It was Homecoming Friday night at Centerville Stadium as the Fairmont Firebirds came calling on a wet and windy night. Seniors Kyle Hurles and Heather Murray were named Homecoming King and Queen this year in ceremonies held before the game and at halftime. The Elks came into the game having won four straight this season and 21 in a row against a Fairmont team looking to end those streaks.
The Elks won the toss and took the ball to start the game. What resulted was a methodical drive which took a little over five minutes off the clock and ended when sophomore quarterback Chase Harrison hit senior tight end Conner Walls with a 4-yard touchdown pass. Sophomore Brendan Salo added the PAT and the Elks led, 7-0, with 6:48 left in the first quarter. The Firebirds responded in less than a minute when Garrett Baker hauled in a pass over the middle from Mal’ek Hillon and raced 58 yards to the end zone. Will Holt’s PAT tied the game at 7-7 with 5:59 left in the first quarter. The Firebirds defense forced the Elks into a three and out on the ensuing possession, giving the ball back to their offense on their own 43 with 4:11 left in the first quarter. They began a clock chewing drive toward the Elks end zone as the clock expired in the first quarter. After twelve minutes, these two rivals were deadlocked at 7.
Early in the second quarter, the Firebirds culminated their drive with a nine-yard touchdown run. A successful PAT gave the Firebirds the lead for good at 14-7 with 10:24 left before halftime. What followed was another three and out for the Elks offense. Following the punt, the Firebirds took over possession on their own 15 with 8:46 left in the first half. The Elks defense responded with a three and out of their own, giving the ball back to the offense on their own 44 with 6:26 to go before halftime. A fourth down stop by the Firebirds gave them the ball back on their own 48 with 5:55 left in the second quarter. The offense swiftly moved downfield and scored again on a 25-yard sprint to the end zone. A third successful PAT stretched the visitors’ lead to 21-7 with 4:51 left before halftime. The Elks drove the length of the field, but could not convert a third down deep in enemy territory and were forced to settle for a 30-yard field goal from Salo. That sent the teams to their respective locker rooms with the Firebirds on top, 21-10.
The Elks defense came up with a three and out to start the second half to give the offense the ball at their own 31 with 10:00 left in the third quarter. What resulted was another long drive by the offense that was culminated when senior running back Bryce McMahon scored from six-yards out. Another successful PAT from Salo trimmed the Firebirds lead to 21-17 with 4:55 left in the third quarter. The Firebirds went three and out on their next possession and punted the ball back to the Elks who took over on their own 44 with 2:32 left in the third quarter. Just when it seemed like the momentum was swinging in this game, the Firebirds linebacker stepped in front of an Elks pass and ran it back to the Centerville 45 with :54 left in the third quarter. After two plays, the third quarter came to an end and the Firebirds were clinging to a four-point lead, 21-17.
As the rain continued to come down harder and harder, the Elks defense came up with a big, fourth down stop at their own 12-yard line, giving the offense the ball back with 10:54 left to play. However, the offense was unable to pick up a first down and punted the ball back to Fairmont who took over on the Centerville 46 with 8:49 left. On the very next play, the Firebirds quarterback raced 46-yards untouched into the end zone. Following the PAT, the visitors had a 28-17 lead with 8:40 left in the game. The Elks methodically moved the ball down the field on their next possession, but were once again forced to settle for a field goal. Salo’s 26-yarder was good and the Firebirds were now in front, 28-20, with 3:58 left in the game. The Elks recovered the onside kick and had all of the momentum, but that lasted all of one play as a perfect hit by the defense on the first play knocked the ball loose and the defense recovered on their own 47 with 3:51 left. The Elks defense forced a three and out to give the offense one last chance. Following a 15-yard penalty on the punt for kick catch interference, the Elks would start at their own 26 with 2:02 left. A desperate drive saw the Elks reach the Fairmont 15-yard line with 30 seconds left. Unfortunately, the very next play did not go well for the Elks as a fade pass to the right corner of the end zone got held up in the wind and was picked off by a defensive back at the three yard line. The Firebirds came out and took a knee which set off a wild celebration on their sideline as they had beaten their rivals for the first time since 1997.
On Saturday morning, Fairmont made it a three game sweep of the weekend by winning the JV game, 36-14, and the freshman game, 25-10.
Now 4-3 overall and 2-1 in league play, the Elks now hit the road for their next two games. Up first is a trip to Springfield High School to take on the state ranked Wildcats in a special Thursday Night Lights game. Kickoff is set for 7:00 PM.