PREP FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS: Fairview blows past Central Florence 46-20 to move on to round 2

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Fairview’s Eli Speegle (28) returns an interception during the Aggies’ 46-20 win over Central Florence Friday night. (Martha Needham for The Cullman Tribune)

FAIRVIEW, Ala. – After winning their first regional championship since the AHSAA implemented region play, the Fairview Aggies hosted the Central Florence Wildcats for a first-round playoff game. On the first freezing night of the season, the Wildcats came to Dafford Smith Stadium with a 3-7 record.

The Wildcats won the toss and elected to go on offense first. On the second play of the game, Central’s running back Dalton Hanback was injured and finished with only 8 yards on three carries.

It appeared that the Aggies were going to quickly take control of the game when Eli Speegle returned Central’s punt for 32 yards to the 38-yard line of the Wildcats. After getting to Central’s 8-yard line, Fairview suffered penalties, a fumble and a quarterback sack on fourth-and-13 to turn the ball over to the Wildcats at their 22-yard line.

On the first play of the drive, Payton Palmer hit Casey Dickerson on a 35-yard pass play to move into Fairview territory. Six plays later, Palmer completed a touchdown pass of 25 yards to Jamal Ingram with 2:46 left in the first quarter. The play was a reverse with a toss back to the quarterback. The 2-point attempt was no good and the Wildcats led 6-0 early.

Fairview again suffered a miscue as a bad snap caused an 11-yard loss and the Aggies were forced to punt. The first quarter ended with the Wildcats leading 6-0. The Aggies finished the first quarter with only 17 total yards. Central finished the quarter with 92 total yards.

Fairview looked to correct the issues of the first quarter. With Central driving, the Aggies did just that when Speegle intercepted Palmer and returned the ball to Central’s 45-yard line.

Penalties again looked to stall Fairview’s drive until quarterback Parker Martin ran for 30 yards. Facing a fourth-and-1 from Central’s 5-yard line, Tyvn Ellis scored with 6:28 to go in the second quarter. The successful PAT gave the Aggies their first lead of the game at 7-6.

A punt by the Wildcats gave the Aggies good field position on their own 43-yard line. On the fifth play of the drive, it appeared that Fairview had extended its lead when Tyler Simmons ran into the end zone on a 21-yard run. Once again, the Aggies were called on a penalty for holding. Since the holding occurred downfield, the yardage marked off still gave Fairview a first down on Central’s 19-yard line. Simmons ran in for a 5-yard touchdown two plays later and the Aggies ended the first half leading 14-6.

Fairview’s defense held the Wildcats to just 23 total yards in the second quarter while its offense ended with 82 total yards in the quarter.

The Aggies received the ball first to begin the second half and wasted little time in continuing the momentum they had from the second quarter.  Highlighted by a 20-yard run from Mason Black, Ellis scored on a 4-yard touchdown run and Fairview led 20-6 with 8:55 left in the third quarter.

The Wildcats drove into Fairview territory when the Aggies defense stopped Central on Fairview’s 40-yard line when a fourth-and-1 run by Palmer was short. Fairview’s Black capped off a 60-yard drive when he scored on a 23-yard touchdown run. That completed scoring in the third quarter and the Aggies led 27-6.

Continuing a drive from the third quarter, the Aggies scored with 10:08 left in the game on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Martin to Black and the lead was 34-6.

Central took only four plays to answer the Fairview touchdown. Ingram scored on a 56-yard touchdown run with 8:31 to go in the game. The 2-point attempt was successful and Central cut the Fairview lead to 34-14.

The Aggies weren’t to be outdone, answering the Wildcats’ score with a six-play scoring drive that ended when Martin hit J.T. White on a 9-yard scoring pass with 5:28 to go in the game to extend the lead to 40-14.

On Central’s next possession, it was faced with a fourth-and-6 when Speegle got his second interception of the game and put the Aggies in great field position on Central’s 35-yard line. Four plays later, Simmons hammered into the end zone with 1:57 left in the game and the Aggies extended their lead to 46-14.

The Wildcats completed the scoring for the game when Palmer completed a 38-yard pass to Komarie Wilson with 44.9 seconds left in the game, and the final score was 46-20 Fairview.

The Aggies rebounded from the first quarter and held Central to 273 total yards for the game. Simmons led Fairview in rushing, gaining 109 yards on 17 carries. Martin finished the night 12-of-14 passing for 196 yards.

After the game, Fairview Head Coach George Redding said, “We had some miscues in the first quarter and they hit us with some trick plays. We never deviated from the game plan and started executing better.”

Fairview (9-2) advances to the second round of the AHSAA playoffs and will travel to Calhoun County where the Aggies will face the Anniston Bulldogs (7-4) next Friday at 7 p.m.

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