High School Football: Unbeaten Fairmont set for first road test

Fairmont linebacker Tyler Adkins tackles Trotwood quarterback Timothy Carpenter in the Firebirds' 35-0 win in Week 2. The Firebirds are limiting opponents to an average of 67 yards rushing. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
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Fairmont linebacker Tyler Adkins tackles Trotwood quarterback Timothy Carpenter in the Firebirds' 35-0 win in Week 2. The Firebirds are limiting opponents to an average of 67 yards rushing. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Firebirds travel to Springboro on Friday night

Dave Miller’s football identity is clear in the way his Fairmont High School football team operates on offense. Run the ball, control the clock, break the will.

But there’s another side to the coach. He wants his defense to dominate. And except for a few plays, the Firebirds have done that through their first 4-0 start since 2017.

“We’re playing complementary football right now,” Miller said. “We need to keep doing that.”

The next opponent Friday night is Greater Western Ohio Conference foe Springboro (2-1). The Panthers will test Miller’s defense with one of the more balanced attacks in the GWOC that is averaging 22.3 points a game. It’s Fairmont’s first road game of the season.

“Springboro is a well-coached team,” Miller said. “Coach (Ryan) Wilhite and his staff do a great job getting their team ready to play.”

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Panthers quarterback Sam Feldman, a senior and first-year starter, has completed 64.5% of his passes and has spread the ball among four receivers led by Mason Leach with 13 catches. Evan Ruzzo and Nathan Flynn lead the ground game.

After last week’s 24-21 win over Northmont, the Firebirds are focused on stopping big plays that almost cost them. The Thunderbolts scored on pass plays of 84 and 75 yards to build a 21-10 lead. But the Fairmont defense tightened up and gave the offense the opportunity to do what it does best.

The defense got a stop to set up a drive that ended with Drew Baker’s 8-yard touchdown run. The defense made another stop and the offense drove for another Baker 8-yard touchdown with 1:54 left. And the defense made one more stand.

Even with Northmont putting up 241 yards of offense, the Firebirds are holding opponents to an average of 139 yards and 8.8 points.

“We’ve played good defense, but we need to keep getting better,” Miller said.

Other games to watch:

Eaton (3-0) at Waynesville (4-0): After the recent seasons Bellbrook put together, was there a more surprising outcome last week than Eaton’s 21-20 win over Bellbrook? Eaton hasn’t had a winning season since 2013 and now they’re first in the Division IV, Region 16 playoff points. Waynesville’s previous opponents have combined for one victory, so this is their first big test.

Wayne (2-2) at Miamisburg (3-1): Wayne turned the offense back over to freshman quarterback Tyrell Lewis and he threw for 170 yards in a 21-14 loss to unbeaten Springfield, which debuted at No. 5 in the first Division I Associated Press poll. Miamisburg is off to a good start with a balanced offense and hung with Centerville last week until a kickoff return for a touchdown turned the game in the Elks’ favor.

Centerville (3-1) at Northmont (2-1): The Elks are coming off a strong fourth quarter, while the Thunderbolts had the opposite experience. Chase Harrison and Cam Smith are a well-established passing combo for the Elks. For the T-Bolts, sophomore QB Cahke’ Cortner and junior receiver Javien Brownlee are on their way to forging a similar identity.

Tippecanoe (3-1) at Stebbins (3-1): With the 16-team regional playoffs this season, these teams could be seen as on their way to the postseason. But positioning for the best possible seed and a home game still matters. Tipp is No. 7 in Division III, Region 12, and Stebbins is No. 9 in Division II, Region 8. The winner gets a nice bump.