CHURUBUSCO — For the first time since 2008, the Fairfield Falcons football team completed a regular season undefeated.
The No. 10 (Class 2A) Falcons defeated Churubusco, 24-6, Friday night to finish 8-0 on the season. It completes a three-year turnaround for head coach Matt Thacker, who went 0-9 (0-8 regular season) in 2018, 6-6 (4-5 regular season) in 2019 and 8-0 so far this year.
“I’m just happy for the kids and the community,” Thacker said. “It just proves that if you work hard, good things will happen. Kids have been working hard in the weight room; working their butts off in the classroom as well, doing good things in the community and playing with a mentality to do what it takes on the field. Just happy for them.”
Fairfield scored less than 90 seconds into the game against the Eagles when senior quarterback Cory Lantz darted 49 yards for the score. He initially started running to the right side of the field, but then cut to the left and had nothing but green grass in front of him.
“I saw an open lane and I took it,” Lantz said. “It was good momentum to get, for sure.”
After a lengthy second drive by the Falcons stalled, Churubusco drove down the field into scoring range. On a second-and-goal at the 5-yard line, though, the Eagles fumbled the ball. Although they recovered, Churubusco lost seven yards on the play. After an incomplete pass on third down, Churubusco’s 29-yard field goal attempt fell short.
Fairfield took advantage of the missed scoring chance from the Eagles, going on another seven-plus minute drive to run out most of the clock in the second half. They capped off the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run from senior Dalton Cripe with 40.4 seconds left in the quarter, giving the Falcons a 12-0 lead at halftime.
The Falcons controlled the time of possession throughout the first half, chewing off 15:46 of the 24 minutes of the first half clock.
In the second half, the Fairfield defense took over. They forced and recovered three fumbles, including on the first two Churubusco possessions.
“I was so proud of the defense,” said Lantz, who also plays defensive back. “They’ve been doing this all season long, creating turnovers every single game. And more than one each game, too. They’re just giving it their all.”
Despite forcing three second-half turnovers, Thacker wasn’t happy with the way his team tackled for most of the game.
“We were tackling the football, and that kind of showed in some of our tackling,” Thacker said. “We weren’t hitting guys in the backfield like we normally do … we did not tackle well.”
Fairfield scored on its first possession of the second half, chewing off nearly five more minutes of the clock before Lantz plunged in from one yard out to make it 18-0 with 4:32 to go in the frame.
Churubusco would finally get on the board early in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard touchdown from junior Ethan Hille. A missed extra point made it 18-6 with 10:57 to go.
The Falcons would quickly get the margin back to three scores, as Lantz bolted 60 yards on the second play of the ensuing possession for a score. This gave the senior quarterback his third rushing touchdown of the game and his team a 24-6 lead.
Lantz finished the game with 156 rushing yards and the three scores.
“We tell him ahead of time: as long as he reads it right, he’s going to have a big day, and he did,” said Thacker of Lantz. “Three rushing touchdowns, and he would’ve had more if, on our counter play, we had held our blocks a little longer.
“It’s a testament to our offense and our scheme. I say it every week: you can take away so much, but you can’t take away everything.”
Lantz said a perfect regular season was something that he didn’t even think about given the COVID-19 pandemic threatening to shut down the season at a moment’s notice.
“Honestly, I didn’t even think about it,” Lantz admitted. “We had week one taken away from us; we were lucky enough to get week two. Just took it game-by-game.”
Fairfield will get to host Central Noble (4-5) in the Class 2A, Sectional 36 quarterfinals next week in Benton. The two teams met earlier in the season, with the Falcons winning 32-6 over the Cougars on Sept. 4 in Albion. Thacker said he’ll let his team celebrate the undefeated season for 24 hours before turning their focus to Central Noble.
“I pray we’re healthy and pray that we can still keep playing,” Thacker said. “With this whole COVID stuff, you can’t take anything for granted. These guys haven’t, and we’re going to continue to fight another day.”
FAIRFIELD 24, CHURUBUSCO 6
Fairfield — 6; 6; 6; 6 — 24
Churubusco — 0; 0; 0; 6 — 6
F — (10:42) Cory Lantz 49 run (two-point attempt failed)
F — (40.4) Dalton Cripe 13 run (two-point attempt failed)
F — (4:32) Lantz 1 run (extra point attempt failed)
C — (10:57) Ethan Hille 13 run (extra point attempt failed)
F — (10:06) Lantz 60 run (extra point attempt blocked)