The Fayette County Tigers have been building and building toward victory. They hope their 21-14 win over Starr’s Mill is the beginning of something special.
Under the leadership of coach Mike Davis, the Tigers have been rebuilt as a tough and talented squad. They put up a fight every Friday night, but they’ve come close to winning to fall short too many times. The first two games of this season could’ve been turned into victory with a few changed plays. On Friday night, the Tigers turned in four quarters of solid play. It could be the sign of big things to come.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” said coach Davis. “It was a great victory for our kids because we’ve been so close for so long. It was good to finish on top.”
Fayette’s battles with Starr’s Mill are a prime example. The last two years, they had chances to win late, but fell to the Panthers. This time was different. They’ve notched a win against a solid team. Now they’re ready to string together some success.
“We played a well coached team. Anytime you play the teams in this county, you have to come with your ‘A’ game,” said Davis.
The time is now for the Tigers to believe.
“I told them at pregame meal, let’s just be us,” Davis said. “There’s a cloud over us because there’s a lot of pressure to win. That can be overbearing. Let’s have fun and see what happens.”
Getting over the hump and claiming victory could be the momentum the Tigers need to take it to the next level.
“I believe it is,” said Davis. “We definitely needed this for morale. We have a week off to let it soak in, but we’re ready to work.”
The Tigers have plenty to be proud of, including a gutsy performance by their defense. Fayette fought off a talented, young Starr’s Mill offense when they needed stops the most. The Panthers would make a furious charge in the fourth quarter, but Fayette would keep them out of the end zone. Three times, the Panthers would be in Fayette territory in the frame, including twice in the red zone. The Tigers defense responded with a key stop on fourth and inches on the four yard line the first time, a Sean Harper fumble recovery the second time, and a Robert Easterwood interception to ice the game on the last gasp.
Following the pick, the Tigers got to go into their favorite play, a kneel down by quarterback Daveion Nash. It was even sweeter for Nash to celebrate a victory on his birthday.
“The quarterback stepped up tonight,” praised Davis. “He made some great choices. It was a good night.”
Nash completed 5 of 9 passes for 84 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while also adding 43 yards rushing.
Bruising back Montrell Kelley rumbled through the Panther defense for a massive 162 yards and two scores on just 12 carries. Davis thinks it’s just a sign of things to come.
“He ran like I envisioned him running,” said coach.
Desmond Fletcher continued his scorching hot start to the season with four catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Fletcher also filled in on defense with eight tackles and a fumble recovery.
“Fletcher is just unbelievable,” said Davis. “He’s a great athlete. He does a lot of things well. He had to play both sides of the ball tonight because of injury and he responded.”
The Tiger defense was filled with standout efforts. Trent Carrington led the way with 15 tackles. Sean Harper tallied 12 tackles and a fumble recovery. Zach Gongola picked up 11. Sean Ancrum and Tyler Brown each racked up 8 tackles.
Starr’s Mill got some standout performances of their own from their young core. Freshman running backs Rico Frye and Nic Brown continue to shine and hint at a bright future. Frye ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, while Nic Brown picked up 62 yards on 16 carries.
The first half of the game was marred by miscues from both sides as they sought to find their footing.
Fayette’s first drive stalled, and a high snap and missed punt gave the Panthers the ball deep in Tiger territory. On the next play, Rico Frye burst through the middle of the defense for a 12 yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The Tigers turned the ball over on their next drive as well, with freshman safety Cole Gilley intercepting a tipped pass. Miscues would prevent them from taking advantage though, as a high snap would drop the Panthers from midfield to their own 19. Another high snap on their punt attempt would go out the back of the end zone for a safety and a 7-2 score.
Fayette would build on the momentum after receiving the kick, with Montrell Kelley bruising the defense, including a 35 yard run. Kelley would score on a 16 yard sweep around the left end with the help of a crushing Robert Easterwood block for an 8-7 lead.
Starr’s Mill’s next drive would stall, but a brilliant Brandon Oot punt pinned the Tigers on their own two yard line. Fayette was undaunted, using a Kelley 24 yard run to get out of the shadow of their own goalpost. Nash and Fletcher would do the rest. Nash scrambled out of pressure to find Fletcher, who broke through the defense for a 67 yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead heading into the half.
Fayette’s second drive of the second half would see them reach paydirt again. It was Kelley again, capping off a 52 yard scoring drive by bulling over the defense on a 28 yard touchdown.
Starr’s Mill used a methodical 73 yard drive to narrow their margin on their next opportunity. Frye and Brown each had big runs to move the chains, along with an eight yard pass from Satchel Goodrich to Davis Wilson down to the one yard line. On fourth and goal, Frye plunged in from one yard out to make it a 21-14 game.
Fayette County is off this week before they travel to play Central Carroll on September 19. Starr’s Mill is on the road again this Friday against Dutchtown.