High School Football: Points, possessions could be scarce in 55th Alter-Fairmont clash

KETTERING -- The Alter-Fairmont football rivalry can be compared to Ohio State and Michigan’s. Emotions run rampant 365 days a year. The series shifts are comparable, too.

After losing 12 straight on the field to the Knights (Alter had to forfeit a 2008 win), Fairmont has gone 3-1 against its neighborhood rival since 2017. The teams meet tonight for the 55th time in their annual Thursday opener at Roush Stadium. Kickoff is 7 p.m. Alter and Fairmont did not play in 2020 due to COVID.

“You don’t know what you miss until it’s gone,” Fairmont head coach Dave Miller said after last year’s game, a 16-7 Firebirds win. “It’s so awesome to be back out here in front of the Kettering community.”

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“The Alter-Fairmont game just jumps out at you every year,” Alter head coach Ed Domsitz said. “There are a lot of intense feelings within the communities.”

Points and possessions will be at a premium.

Alter’s 21-7 win in 2019 marks the only time one of the teams has scored more than 20 points in the rivalry in the last five years. Last season, the Knights had the ball just four times in 48 minutes. Fairmont beat Alter 13-12 and 12-6 in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Fairmont’s recipe for success against Alter has been ball security, timely pass completions and fourth-down conversions. The Firebirds have forced six Alter turnovers since 2017, while committing just one. Fairmont has also completed 5-of-10 pass attempts in the last four games and has converted 7-of-10 fourth downs, including 3-for-3 last year.

Size on the offensive line and senior running back Drew Baker will be Fairmont advantages. Baker earned first team All-GWOC honors last year after rushing for 1,533 yards and 18 touchdowns. Three seniors and All-GWOC players anchor the defense – Dalton Gustwiller (DL), Tyler Adkins (LB) and Owen Russell (DL). Senior Dylan Krieger and sophomore Brock Baker step in at quarterback, where three-year starter Male’k Hillon has graduated.

Alter counters with the smallest senior class in program history (six). The Knights, who enter year No. 31 under head coach Ed Domstiz, lost over 20 seniors from last year’s team, which started 2-5 but rattled off four straight wins, including a playoff victory over Monroe. Alter has reached the postseason 21 straight years. The Knights drop from Division III to IV this season.

Alter graduated 11 All-Greater Catholic League Co-Ed players and returns two in senior running back Jacob Schaefer and junior receiver Michael Russ. Sophomore quarterback Gavin Connor is back after throwing for 870 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Alter-Fairmont game is one of 36 statewide Thursday that kicks off the Ohio high school football season. Wayne at Fairfield and Carroll versus Ponitz at Welcome Stadium are also on the docket.

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