Last August, Fairmont coach Dave Miller would’ve dismissed playoff talk as craziness.
He was only in his second year on the job. His team was coming off a 1-9 season.
Yet, with a 7-3 win against Springfield at Roush Stadium on Friday night, his squad is headed to the state football tournament for the first time since 2008.
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“It’s great. You couldn’t ask for more,” Miller said. “When you go through 1-9 and then 7-3 and make the playoffs, that’s a tribute to these kids and their dedication.”
The Week 10 season finale may as well have been a playoff game. Eight teams in each region qualify, and five teams were battling for the final two spots in Division I, Region 3.
Springfield, which entered the week eighth in the region, lost its second straight game and third in the last four weeks. The Wildcats will miss the playoffs. Fairmont will find out its Week 11 opponent on Sunday when the Ohio High School Athletic Association releases the pairings.
Mother Nature played a big role during the contest as both teams dealt with turnovers.
The swapping of possessions reached a fever pitch with just a minute remaining in the game.
Fairmont was poised to run out the clock deep in their own territory until a fumble landed in the hands of Springfield defensive end Te’Vion Gilbreath.
As Springfield worked desperately to take the lead with under a minute to go, the Wildcats fumbled the ball. Fairmont’s Ryan Hall recovered.
“…Our coaches taught us to give 100 percent effort and I saw the ball go down, and i thought just go for the ball, and live with the results,” Hall said.
There were seven turnovers in all. Fairmont coughed the ball up four times, all on fumbles. Springfield lost three fumbles and threw an interception.
The air attack was almost non existent. Miller didn’t attempt a throw, while Springfield’s Leonard Taylor, who had thrown for 1,686 yards prior to Week 10, was 7-of-18 for 73 yards.
Wildcats coach Maurice Douglass knew the lack of a deep-ball threat hurt, as well Springfield’s eight penalties (63 yards).
“You have to put the ball in the end zone. You get down there three or four times [in the red zone], you’ve got to take advantage of it,” he said.
The Wildcats rushed for 152 yards, and were led by Tavion Smoot, who had 82 yards on 15 carries.
Fairmont rushed the ball 47 times for 211 yards. Jesse Deglow led the way with 64 yards on 22 carries. Deglow left the game in the second half after suffering what Miller said may be a concussion.
Braden Miller had 64 yards and the game’s only touchdown on 19 carries, while teammate Kennon Burroughs added 59 yards on two attempts. Miller’s TD came in the second quarter.
Springfield’s Braeden Carey opened the scoring with a 30-yard field goal in the first quarter.
As Fairmont awaits their opponent, Miller is jubilant at what the future holds.
“We get to play one more week,” he said.