PREP FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS: John Carroll upends Fairview 22-14

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The Fairview Aggies fell to John Carroll in the opening round of the 5A state playoffs Friday night. (Martha Needham/The Cullman Tribune)

FAIRVIEW, Ala. – It was a cold, rainy night inside Fairview’s Dafford Smith Stadium Friday night as the Aggies hosted the John Carroll Cavaliers in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs. It was the first-ever meeting between the two teams, and it didn’t disappoint. It was a close game throughout, but in the end, it was John Carroll who would prevail over Fairview 22-14 to move on to round two.

The Aggies got the ball first to start out the game and Jake Harper got a first down on the second play of the series on a nine-yard run, but on the next play, John Carroll picked off a Kolt Redding pass and returned it to the eight. A penalty on the Cavaliers put them behind the sticks quickly, and Fairview’s defense held them out of the end zone. The Cavaliers made a 28-yard field goal to put them on the scoreboard first with 9:26 left to go in the opening period. On the first play of its next series, Fairview coughed up the ball and John Carroll recovered it. The Cavaliers quickly capitalized off the turnover, as they scored on an eight-yard touchdown pass to give them a 9-0 lead.

Harper collected a pair of first downs on the Aggies’ next series, then later on in the drive, Redding found Zayden Cruce for 14 yards and a first down. The Aggies had the ball at the 15, and three plays later, Carson Jones scored on a four-yard run to cut it to 9-7 with 2:42 left to go in the opening period. A 34-yard pass on third down kept the Cavaliers’ next series alive. Later on, an offsides penalty on the Aggies on fourth down kept their series alive again, then after converting another fourth down, they scored on the next play on a 15-yard touchdown pass to push their lead to 16-7 with 8:36 remaining in the first half.

Fairview was forced to punt on its next series, but a roughing the kicker penalty kept their series alive. Later on, Redding found Cruce for 18 yards and a first down, then a pair of big runs by Harper put the Aggies at the 17. Three plays later, Redding scrambled around and found a wide-open Gannon Black on the right side, who proceeded to take it in for a 16-yard score, to make it a 16-14 game with three minutes remaining until half time. It was a 14-play, 80-yard drive that took over five and a half minutes off the clock. The Aggies recovered a Cavalier fumble on its next series, but they couldn’t quite cash in before the half ended, as Fairview went into the half trailing 16-14.

John Carroll converted a huge fourth down to start the second half, but Blake Rickard collected a sack on the next play. A penalty backed them up even more, and they were forced to turn the ball over on downs. A huge pass interference penalty on the Cavaliers put the Aggies at the 40, then later on, Harper got another first down. But a holding penalty put a stop to their drive and ended up turning the ball over on downs. A Cavalier punt gave the ball back to Fairview at the three. Harper broke free for a 52-yard run on the first play to put the Aggies at the 45, but their drive quickly stalled after that and were forced to punt.

A face mask penalty on Fairview gave John Carroll a first down at the 38, and the Cavaliers later converted another fourth down. Two plays later, they broke free for a 35-yard run down the left sideline to increase their lead to 22-14 with 8:26 left to go in the game. Harper picked up 19 yards on the first play of the Aggies’ next series, then he picked up another first down later on in the drive. A personal foul penalty, though, quickly backed them up behind the sticks, and they were forced to punt. John Carroll burned a lot of time off the clock, picking up a pair of first downs in the process, but the Aggies got the ball back after a Cavalier punt with 26 seconds remaining, and they had a chance to tie the game. On the second play, though, an interception ended their chance, and Fairview ended up falling to John Carroll 22-14.

Harper finished the game with 190 yards on 27 carries for the Aggies (9-2). Redding finished 9/20 for 89 yards and a touchdown. Cruce finished with four receptions for 46 yards. Jace Stevens recovered a fumble, and Rickard finished with a sack for Fairview.

Fairview will lose some playmakers to graduation in May but will still have a lot of key players returning with hopes of making another postseason run in 2024.

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