Fairmont, Belmont land program-defining wins

Dunbar’s Joseph Scates (6) is glum as Belmont defenders celebrate an INT. Belmont defeated Dunbar 42-0 in a season-opening high school football game at Welcome Stadium in Dayton on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Dunbar’s Joseph Scates (6) is glum as Belmont defenders celebrate an INT. Belmont defeated Dunbar 42-0 in a season-opening high school football game at Welcome Stadium in Dayton on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Fairmont put the most recent definition on a program-defining win. How else to explain a 13-12 defeat of rival Alter in Thursday's season-opening high school football game before a capacity crowd at Roush Stadium in Kettering.

Fairmont was up against it in all aspects. The Firebirds limped into this season with everything to prove following a 1-9 campaign in Dave Miller’s 2016 debut coach. Besides, Fairmont hadn’t beaten Alter in 12 straight openers. The Knights also were coming off a 13-1 season that ended in the Division IV state semifinals.

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And then the seldom seen happened. Run-favoring Alter produced just 58 yards rushing on 22 carries. Knights junior quarterback Connor Bazelak threw 21 times for 174 yards.

Fairmont, conversely, ran a robust 54 times for 193 yards. The Firebirds attempted and completed one pass for one yard. Alter knew what was coming and couldn’t stop the run. Fairmont’s defense, meanwhile, stopped Alter on three straight plays at the Fairmont 41 with five minutes left. Ball game.

“I’ll take it,” Miller said. “(1-0) sounds really good.”

It was the first time since 2004 Fairmont had defeated Alter.

“It hurts to lose this one,” Alter coach Ed Domsitz said, “but we’ve got nine more.”

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• Belmont landed the City League football knockout that had to resonate throughout this part of the state, at least among the Divisions II and III contenders.

Unloading an urgency that hadn't been seen before, Belmont blew out rival Dunbar 42-0 in another Thursday opener at Welcome Stadium. To infer this was a shocking upset doesn't quite do the win justice. This was a Tyson-like mismatch from the opening bell.

“They came in with two All-Americans (running back Tavion Thomas and receiver Joseph Scates) over there,” Belmont coach Earl White said. “We knew what we had to do to try and deal with them. We played our special coverage against Scates and loaded everybody else up against the run. We were fortunate.”

The outcome was so decisive, it’s hard to tell if Belmont is that good or Dunbar that much removed from a team that was 9-1 on the field last season.

For sure it got the attention of D-II, Region 8 teams. That’s where Belmont was bumped up this season mostly due to the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s competitive balance debut and an influx of foreign exchange students. That’s also where three-time defending D-II state champ Cincinnati LaSalle resides, as do Lima Senior, Troy, Kings and Winton Woods, all reputable playoff programs.

Dunbar must quickly regroup and likely without senior quarterback Jamar Walker, who injured a shoulder in the first half. The Wolverines bumped up to D-III this season.

“We just didn’t show up,” said a dejected Dunbar coach Darran Powell.

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Beavercreek flirted with its first playoff bid last year, then the second half of the season kicked in. Three-point losses to Springboro and Centerville coincided with a 0-5 skid to end the season, leaving the Beavers at 4-6 and wondering what might have been.

That's what made Thursday's 35-6 season-opening win at Xenia extra special. Not only did the Beavers snap that lingering losing streak, but at least for one week secured a winning identity.

“This senior group is fabulous,” Beavers coach Nic Black said. “I love coaching them. They’re great partners in leading our football team and I hope that continues.”

Xenia couldn’t stop Beavercreek’s veer offense that featured running back Kaden Wenger. He plowed for 235 yards rushing on 30 carries (7.8 average) and scored twice. But passing remains an issue for the Beavers. Returning quarterback starter Cody Hocker was 0 of 5 with two interceptions, including a pick-6 by Xenia’s Jelani Walker.

“I was like, all right, I’m going to take it to the house,” Walker said. “We didn’t get the win, but we played hard.”

First-year Xenia coach Trace Smitherman will make his debut with the Buccaneers in a Week 2 Thursday game at Troy. Smitherman was hit with a one-game suspension for an incident during a preseason scrimmage against Fairmont.