PREP FOOTBALL: Fairview knocks off No. 9 Russellville to advance to 1st quarterfinals since 1994

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Fairview running back Tyler Simmons (24) scored a touchdown on the ground and through the air in the Aggies’ 35-21 win at Russellville Friday night. (Martha Needham/The Cullman Tribune)

RUSSELLVILLE, Ala. – Friday night was a special one for the Fairview Aggies. The purple and gold made the trip to Russellville to face the Golden Tigers in round two of the Class 5A State Playoffs and returned home with a 35-21 win and a spot in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1994. Friday night’s win was also the 100th career victory for Head Coach George Redding. Redding was playing for the Aggies the last time they were in the third round of the playoffs and now he’ll be returning as a head coach with 100 wins under his belt. It was a special night for Quarterback Parker Martin as well who posted four touchdowns in the Aggies’ win.

Last week Fairview won a nail-biter that many didn’t give them a chance to win and much of the talk this week was the same heading on the road to play 5A powerhouse Russellville. Fairview has one thing to say about that, “We’re pretty good too!”

Fairview received the ball to start the game and used its powerful running attack to move the ball straight down the field, where senior running back Tyler Simmons capped it off with a 13-yard touchdown run. A rare miss on the extra point had the Aggies up 6-0. Russellville went straight to their own running game and put together a similar drive and went on top 7-6. 

Fairview had an uncharacteristic three and out and kicker/punter Elijah Guyton boomed a 60-yard punt, pinning Russellville inside the 7-yard line. Russellville and Fairview would trade promising drives that ended with punts to keep the game 7-6 mid way through the second quarter. 

Russellville, who uses a very balanced attack with weapons everywhere, used several big plays to grab a 14-6 lead on an 18-yard touchdown run. With momentum shifting the Golden Tigers had Fairview on a third-and-9 with a chance to get the ball back just before half, with the ball coming back to them to start the third. Senior receiver Bryson Chamness had different plans. Chamness caught a pass and sprinted to the first down marker for a game changing first down, but that wasn’t it. He went on to catch three straight passes, four total on the drive that had Fairview in Russellville territory with under a minute to play in the half. 

Fairview wasn’t catching any favors from the refs. Several penalties almost stalled the drive, but ultimately “the ball don’t lie.” Despite facing a second-and-25 at one point, Fairview was able to move the chains thanks a big catch by receiver Caden Jennings. Fast forward just a few plays and Fairview found itself on the 7-yard line with three seconds and a big decision to make. That’s automatic range for Guyton, but ultimately Coach Redding felt they needed the touchdown. A bad snap flew over senior quarterback Parker Martin’s head. He picked it up as the buzzer went off, scrambled around breaking tackles looking for someone down field, then delivered a laser to Simmons for possibly the biggest play of the season for the Aggies. A two-point conversion pass to senior do-it-all Dalton Payne tied it 14-14 at half.

Russellville received the opening kickoff of the second half and had a handful of explosive plays, but ultimately the stingy Aggie defense forced a turnover on downs behind a huge hit by senior Ethan Bice. The senior trio of Martin, Simmons, and Chamness went right back to work and put Fairview back into the redzone, where another bad call took them from fourth-and-1 to fourth-and-6 from the 12-yard line. Martin would take the snap roll to his left and find Jameson Goble open for a 12-yard touchdown and a 21-14 lead. 

Just a few plays later Russellville’s quarterback would unload a bomb down the field but found out the hard way who Fairview’s free safety is. Martin, the two-time All-State defensive back, jumped up and picked off the pass and gave Fairview the ball at its own 16-yard line. Going into the fourth quarter The Golden Tigers got the ball back getting their own pick off a tipped pass. Flags would doom the drive and they’d again get a turnover on downs. 

Sophomore sensation Eli Frost, who was played limited action offensively with an ankle injury, would rip off a big 22-yard run that also had a late hit tacked onto the end of it to put Fairview in the redzone. Martin would again find the endzone, this time from a yard out putting the Aggies up 28-14. Russellville wouldn’t go away going straight down and scoring in just two minutes to pull within 7 with just over five minutes to play. 

With vibes of last week, where a 16-point fourth quarter lead needed a two-point conversion stop to pull of the win, Holding the 7-point lead Fairview went back to their bread-and-butter Martin and Simmons and found themselves facing a third-and-3 on the Russellville 38. Martin would fake the handoff to Simmons and take off 38 yards to put the Aggies on top 35-21 with two minutes to play. One final defensive stop sealed the win and launched Fairview straight into the third round of the 5A playoffs.

Martin would finish 14 for 23 passing, totaling 230 total yards and four touchdowns. Simmons added 77 on the ground with a touchdown while Frost finished with 83 yards. Chamness grabbed a season high six receptions for 57 yards and Jennings, who had to get stitches for a cut arm this week, grabbed three huge catches for 45 yards.

As the clock hit zero, Ethan Bice nearly collapsed from the emotion, a much different side of the guy who was in the backfield all night making big plays.

“I’m just so proud of this team, the line, everyone,” Bice said. “I’ve never been so close to people before. This team feels like family. I’m on cloud nine to be headed to the third round.” 

Chamness, who was part of the heroics at the end of the first half, added,

“The crowd was incredible,” Chamness said. “They were so loud, and I was just feeding off it to do what I had to move the chains.” 

Coach Redding was excited to celebrate his 100th victory at Fairview but he’s even more excited about the way his team is playing and seems to improve with each passing week.

“I’ll tell you, 100 is great, but what I love is this team and what they’re doing,” Redding said. “We went into the game with a couple of tweaks on the offense to try and expose some things, but we had to go into half and make some more adjustments and our guys just executed. This team has shown everyone, all the doubters, that they belong!”

With previously undefeated Alexandria falling, Fairview will be hosting the Parker Thundering Herd next week for a huge matchup in Cullman County. 

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