In a season in which “competitive balance” finally finds its way into Ohio high school football, the Alter-Fairmont series followed suit Thursday at Foreman Field.
In the rivals’ annual season opener, the host Firebirds beat their neighborhood rival for the first time in 13 years, 13-12.
Fairmont’s last win in the series was a 21-16 decision in 2004.
It was the schools’ 51st meeting.
Alter, which scored on both its first half possessions, failed to find the end zone in the second half. The Knights’ last possession ended in a 41-yard field-goal attempt by senior Alden Simms with 1:29 left that sailed just right. Two kneel downs from Fairmont and mayhem followed.
“It wasn’t the perfect script but we got it done,” Fairmont coach Dave Miller said. “For us to pull out a win like that is incredible.”
“I thought it would come down to the fourth quarter,” Alter coach Ed Domsitz said. “We had opportunities and Alden’s kick didn’t miss by much.”
Alter took a 12-7 lead at halftime thanks to two first-half touchdown runs by junior running back John Bivens. Hampered by cramps, Bivens missed most of the second half and Alter’s offense struggled against an energized Fairmont defense that returned seven of its top eight tacklers from last season.
The Knights, not known for passing, showed some strength through the air behind junior quarterback Connor Bazelak who attempted 16 passes on the final three drives. Alter threw the ball 47 times all last season.
Fairmont ran the ball effectively.
The Firebirds attempted one pass (on the last possession) and punted just twice (on its last two possessions).
The game-winning score was supplied by senior Herbert Burroughs, who ran in from eight yards out with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.
“I just saw a hole open and went for it,” Burroughs said. “We’ve been working towards this game all year.”
Fairmont’s defense bent in the fourth quarter but never broke.
“What a job by our defense,” Miller said. “Our backs were against the wall and play after play they just kept coming.”
Due to the OHSAA’s new competitive balance bylaw, this season schools were classified using factors besides plain enrollment. As a result, Alter was bumped up to Division III. The Knights now find themselves looking up at a loaded region that includes Trotwood-Madison, Franklin, Dunbar, Butler, Tippecanoe, Wapakoneta, Wilmington, Bellbrook, Piqua and Chaminade Julienne.
Fairmont remains D-I.
“We’ve been working towards accepting challenges and not shying away from them,” Miller said. “That came to fruition tonight.”