Second-half surge lifts Springboro past Fairmont

KETTERING – Staring at a 13-0 deficit on the road following a first half in which it gained just 20 yards and zero first downs on four possessions, Springboro’s offense – ranked No. 1 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference (averaging 395 yards a game) – had a decision to make.

Fight or fold?

The Panthers choose the latter.

Scoring on its first three possessions of the second half, Springboro rallied for a 21-19 win over host Fairmont on homecoming at Roush Stadium.

The Panthers improve to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the GWOC, while Fairmont, after opening with wins over Alter, Trotwood-Madison and LaSalle, drops to 3-2 (0-2). The Firebirds lost 28-0 at Northmont last week.

“We came in (at half) and we challenged everybody – not just the guys up front,” Springboro head coach Ryan Whilhite said. “We were going to run the football and we were going to block the perimeter. They answered with a resounding ‘We got fight in us.””

“We haven’t been in this position this year,” Springboro senior quarterback Evan Ruzzo said. “We’ve been up on teams and they’ve come back, so we knew we could do the same. We knew we still had fight in us. We put that first half behind us and just kept on rolling.”

Ruzzo ran for a 1-yard touchdown and threw two touchdown passes covering 26 and 40yards to senior Peyton Howard. The last of those hook-ups came on the first play of the fourth quarter and propelled Springboro to a 21-13 lead with 11:49 to play.

Fairmont answered with an 18-play drive that took 10:12 and was capped by a 4-yard run by junior Asa Dunlevey with 1:37 left. The ensuing two-point conversion pass was incomplete.

Ruzzo recovered Fairmont’s onside kick.

The Firebirds built their first half lead via special teams. Junior Kameron Payne returned the opening kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown and senior Will Holt booted 26- and 40-yard field goals.

“I felt like defensively we played a decent first half,” Whilhite said. “Offensively we lacked physicality.”

Boro’s second-half drives covered 57, 80 and 49 yards.

Ruzzo, who entered as the GWOC’s No. 2 rusher and No. 3 passer, carried the ball 16 times for 34 yards. He completed 9-of-13 passes for 121 yards. Howard caught four passes for 89 yards. Defensively, Zach Wells led Springboro with 15 tackles, while Connor Smith registered 10.

Fairmont senior Drew Baker, the GWOC’s leading rusher, paced the Firebirds with 115 yards on 34 carries.

Springboro had 205 yards of offense. Fairmont had 203 (all on the ground).

The game was the 10th meeting between the two schools since 2000 and squared the series at 5-5. Springboro won 15-14 last year, while Fairmont won 10-7 in 2020.

Springboro’s early-season slate – including a narrow 21-20 loss to Elder in Week 3 – helped fuel its second-half comeback.

“We grew from that (Elder loss),” Whilhite said. “And in our opener against Lebanon and in Week 2 against Withrow, we took sizeable leads into halftime and we didn’t play very well in the second half and hung on to win. We have talked a lot about playing a second half and how important that is. Today our back was against the wall. We had no choice. We were either going to get run out the stadium or we were going to compete. We came out and competed.”

Said Ruzzo: “We’re never going to give up until that clock hits zero.”

About the Author