BUTLER — There’s no doubt the Fairfield football team on the field Friday night was better than the team that took the field throughout the 2018 season. But the Falcons program still has lots of room to grow after a 34-0 loss to Eastside in the Class 2A, Sectional 35 championship game Friday night.
A year after going 0-9 and being outscored 493-27 by its opponents, Fairfield finishes its 2019 campaign at 6-6.
“It tells you the type of kids Fairfield kids are,” Fairfield coach Matt Thacker said. “It tells you what kind of character they have, what kind of toughness they have. We’ve got a long way to go, but man, we’ve come a long way.”
The game was decided late in the third quarter with Eastside leading 7-0. On a first-and-goal from the Fairfield eight-yard line, Blazers freshman running back Dax Holman fumbled the ball into the end zone. The Falcons fell on it, giving them a first down at their 20-yard line and keeping the game a one-score contest.
Instead of capitalizing on the Eastside mistake, though, Fairfield made an even costlier miscue of their own. Sophomore quarterback Grant Thacker’s pass was intercepted by Blazer junior Lane Burns, who returned the interception 30 yards to the end zone, giving Eastside a 14-0 lead with 2:20 left in the third period.
“It put us in a tough spot,” Matt Thacker said. “Still high school kids, so it is what it is.”
On the next Fairfield offensive series, the Falcons went three-and-out. Their punt attempt on fourth down, however, was blocked and recovered by Eastside junior Phoenix Smith at the Fairfield seven-yard line.
The Blazers scored on the next play, as senior running back Ethan Farnsworth ran it into the end zone to make it 21-0 Eastside. Within 70 seconds, the Blazers’ lead had tripled.
To make matters worse, Fairfield fumbled on the ensuing kickoff return. Overall, the Falcons had three fumbles — all in the final 13 minutes of the contest.
Eastside scored 56 seconds into the fourth quarter when sophomore quarterback Laban Davis hit Burns on a 24-yard throw-and-catch, making it 27-0.
After another Fairfield punt, the Blazers added their final score of the game — an eight-yard pass from Davis to Farnsworth — giving Eastside the 34-0 victory. It’s the Blazers first ever sectional title.
The Falcons had to play their backup quarterback, Grant Thacker, after starting QB Cory Lantz suffered an injury in the sectional semifinal game against Prairie Heights. The sophomore struggled in his starting role, completing just three passes in eight attempts for 33 yards. He also threw two interceptions, part of five total turnovers for Fairfield.
Coach Thacker said playing his backup quarterback wasn’t the reason Fairfield loss Friday.
“We were just trying to get something done, offensively, and we couldn’t get it done,” Matt Thacker said. “That’s what it boiled down to, and it just snowballed from there. … (Eastside’s defense) was everything we had seen, everything we had planned for. We just didn’t get it done.
“One person doesn’t win a game; one person doesn’t lose a game. There’s 11 out there on offense and defense. You execute as a unit and you thrive as a unit. We didn’t execute like we needed to.”
It was a defensive slugfest in the beginning of the game, as neither team could score in the first quarter. Eastside’s first touchdown came early in the second, though, as Davis had a nine-yard run to give the Blazers the early advantage.
Fairfield’s defense was stingy all night, but ultimately the Blazer’s offense took over late in the game.
“Defense played a heck of a game,” Matt Thacker said. “That 34 points on the scoreboard is not their 34 points. Offense had to get something done, and we didn’t get it done.”
A year after having only one senior, Fairfield graduates 10 this year.
“A bunch of guys that wanted to make sure they left a legacy and put Fairfield back on track where it belongs,” Matt Thacker said of his senior group. “Can’t ask for anything more from our seniors that they gave us in the weight room and gave us this season.”
Six more wins that 2018, including two sectional wins, as the second-year coach optimistic about the future.
“We’re close; we’re close,” Matt Thacker said.
EASTSIDE 34, FAIRFIELD 0
Fairfield; 0; 0; 0; 0; — 0
Eastside; 0; 7; 14; 13; — 34
E — (11:29) Laban Davis 9 run (Jaiden Baker kick)
E — (2:20) Lane Burns 30 interception return (Baker kick)
E — (1:07) Ethan Farnsworth 7 run (Baker kick)
E — (11:04) Burns 24 pass from Davis (kick missed)
E — (4:25) Farnsworth 8 pass from Davis (Baker kick)