First Posted: 1/15/2009
JACKSONVILLE -- The difference between a 3-10 team and one that is 12-1 and advancing to the state quarterfinals of the state playoffs appears quite significant.
Friday night it equated to roughly 11 yards, as Fairmont lost to Southwest Onslow 12-2. The Golden Tornadoes squandered offensive drives at the 3- and 8-yard lines en route to the loss.
“We beat ourselves, which is not at all taking credit away from them,” said Fairmont coach Kim Brown. “You have to finish those drives.”
The fifth-seeded Stallions running game was put to pasture by the Fairmont defense, which surrendered just 143 ground yards. Fairmont made Southwest Onslow play its game: ugly ball where defense dominates.
“Yeah we did make them play, and our problem all year has been when we outplay teams and still get beat,” Brown said.
Southwest coach Phil Padgett walked off happy, relieved and with respect for his opponent.
“They (Fairmont) played well. I think that kid coming back (Will Hill) had a lot to do with how hard they played,” Padgett said. “It just lifted their spirits up. And I'm not taking anything away from them, they played us as tough as they could, and they have a lot to be proud of. We're still alive and an ugly win is better than a pretty loss.”
The Golden Tornado defense did everything but score as the offense sputtered.
Stallion thoroughbred running back Karshawn Brooks scored the game's first touchdown from two yards out with 8:10 to play in the second quarter. The TD was set up on a ball snapped over the head of Fairmont's punter, which was recovered at the 7-yard line.
Fairmont's Brett Freeman scooped up a fumble to set up the Golden Tornadoes 8 yards from a score just before halftime. Four running plays later, however, and Fairmont was stymied at the 3-yard line.
The Golden Tornadoes best offensive series came early in the fourth quarter when a 12-play drive brought the ball to the 8-yard line. But Stallion defender Jon Espinoza rushed into the backfield to cut down Will Hill and thwart the drive on fourth down.
Brown decided to go for broke on both red zone encounters rather than attempting field goals, while ugly ball included turnovers by both teams.
Fairmont coughed up the ball four times and had a pair of interceptions. Southwest lost three of its five fumbles and was penalized for 105 yards.
Fairmont's defense, though, did indirectly lead to the Golden Tornado points. They pinned Southwest inside its own 10 with 3:14 to play, while punter Mark Sunday run out of the back of the end zone seemed logical at the time. It made the score 6-2, but gave the Stallions room to breath.
Four plays later the Golden Tornadoes offense failed to produce a first down. A forward lateral dropped off to a Golden Tornado back was scooped up by Adam Terry and returned to the 2-yard line. The touchdown sealed the win and made the final outcome look a bit more one-sided than it actually was on the field.
While Brooks finished with 112 yards on 25 carries, little of his running provided a spark to the offense. Brooks rushed for 1,550 yards entering the game.
Brandon Floyd paced Fairmont with 84 yards, while Hill chipped in 83.
Brown said the Golden Tornadoes' tough schedule prepared them for this game, and also mentioned he wasn't surprised to see a close game.
“I think they really, really underestimated us,” he said. “Nineteen of the 16 teams (including preseason) we played are in the playoffs. Two or three games into the season everyone gave up on us. But we kept fighting, just like we did tonight. I couldn't have asked our guys to play any harder than they did tonight. We just found a way to beat ourselves.”