Blocked FG, Baker spark Fairmont past Alter in season opener

KETTERING – Fairmont fumble at the 1-yard line. Alter interception. Fairmont fumble. Alter fumble. Alter interception. Fairmont fumble.

All in the second quarter.

The final Fairmont fumble set up Alter for a 35-yard field goal attempt. Would one of these rivals finally take advantage of a mistake and score? Yes, but not in a way anyone expected.

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Fairmont’s Kamron Payne flew in from the left side and blocked Tony Arcuri’s kick. On the other side of the field, Fairmont’s Stevie Doty scooped the loose ball and ran 85 yards for a touchdown with eight seconds left in the first half for the game’s first points.

“I knew my boy Kam was going to go do his job, and I knew I had to do my part,” Doty said. “Not only did he get the block but he also got the key block for me to cut up the field and score. And the momentum went from there.”

And the Firebirds stopped making mistakes, controlled the second half and pulled away for a season-opening 31-7 victory in front of a huge crowd at Roush Stadium. It was Fairmont’s fourth victory over Alter in the last five meetings.

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“We practice it pretty much every day against our field goal team,” Fairmont coach Dave Miller said. “He did a great job turning the corner, and then Stevie Doty what a play by him. It was obviously huge for momentum.”

Alter coach Ed Domsitz wasn’t surprised by Fairmont’s ground-oriented game plan and was impressed by the Firebirds’ strength at the line of scrimmage on both sides. But his roster is the youngest and least experienced in his long tenure that has led to 21 straight playoff appearances. He has only six seniors and 13 juniors. He’s playing a lot of sophomores and more freshmen than ever.

“Both teams made a lot of mistakes – Fairmont was able to handle it better,” Domsitz said. “They’ve go to play up. Freshmen have to start playing like sophomores, sophomores like juniors, juniors like seniors. If that happens, we’re going to be OK. We’ve got some smart kids, we’ve got some dedicated kids. We’ll see how it unfolds.”

Fairmont didn’t put Alter away with quick scores in the third quarter. The Firebirds are built to grind and kill chunks of time off the clock with senior running back Drew Baker carrying the ball almost every play. They moved into Alter territory with lots of Baker on the ground – even a 27-yard pass from Dylan Kreiger to Baker – to set up Will Holt’s 43-yard field goal with 7:40 left in the third.

“The cushion with the field goal kind of put the impetus on them,” Miller said.

Alter didn’t score. But Baker did. He broke through a hole on the right side for a 74-yard touchdown and a 17-0 lead with 18 seconds left in the third.

“The whole line did amazing, and then Asa Dunlevey, our Z-back, came through and made a perfect block,” Baker said. “I just cut right outside off that, and it was off to the touchdown.”

Baker rushed for 205 yards on 29 carries and scored twice. After a 1,500-yard season last year, Baker surpassed 2,500 career yards and has 28 touchdowns. On Fairmont’s first drive that began with 10:17 left in the first quarter, Baker carried the ball 14 times on a 17-play drive that didn’t end with points. Instead, a miscommunication at the 1-yard line on a play that was supposed to go to Baker resulted in a fumble on the first play of the second quarter.

An errant pitch on a running play and a strip fumble caused by Alter’s Ethan Willits resulted in two more Fairmont fumbles in the the second quarter. Collin Wehner recovered two Fairmont fumbles.

“Bottom line is we made some mistakes in the first half, but we came back out fired up at halftime and we shook off all the mistakes,” said Baker, who scored on a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Brock Baker added a 42-yard touchdown run in the final minute.

Alter’s chances to capitalize on Fairmont turnovers were fleeting. Gavin Connor was intercepted by Doty when a receiver fell down and by Payne on a deep throw down the sideline. The Knights moved the ball better in the second half behind Connor and scored on his 29-yard touchdown pass to Carter Sheets with 5:46 left. Connor, a sophomore, finished 11 of 18 for 139 yards.

“A great effort by them,” Miller said of Alter. “The first half, especially, we were very fortunate. Man, they’re going to be a bear to contend with because they’re just going to keep getting better.”

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