by Rob Grubbs
This is a new era for Fayette County Tiger football. Head coach Nick Davis was brought in to rebuild the culture from the ground up. The task at hand is daunting, as the Tigers started the year in the midst of a 14-game losing streak, the longest in school history. Davis and his staff have worked tirelessly since the spring, and, on Friday night, they unveiled their work in progress. They opened the season against the Hampton Hornets and came up just short in a 15-13 loss, but they left a loud and clear message, things are different, and this is a program on the rise.
After stalling on their opening drive, Hampton punted to the Tigers who drove quickly down the field. On first down at their own 17, senior quarterback JeKobe Coleman broke to the right and appeared to be headed for a score when he was hit from behind and fumbled at the one-yard line, which was recovered by Hampton defensive back Jaylin Miller.
The Hornet offense, led by senior quarterback Jaivion Dorris, marched the field on a 99-yard scoring drive, highlighted by a Dorris 39-yard run from inside their own five-yard line out to near midfield. The drive appeared to stall on the Fayette County 22, but Hampton coach Chad Ashley elected to go for it on fourth down and Dorris found Denard Flowers in the end zone for the season’s first touchdown. A botched snap on the extra point allowed the Hornet holder to scamper into the end zone for the two-point conversion.
The Tigers took the second half kickoff and put together their most impressive drive of the night, a 12-play, 90-yard drive that culminated in a 23-yard touchdown pass from Coleman to Marc Stampley. A missed PAT left the score at 8-6 midway through the third.
With momentum seeming to switch sides, the Hornets got a 52-yard run from Untavais Varner. While they would not score, the long run flipped the field and put the Tigers in poor field position on their next possession.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Tigers mounted a drive deep into Hornet territory, led by a 27-yard pass from Coleman to Vernon Starks. With 3:23 remaining in the game, Tiger kicker Owen Mikoy, who had made a 54-yard field goal in a scrimmage against Sandy Creek the week before, attempted the 36-yard field goal that was blocked by Kyle Perry and returned for a touchdown. Instead of a one-point lead, the Tigers found themselves down 15-6.
The fabric of the new look Tigers came through brightly. They responded immediately with a two play, 60-yard drive that included a 54-yard scoring pass from Coleman to Kamron Glass, but the game was sealed when Hampton recovered the onside kick and closed out the 15-13 victory.
“We made things interesting, no one wanted to leave,” said Ashley. “The field goal block by Perry was a big time play by a big-time player.”
Dorris lead the Hornets with 85 yards rushing and 41 yards passing, including a TD pass to Flowers. Varner added 70 yards rushing as well.
Fayette was led by Coleman, who had 200 yards passing with 2 touchdowns, all in the second half.
“We have to stop making mistakes,” said Fayette’s Davis. “We can’t fumble on the one going in, we can’t have them pinned down and let the quarterback get outside for a long gain, penalties, dropped ball. We beat ourselves. These guys have to learn to take pride in the little things. We have to learn to win and learn to compete and expect to win and that takes time. They fought and they did not give up. We have a lot to build on.”
Hampton will take a week off before traveling to Tyrone to play the 4th-ranked Sandy Creek Patriots, while Fayette County will host Pike County this Friday night hoping to find their first win since October 6, 2017.