Second-half rally lifts undefeated Fairmont past Northmont

Firebirds off to 4-0 start for third time in last 20 years

KETTERING – Since arriving at Fairmont in 2016, head coach Dave Miller had beaten every Greater Western Ohio Conference school except two. Now that list is down to one.

Rallying from a 21-10 fourth quarter deficit, Fairmont won Friday’s matchup of unbeatens 24-21 over Northmont at Roush Stadium. It was the GWOC opener for both schools.

Wayne remains the only conference program Fairmont (4-0, 1-0) hasn’t beaten in Miller’s short tenure.

Northmont drops to 2-1, 0-1.

“We talked about (having not beaten Northmont) this week,” Miller said. “They’re really good and they have talent all over the place. For us to come out with a win is great. But we need to focus on getting better. That’s been the moniker.”

Said defensive lineman Dalton Gustwiler: “It was great to beat them for coach.”

The victory over Northmont was just Fairmont’s second since the GWOC’s formation in 2001 and the first since a 21-10 win in 2014. The Firebirds are now 2-13 in the series since 2000.

Fairmont’s 4-0 start is also the third for the program in the last 20 years and the second under Miller (2017).

Despite allowing Alter, Trotwood and Chaminade Julienne just 177, 54 and 84 yards total, respectively, the first three weeks, Fairmont allowed Northmont to stake a 14-7 halftime lead on scoring plays of 75 and 84 yards. Javien Brownlee caught a touchdown pass from Cahke Cortner for the first score and threw a pass to Dalien Wilkins for the second. Malachi Staffney’s 46-yard third quarter run set up his own 4-yard touchdown for a 21-10 lead. That was the lone second-half Northmont possession (had four) that produced a first down.

Northmont tallied 241 total yards. Fairmont had 298. The Firebirds held a 38:31-8:59 advantage in time of possession, converted 7-of-12 third downs and were perfect on fourth (2-for-2).

“We have some dynamic, explosive guys,” Northmont head coach Tony Broering said. “Staffney is really tough and Brownlee is probably the best player in the GWOC. We have a lot of skill guys, but (Fairmont) grinds it out and keeps it out of your hands so you have to be perfect every drive.”

Drew Baker (40 carries for 226 yards) ran for all three Fairmont touchdowns, the last of which came with 1:54 left. On the ensuing possession, Gustwiler produced a key sack on third down. Northmont’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete.

“Our motto is don’t give up the big play and make them earn every yard,” Gustwiler said. “Tonight we struggled with that. They got a couple big plays on us, but we adjusted and got back to what we’ve been doing. We finished the game strong.”

“Every game we played last year was like that,” Broering said. “We won all of them, but six of the eight came down to the last play. Even when they scored at the end we felt like we could come down and do our thing. It’s just didn’t work out.”

Fairmont travels to Springboro next week, while Northmont hosts Centerville.

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