PREP FOOTBALL: Aggies edge Warriors 28-27 in instant classic

Fairview’s Tyler Simmons stretches across the goal line during the Aggies’ thrilling 28-27 win at West Point Friday night. (Bill Piper for The Cullman Tribune)

WEST POINT, Ala. — Please keep all hands and feet inside the ride at all times. The roller coaster ending in a huge Fairview win and another West Point heartbreak was worthy of ESPN Classic status! A late two-point conversion was the difference between these two county rivals as the Aggies came away with a 28-27 win and their first every Brandin’ Iron Bowl victory.

Fairview came out of the gate hot, controlling the line of scrimmage and following the backfield of Tyler Simmons and Parker Martin to the end zone on its opening two drives, converting one of two extra points. Warning: pay attention to the special teams plays and turnovers ahead. The Aggies forced West Point into two quick punts to take a 13-0 lead at the end of the opening quarter, but the ride was only beginning. 

After the Warriors’ first defensive stop of the game, Kelton Washington and Will Cochran went to work. On a drive where Washington continued moving the chains on the ground, Cochran finished things off with a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 13-6. Following the touchdown run was a blocked extra point that kept the lead at 13-6. 

After another West Point stop the Warriors started their two-minute drill. Cochran led his team down the field moving the chains both through the air and on the ground before finally hitting Kobe Bowers for 33-yard touchdown. The dual threat QB ran twice on the series for 22 yards and went 3 for 5 with 45 yards through the air and a touchdown to tie things up at 13 right before the half.

After the converted extra point, Fairview suffered a lost fumble on the following kickoff, giving West Point one more chance to continue swinging the momentum. Ultimately it set up for a long field goal that was missed, giving us a 13-13 tie at the half. 

Fairview took over the line of scrimmage in the beginning of the second quarter and continued that trend throughout the third. Cochran and Washington continued leading their offense down the field to open the second half, capping off the drive when Washington struck pay dirt on an 8-yard touchdown run. Logan Selby’s extra point was good making it a 20-13 game. 

The series of unfortunate events continued for Fairview with a fumble by Simmons that gave the ball right back to West Point. Jacob Simpson met Simmons in the hole and forced the fumble that was recovered by Poncho Perez. West Point put together another good drive to get into field goal territory only to have it blocked by the Aggies once again. 

The up and down game continued for Fairview which had a huge conversion on a Martin deep ball to Bryson Chamness for 34 yards. This, however, would be followed by a series of plays that got the Aggies deep behind the sticks, ultimately ending in a turnover on downs. 

West Point, now with its first late lead of the season, began driving down midway through the fourth to put the nail in the coffin. After several first downs, the Warriors found themselves at fourth-and-1 near the red zone, only to have an early snap go into the ground and bounce straight into Eli Frost’s hands. Seventy-five yards later, the Aggies tied the game at 20. The ride was getting ready for its grand finale.

Cochran threw a third-down interception on the ensuing drive, giving Fairview a chance to take the lead. Not so fast, as the Warrior defense forced another turnover on downs, giving West Point the ball with a chance to take the lead itself. Carter Thornton opened the following Warrior drive with a huge 23-yard carry putting West Point into Aggie territory. Who else but Cochran found the end zone on a 16-yard scramble to give the Warriors the lead. Selby converted once again on the extra point and gave the Warriors a 27-20 lead with just minutes left to play.

Starting from its own 40, the Fairview offense went straight to work, following Simmons down the field. Seven plays later Simmons took in a 12-yard touchdown run giving us a 27-26 game. As the field goal unit trotted out to tie the game, Fairview Head Coach George Redding called timeout and sent his offense back out on the field to attempt the two-point conversion. A quick handoff to Simmons, and just like that the Aggies found themselves with a shocking 28-27 lead with under two minutes to play. 

On what would be the last drive of the game, the West Point offense ran out of time and had a hail Mary pass fall incomplete, resulting in a thrilling win for Fairview and another heartbreaker for the Warriors.  

After the game, Redding said he was proud of the way his team held its composure in a tight rivalry matchup that came down to the wire. He also touched on the decision to go for the late two-point conversion that proved to be the difference.

“We coach just that, ‘Don’t ride the roller coaster.’ We teach our guys to play level-headed one down at a time and focus on being disciplined,” Redding said. “We came here to win. We knew at points in the game we had been able to control the line of scrimmage. West Point did a great job of flipping that script, but at that point in the game we just had to trust our guys.”

Simmons echoed his coach’s words, adding, “I just looked at my line and said let’s go get this. And that’s what we were able to do.”

Simmons finished with 19 carries for 118 yards, two touchdowns and the game winning two-point conversion. Martin added another 83 yards on the ground with his own touchdown, along with a 7 for 10 passing night for 79 yards. Hauling in three of those for 53 yards was Chamness.

West Point’s Cochran finished with more dual threat numbers including 22 carries for 139 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He threw 11 for 18 with 139 yards and a touchdown as well. Washington finished with 17 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown. Bowers was Cochran’s main target who finished with four catches on the night for 56 yards and a touchdown. 

West Point will be traveling next week to play a non-region matchup with the Hayden Wildcats, while Fairview heads home to battle Boaz in a big region game matchup.

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