
Fairview passing: Roy 6 of 23 156 yards
Lewis County receiving: Switzer 2-15, Frye 2-14
Fairview receiving: Harper 2-110, Ferguson 3-25, McFann 3-21