MIDDLE SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Fairview outpaces West Point in 41-32 shootout to win Cullman County Championship

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Cullman County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette presents this year’s Cullman County Middle School Football Championship Trophy to the Fairview Aggies after Tuesday night’s game against West Point. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)

FAIRVIEW, Ala. – It was a near-perfect night for football at Dafford Smith Stadium in Fairview Tuesday night and fans were treated to a high-scoring, competitive showdown between the Aggies and the West Point Warriors for this year’s Cullman County Middle School Football Championship. After trading scores for four quarters, Fairview finished the game on top 41-32 and got its hands on the championship hardware.

The Warriors received the opening kickoff but on the first play from scrimmage, a pass was intercepted by Fairview’s Kobe Payne and set the Aggies up with great field position right out of the gate. However, Fairview was forced to punt on the ensuing possession, West Point pounded the ball on the ground and capped off a long scoring drive with a 2-yard touchdown run from Noah Laney and the Warriors took an 8-0 lead late in the opening quarter.

The Aggies responded with a scoring drive of their own and cut the lead to 8-7 when Jameson Goble found the end zone from 12 yards out with just a few seconds remaining in the first quarter. West Point was ready to answer and used another time-consuming drive to get deep into Fairview territory and take a 14-7 lead when Garit Roberson scored from 5 yards out with four minutes to play in the half. Just a few snaps later, the Aggies tied the game at 14 when Goble took his next handoff 65 yards to the house with 1:45 to play in the second quarter.

However, the Warriors weren’t quite done in the first half and tacked on six more points when quarterback Parker Marks hit Eli Sims for 60 yards and a touchdown that made it a 20-14 game at the break.

The Aggies received the opening kickoff of the third quarter, but West Point was able to regain possession deep in Fairview territory when Patrick Adcock stripped the ball from an Aggies runner and returned it all the way down to the 14-yard line. Just a few plays later, Dawson Smith punched one in from 3 yards out to give the Warriors a 26-14 advantage with under three minutes to play in the third. Fairview’s next offensive play cut into the West Point lead when Eli Frost took one 60 yards for a score and made it a 26-21 game.

The Warriors had yet another answer as Marks took the ensuing kickoff 60 yards for another West Point touchdown and stretched the lead to 32-21 with just under two minutes to play in the third. The Aggies mustered a response and capped off another scoring drive with a 5-yard Goble touchdown run to make it 32-27 and got a shot at even more momentum when they recovered a fumble on the Warriors’ ensuing kickoff return.

A scary moment delayed the game for a little over half an hour when a West Point player went down with an apparent neck injury but was safely moved into an ambulance and received an ovation from both crowds on his way out of the stadium.

When play resumed, Fairview took over at midfield after recovering the fumble and took its first lead of the game when Frost scored from 14 yards out and put the Aggies on top 34-32 with just under six minutes to play. West Point began driving after that, needing a field goal of better to take the lead but another fumble gave Fairview the ball back on its own 26-yard line with less than two minutes remaining on the clock. While attempting to move the chains and run out the clock, Goble broke free for his fourth touchdown of the night, this time from 43 yards out, and put the Aggies up 41-32 with less than a minute to play and putting the game out of reach for the Warriors.

After the game, Fairview Head Coach David Martin talked about his two standouts during the game, Goble and Frost, after a pair of phenomenal performances. Frost racked up 196 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries while Goble collected 187 yards and four touchdowns on 14 carries. Frost also caught two passes for nine yards. The pair accounted for 392 of Fairview’s 393 total yards of offense and all six scores. Fairview’s Jesus Avalos Hernandez was also a perfect 5-for-5 kicking extra points for the Aggies, including the kick that made it a 9-point game with less than a minute to play.

“We’ve leaned on them all year. They’ve carried the load for us all year and that’s what we expected tonight,” Martin said. “West Point did a good job of slowing us down in the first half and we just kept giving it to them because that’s who we depend on. That’s us so we just wanted to stick with what we do and hope that it worked out.”

This was a game full of momentum swings and Martin is proud of his team for the way they fought through all the punches West Point could throw and held on to win this year’s county title.

“They’ve fought hard all year and they never quit and that was kind of a gut check for us, it really was,” Martin said. “I was proud of the way they responded and they could’ve tanked it and gave up but that’s not the way they are so I’m really proud of them.”

Offensively, the Warriors were led by Laney, who ran for 75 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, and Roberson who finished with 46 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Marks completed three of his 10 passes for 89 yards, a touchdown and an interception and Sims caught all three of them for 89 yards and a score. Marks also rushed for 93 yards on just six carries and returned a kick for a touchdown as well.

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