Eagles lost to Cougars in valiant defensive effort

Fairfield Coach John Bachtel greets his kicker, Tyler Haynes (20) after the Eagles' first touchdown of the game.

Photo by Shae Garcia

Fairfield’s gridiron fortunes fell to 2-3 in non-district games Friday night, Sept. 29, in China Spring, but the Eagles are nevertheless approaching their bye week and district schedule with much-deserved confidence and anticipation. The Eagles have played one of the top-10 toughest non-district schedules in all of Class 4A (186 teams), according to the computer rankings of Max Preps. Now, as Fairfield Coach John Bachtel noted, “We have almost two weeks of practice to prepare and get healthy for the district-opener in Salado, on October 13.” He also said, “The area football experts tell us that the Eagles from way down south I-35 are the district’s best team.” Last Friday at Cougar Stadium, the Fairfield Eagles came out like they were Jack, the proverbial “Giant Killer,” especially on defense, as Coach Kevin Childers’ charges forced last year’s Class 4A-DI quarterfinal champions to punt three times in the first quarter. After the third was returned 13 yards to the Eagle 48 yard line by an always exciting Kolbe Branch, quarterback Chad Rushin – getting his first start due to the injury last week of Kam Ransom – connected with Branch on a beautiful 52-yard pass and run touchdown play, only to have it called back because another back moved just a split-second before the ball was snapped. Not to worry, the calm junior signal-caller simply settled in, and led his team on a 57-yard march to pay dirt that ended with a three-yard, scoring burst around end by Kadarrius Walker, with only 30 seconds left in the first quarter. Rushin completed two passes on the drive and had one run of four yards, while Walker contributed a couple of great runs, as well. Kicker/punter Tyler Haynes added the first of two perfect PATs, and the score stood 7-0. The Eagles swarming defense forced yet another Cougar punt, and the still soaring Eagles took only 1:42 off the scoreboard clock to score their second TD of the game, the scoring play a 42-yard burst up the middle by Walker, making it 14-0, after another Haynes’ successful PAT. Rushin also hit Avery Archibald for a 20-yard pass play on the scoring drive. Haynes has proven to be a very valuable weapon for the Eagles in his punting, as well, as the 5-foot-9-inch, 152-pound sophomore, boomed seven for a 34-yard average, including one that came after the snap sailed way over his head. He simply raced back, scooped up the loose pigskin, and as he eluded several Cougars bearing down on him, deftly punted the ball for his average while on the dead-run. Priceless! That second Fairfield touchdown seemed to awaken “the sleeping giant” in China Spring, and despite a very determined Eagle defensive resistance, the Cougars went on a 59-yard, 14-play scoring drive, that took 4:45 off the clock, and required three plays inside the 2 yard line to score the TD. The two teams exchanged punts three more times in the last 5:53 of the half, with Fairfield forcing the Cougars to turn the ball over on downs at the Eagle 36 to end the first half with Fairfield up 14-7. The second half of action on the gridiron saw the Cougars notch two more, hard-earned TDs against the valiant Fairfield Eagle warriors, to come away with a scant 21-14 win. That first, second-half TD came after a beautiful, 20-yard rainbow pass from Rushin was caught barely out of bounds in the end zone, forcing a field goal attempt that was blocked back to the 38 yard line. While the Eagles seemed still shell-shocked from the previous two plays, a Cougar back raced 62 yards up the middle for the score. Just two plays later, after another great 30-yard kickoff return by Branch, lightning struck again as a Rushin pass was deflected at the line and returned as an interception 32 yards to the Eagle 13 yard line. Four plays later, after Fairfield’s battling defense forced a field goal try, China Spring faked it and the holder raced to the 2, for a first-and-goal. The Cougars scored two plays later with 5:43 left in the third quarter. The Eagles never quit battling, as the teams traded punts several more times, and with the exception of a 31-yard pass play from Rushin to Kolby Adams, it was all defense the rest of the way. The Cougars ended up with 294 yards of total offense, 157 rushing and 137 passing, while Fairfield ended up with 235 yards – 123 passing and 112 rushing. Rushin was 13-of-27 for those 123 yards, including the one unfortunate interception. However, he looked really promising as he led the team with a calm generalship that will stand him well in district play as he gains more experience! On the receiving end of those passes was Adams, with 2 for 47 yards; Archibald with 5 for 71 yards; and Cody Ferguson, 1 for 6 yards. Walker carried the ball 18 times for 96 yards and 2 TDs; Archibald, twice for 6 yards; JarMychael, 4 for 7; and JaShaughn Hatcher, 1 for 2. That battling, Kevin Childers’ defensive unit had a host of heroes led by Ulyses Ramirez-Rangel with 18 tackles; Archibald and Johnn Owens with 14 each; Owens with 1 for loss; Trevan McWilliams and Tyler Haynes, with 10 apiece; McWilliams with 1 for loss; Hatcher with 9 tackles; Johnny Burns and Jaise Oliver, 6 tackles each; and Jordan Gibson, 4 with a sack. The Eagles will have an open date Friday, Oct. 6, before starting district play. Next week’s edition will feature a look at the district schedule and expectations for the rest of the regular season, especially the Eagles’ first opponent. For the first time during the first half of the 2017 gridiron regular season, the Grand Band From Eagle Land had very strong competition for half-time show supremacy! China Spring marches almost as many members as Fairfield, and the many-times-awarded unit gave the Grand Band a real run for their money, but in this writer’s eyes and ears, they fell just a smidgen short in the sound category, giving the Eagle Land crew another halftime victory!

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