ROME TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Dragons are mudders.
Fairland edged Portsmouth 15-14 Friday night in high school football on the rain-soaked grass of Jim Mayo Memorial Stadium in a key Ohio Valley Conference game with a passel of playoff rating points on the line.
Freshman defensive back Kam Kitts knocked down Drew Roe’s 2-point conversion pass with 1:12 left in the game, securing the victory.
Roe, who completed 20 of 30 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns scrambled away from safety J.D. Brumfield and defensive end Casey Hudson, each of whom had harassed the league’s leading passer all game. Roe threw off balance, but Kitts stepped in front of the receiver and batted the ball down.
“To be a DB you have to have a short memory,” Fairland coach Melvin Cunningham said of Kitts, who was flagged for pass interference on Portsmouth’s previous drive. “He made a play.”
The Dragons (6-1 overall, 3-1 OVC) made big plays at key times. After Roe hit Dariyonne Bryant with a 52-yard touchdown pass, then threw to Reade Pendleton for a 2-point conversion to tie the game 8-8, Zander Schmidt returned the ensuing kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown, his third kickoff return for a score this season. Alex Bruce’s extra point made it 15-8.
Roe passed 19 yards to Bryant for another TD with 1:12 left, setting up Kitts’ heroics.
“The mud affected both teams,” Cunningham said. “We had some bad snaps. They had some bad snaps. Our offensive line adapted and J.D. (Brumfield) kept running. Our defense made stops.”
Brumfield. who carried 19 times for 101 yards, gave Fairland the lead on a 2-yard run at 9:56 of the second quarter. Dragons coaches noticed a vulnerability in Portsmouth’s defense and went for two, with Zion Martin carrying the ball for the conversion.
The Dragons defense did the rest, holding Portsmouth to minus-2 yards rushing on 14 carries. The Trojans hadn’t scored fewer than 34 points in a game all season.
The mud was a factor in limiting the Trojans’ offense, but also Fairland’s. A receiver slipped as Schmidt threw what appeared to be a sure touchdown pass in the first quarter. Throwing the ball was difficult for sophomore quarterback Peyton Jackson, who completed 4 of 13 throws for 80 yards, with two interceptions.
“We had Steeler Leep open for three touchdown passes,” Cunningham said. “We missed him, but he was open.”
Schmidt had a 29-yard touchdown run nullified by a penalty.
“Everyone played their hearts out,” Schmidt said. “We wouldn’t have won unless everyone did.”
Roe was on the run much of the night, with Hudson and Brumfield applying much of the pressure, but several defenders joining in to force the 5-foot-8, 150-pound senior to make plays. Roe often did.
“He’s a good quarterback who can throw and run,” said Hudson, a 6-2, 210-pound senior. “We wanted to keep him off balance, make him throw off his back foot, make him throw sidearm, whatever. I just tried to get my hands in his face.”
Both teams continue in conference play on Friday, with Fairland going to Coal Grove (4-3, 3-2), and Portsmouth (6-2, 3-1) entertaining South Point (1-6, 1-4).
PORTSMOUTH 0 0 8 6 — 14
FAIRLAND 0 8 7 0 — 15
First downs 10 8
Rushes-yards 14-(minus-2) 35-129
Passes 20-30-0 4-13-2
Passing yards 201 80
Total yards 199 209
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 7-45 10-96
Punts 4-40.2 2-16.5
Rushing: Portsmouth — Roe 14-0, Hammond 1-(minus-2), Johnson 1-0; Fairland — Brumfield 19-101, Jackson 9-6, Schmidt 6-24, Martin 1-(minus-2).
Passing: Portsmouth — Roe 20-30-0, 201 yards; Fairland — Jackson 4-13-2, 80 yards; Schmidt 0-1-0.
Receiving: Portsmouth — Duncan 4-23, Pendleton 8-57, Bryant 6-114, Roe 1-12, Hammond 1-(minus-5); Fairland — Brumfield 2-16, Schmidt 2-64.