MIDDLE SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Fairview topples Vinemont 24-6 to win county championship

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The Fairview Aggies knocked off the Vinemont Eagles 24-6 Thursday night to win this year’s Cullman County Middle School Championship. (Martha Needham/The Cullman Tribune)

VINEMONT, Ala. – Fairview made the trip to Vinemont to take on the top-seeded Eagles in this year’s Cullman County Championship Game and after falling to the Eagles 32-0 earlier in the season, the Aggies bounced back in a big way Thursday night and topped Vinemont 24-6 to claim the county title. Fairview built an early lead and after a late touchdown from the Eagles cut into the lead, a late turnover gave the ball back to the Aggies and allowed them to run out the rest of the clock and secure the win.

Fairview Head Coach David Martin and his staff knew that containing Vinemont’s running game was going to be a big key to winning this game and he was happy to see his team execute the plan Thursday night.

“We knew we had to stop the ground game. Last time we played them, we couldn’t stop them and that was our whole emphasis this week preparing for them. We knew they were going to ground and pound it and we had trouble with it last time, but we knew if we could control that ground game, we’d have a chance,” Martin said. “Offensively, we knew if we could get a couple of early scores and put the pressure on them that would give us a lot of confidence. We got the defense rolling too and made some big stops to give them some confidence. The blocked punt was big, and we didn’t have as many miscues this time around, so the boys were really ready to play tonight.”

The Aggies took control of the momentum early after Alex Cruz blocked an Eagles punt deep in their own territory and set up Fairview’s offense with great field position. Just a few plays later, Jake Harper punched one into the end zone from 5 yards out and after the two-point conversion, the Aggies led 8-0 with 3:27 to play in the opening quarter. Vinemont was forced to punt again on its next possession and the Eagles went into the second quarter trailing 8-0.

Fairview stuck again early in the second when quarterback Kolt Redding took one 36 yards to the house for another Aggies touchdown and the two-point conversion stretched the lead to 16-0 with just under seven minutes remaining in the second quarter. Both teams punted on their final possessions of the half and Fairview went into the break with a commanding, 16-0 lead.

The Aggies received the ball to start the third quarter and another big run from Harper set Fairview up deep in Eagles territory. A few plays later, Redding capped off another scoring drive with a 1-yard dive and the Aggies pulled ahead 24-0 early in the third following the two-point conversion. Jaxon Marotz gave Vinemont some life with a big kick return out near midfield and later in the drive, Dominic McDonald broke through the line and raced past the Aggie defense to score from 44 yards out and cut the lead to 24-6 with 38 seconds to play in the third.

The Eagles forced Fairview to turn the ball over on downs on its next possession and got the ball back with a chance to chip away more of the lead, but a fumble recovered by the Aggies with less than two minutes to play put things out of reach for Vinemont. Fairview held on to win it 24-6 and claim this year’s county crown.

Redding finished the night with 95 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries and Harper added 82 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. McDonald led the way for the Eagles with 70 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and Josh Rhodes 32 yards on 13 carries.

Martin was proud of the way his team responded to their loss to Vinemont earlier in the year and finished the season strong Thursday night.

“In the first game I think we kind of went into it thinking we didn’t have to play hard, and they kicked us right in the mouth. That gave us a wakeup call and so these last couple guys I think they realized they had to show up or their season would be over,” Martin said. “So, they were a hungry bunch of kids. These eighth graders had it rough last year and they stuck around, hung with it and worked hard. I told them that if they would keep working it hard, it would pay off for them and it finally did so we’re proud of them. I’ve got two of the greatest coaches and I really appreciate all that they do too. It was a great season for us.”

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