PREP FOOTBALL: Warriors edge Aggies in thriller to take Brandin’ Iron Bowl

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West Point Quarterback Will Cochran (10) finds wide receiver Whitt Laney (3) for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Warriors’ 14-8 win at Fairview. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)

FAIRVIEW, Ala. — On a surprisingly comfortable August evening at Dafford Smith Stadium, the Fairview Aggies faced off against their cross-county rival West Point Warriors.

West Point won the toss and deferred to the second half kicking off to the Aggies. Tyvn Ellis bobbled the kick but recovered for a decent 16-yard return.  In a theme for an opening game for both sides, a penalty helped stall Fairview’s opening drive as they were forced to punt after three plays.

West Point was penalized on the punt return. On the second play from scrimmage, quarterback Will Cochran hit Whitt Laney for a 36-yard pass play putting them deep in Fairview territory.  Fairview’s defense stiffened and forced West Point into a fourth down situation from Fairview’s 12-yard line.  Scrambling Cochran hooked up again with Laney for a 12 touchdown. The PAT was good by Anthony Selby making the score 7-0 with 7:24 to go in the first quarter.

Drives by both teams stalled during the rest of the first quarter with penalties playing a major factor. The quarter ended with the Warriors leading 7-0.

Fairview started the second quarter with a drive that stalled on their own side of the field. An outstanding punt by Tyler Simmons pinned the Warriors on their own 1-yard line.

Cochran attempted passes from his own end zone completing one for nine yards.  Just when it looked like the Warriors might escape from the shadow of their goal post, the Aggies blitzed Cochran and tackled him in the end zone forcing a West Point safety. The score was now 7-2 West Point with 6:27 left in the half.

The Warriors kicked the following free kick out of bounds. The Aggies were in great field position on the West Point 45. The Aggies were able to drive to the West Point 16-yard line.  The Warriors forced the Aggies to attempt a fourth down pass that was completed short of the first down and West Point got the ball on downs.

West Point went on an 11-play drive with Cochran completing a pass to Levi Farley as he was being tackled. The Warriors were forced to punt and the half ended with a 15 yard run by Simmons. The halftime score was 7-2 in favor of West Point.

The second half opened with drives by both teams once again being plagued by penalties. West Point took their third offensive drive on the Fairview 49. After a run for no gain, Cochran dropped back to pass and hit Kobe Bowers for a 49-yard touchdown pass. Selby’s PAT increased the Warriors lead to 14-2 with 3:20 to go in the third quarter.

Ellis returned the ensuing kickoff 32 yards giving the Aggies possession on West Point’s 48-yard line. On the sixth play of the drive, West Point was called for pass interference. The Aggies were still forced to get a first down on the next play. The third quarter ended with the Aggies deep in West Point’s end of the field with the Warriors leading 14-2.

With a first and goal from the 1-yard line, Fairview’s quarterback Parker Martin ran for the touchdown. The PAT was no good and the score was 14-8 West Point with 11:05 to go in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors began the next drive on their own 36-yard line and after a 32-yard pass from Cochran to Laney appeared to be ready to score. Laney caught the next pass and just before hitting the ground fumbled the ball. The Aggies recovered on their own 13-yard line.

Fairview returned to ground game and used a 15-play drive to get to West Point’s 22-yard line. On a fourth and one, Fairview was stopped short and the Warriors took over possession with 1:50 left in the game. The Warriors appeared to be ready to close out the game.

The Aggies had other plans. Fairview held West point and forced the Warriors to punt after three plays. Eli Speegle returned the punt for 12 yard giving the Aggies the ball on their own 45 with 40 seconds to go in the game.

After a 13-yard run by Martin, he completed passes of five yards to Ellis, 10 yards to JT White and 20 yards to White. Quickly spiking the ball, Fairview was inside West Point’s 10-yard line with two seconds on the clock.

The last play of the game was an incomplete pass in the end zone as the clock expired as Fairview came up inches short of tying the game.

Cochran finished the game 10 of 18 passing for 166 yards.  He was also the leading rusher for West Point gaining 35 yards on 16 carries. Farley rushed for 18 yards on 8 carries.

Martin threw for 67 yards completing 11 passes of 20 attempts. Simmons led Fairview in rushing gaining 80 yards on 18 carries. Ellis added 79 yards on 22 rushes.

Fairview outgained West Point 262 total yards to West Point’s 227 total yards.

Warriors Head Coach Don Farley went over some of the strategy that went into the final snap and reflected on another hard-fought game between Fairview and West Point.

“It was a pressure situation, we knew they had no timeouts and we were debating whether or not to take ours but if you take your timeout, you’re going to give them an opportunity to set up something they want. If you don’t, they have to think a little more on the run and Coach (George) Redding is good at that,” Farley said. “They dialed up a pretty good play, but our players made plays right there and it went our way. Great heart and effort on both sides. That’s the way a county rivalry should be and that’s the way this rivalry has been. It’s always a dog fight and we know it. We’re just glad to get the win and get ready for next week.”

West Point will be back on the road next to take on the Arab Knights with a chance to start the season 2-0. The Aggies will have to turn around and get ready for another county rivalry next week when they travel to Hanceville.

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