Fairview ready for first shot at title
HUNTINGTON -- The Class A Fairview Eagles will either end the year as undefeated state champions, or the second-best 14-1 team in Kentucky.
Fairview (14-0), faces the Mayfield Cardinals (13-1) at noon Eastern time at Houtchens Stadium on the campus of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green to decide the Class A title.
For Fairview, it's been a season of new experiences. The Eagles had never reached the semi-finals before, but easily dispatched of defending state champion Hazard (40-6) on the Eagles' home field in Westwood last week.
Now it's their first time in a state title game.
"Obviously we're excited," said Fairview head coach Nathan McPeek, a former Marshall Thundering Herd offensive lineman. "I can't ask for much more with the way these kids have been playing."
The Eagles have blown through their schedule, averaging nearly 49 points a game while only giving up about 14.
On offense, Fairview has gotten it done with three running backs who have eclipsed 1,000 yards on the season -- two of them gaining more than 1,500.
McPeek, a graduate of Russell High School and Ivan McGlone's Wing-T offense, uses an updated, double wing rushing attack based on that of his high school coach.
It all starts with Chris Brewer, the team's fullback. He's been taking dive and trap plays up the middle all season for 1,505 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns.
Devon Turner is a back with size and speed, who spends equal time between the tackles and isolated to the outside. He's piled up 1,520 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground.
"Chris is our bruiser, and Devon can do a little bit of both," McPeek said.
Then there's Huntington High transfer Elijah King.
King typically gets the ball on jet sweeps or when McPeek goes to his spread package, and has been flashing by defenders this year for 1,331 yards and 20 touchdowns.
"Elijah is our speed back," McPeek said. "He is just electrifying. He's fast, and he's got moves, but he can also lower the shoulder a little bit and lay into you.
"All three of our backs do a great job, and the offensive line does a great job."
The spread is a wrinkle McPeek added to make Fairview a bit more difficult to prepare for.
There was no sign of it against Hazard, simply because the Bulldogs could never adjust to stop the run.
"That was a great game for us," McPeek said. "We just keep moving the ball and moving the clock."
The offense has been running smoothly all year under the direction of freshman quarterback Alex Roy, who didn't have a single pass attempt against Hazard.
Roy has racked up 616 passing yards this season, rather a lot for a team that runs the ball on almost every play. He's also thrown six touchdown passes.
"He's just a baby, a freshman," McPeek said. "He's done a great job of running our offense."
Fairview has been practicing at Kentucky Christian University in Grayson this week to get ready for the field turf at Houtchens Stadium.
McPeek said his team has been sharp, and know they've got a tough opponent in Mayfield.
While a state championship game is uncharted territory for the Eagles, this is Mayfield's 17th state title appearance.
Though they have the single loss (in the first game of the season against 5A Warren Central), the Cardinals' scoring numbers are almost identical to Fairview, averaging about 48 points per game while allowing 15.
The majority of Mayfield's yards and points are also spread amongst three players, though in a different fashion.
If anything, the Cardinals have balance, with quarterback Jake Guhy throwing for 2,697 yards and 32 touchdowns, wide receiver Jordon Brown racking up 1,138 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, and running back Jonathan Jackson having nearly 2,000 yards on the ground, along with 33 trips to the end zone.
"They have a lot of skill guys and a lot of speed," McPeek said.
But the coach trusts his defense. Last week the secondary shut down Hazard's Jordan Olinger, who finished the season with 882 receiving yards and six touchdown receptions.
"This week, they'll have to do it again," McPeek said. "We wouldn't be where we are if it wasn't for our defense. We play a lot of young kids on that side and they fly to the ball and hit you. On our front, we've got three or four different guys we can rotate in and out, which for Class A is a lot."
While McPeek and his players are focusing on film and execution, the unincorporated Boyd County hamlet of Westwood, in which Fairview is located, is going crazy.
State finals T-shirts are selling out, and Eagles football is the pride of the town.
McPeek said when the team returned well after midnight from Pikeville, a 36-14 road win to make it to the semifinals, all the lights were on in the stadium and about 300 people were there to greet the team.
"They were shooting off fireworks," McPeek said. "Westwood is such a tight-knight community, and when you do well, it's good for the community."
The Eagles were expected to leave for Bowling Green, Ky., early Thursday, and McPeek said if his team continues to play the way it has played, the Eagles have a shot.
"We're probably a huge underdog, but we've got to believe," he said. "Our kids believe, and if they block well, and tackle well and create turnovers, and we play our best, we can win.
"If we play our best and they play their best, and we lose, as a coach you can live with that."