Special to the Grove Sun
AFTON — Defense took a beating Friday night when Afton rolled to a 46-36 homecoming victory over Fairland in a District A-8 shootout here.
The teams combined for 898 yards in total offense, with the sixth-ranked Eagles amassing 526 of that.
The 84 points combined was a record for the rivalry, which dates back to at least 1926.
The previous high was 64 points in 1981, when the Eagles rolled to a 50-14 victory.
“The game was ugly, but effective,” Afton head coach Zach Gardner said. “You’ve got to give credit to them. They played well, too.”
Said Fairland head coach Jimmy Dushane: “I guess the one thing I was kinda disappointed in was that defensively we couldn’t make a stop. Again, that is credit to Zach. I know he is a very offensive-minded person. He does a good job of studying what they can do. They found a little hole we had and capitalized on it a couple times.”
The win was the seventh straight for the Eagles, who now are 3-0 in A-8 play.
It also was the ninth straight in the rivalry for Afton, who holds a 50-35-2 edge in one of the state’s oldest series.
Fairland (4-3, 2-1) had a two-game losing streak snapped.
“They do a really good job over there,” Dushane said. “They were able to capitalize on some of the mistakes we made and didn’t allow us to get involved to where we could come back from it.”
Senior Matt Wisdom had a career night, rushing for 283 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries.
The backbreaker was a 93-yard romp by Wisdom in the fourth quarter. Afton had led 34-20 up to then and the Owls had done a good job of keeping pace.
“We had someone there to hit him in the hole and he was able to bounce away from it,” Dushane said. “Once he got by the first level, they had us so spread out in the second level. We didn’t recover like I thought we could. Once he got to that second level and got a little distance, he was able to go ahead and take it home.”
Wisdom also scored on runs of 34, 18 and 3 yards.
“Wisdom played well for us, but the guys up front did a good job, too,” Gardner said.
Quarterback Brennon Fuser completed 11 of 19 passing for 186 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted twice, including one in the second quarter that was returned 64 yards by Ty Stovall.
“That was uncharacteristic for him,” Gardner said.
Dusty Henry had five receptions for 73 yards while Sam Shepard snagged three catches for 59 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Cecil Jones had Afton’s other TD catch, a 41-yarder.
The Owls had their offensive standouts, too.
Quarterback Jon Henry completed 14 of 28 attempts for 232 yards and four touchdowns. He was intercepted three times.
Jesse Drosche had seven receptions for 123 yards and two scores while Jordan Alexander had five catches for 93 yards and another two TDs.
“They just outhorsed us on the edge with those receivers,” Gardner said. “Those are two really talented athletes and they just used their size against us. A lot of times they were in position to make plays and they just outhorsed us.
“Plus, Henry threw the ball accurately. That was the most effective I have seen him all year.”
The game started innocently, with Sam Shepard reeling in a 5-yard scoring pass from Fuser late in the opening quarter.
But it was 28-14 at the half, then each team got a touchdown in the third quarter.
Alexander got both of his touchdowns in the fourth quarter, both going for 25 yards. That pulled Fairland to within 10.
The Owls were driving late in the game, but a penalty hampered the threat. Then an interception in the end zone snuffed out FHS’ final chance.
“We had to take a shot at the end zone,” Dushane said. “The score could have been even closer because if we score right there, you are talking about a two- to four-point ballgame, then who knows what happens on the next kickoff.”
Henry had three of the Eagles’ four interception. Zack Dodson added the other one.
Wisdom also excelled on defense, posting a team-high 14 tackles. Brooks Victor added 12 and Jones, assigned to guard Drosche, posted nine stops.
Chas Wood and Kolton Selsor were Fairland’s leading tacklers with 16 and 15, respectively. Stovall posted 12 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Alexander had the Owls’ other interception and Layne Wilmoth recovered a fumble.
“I am incredibly proud of my kids,” Dushane said. “We left everything we had out there. They did just what we asked. You can’t ask for any more.”
Afton travels to Oklahoma Union on Friday.
Fairland is idle. It’s next action will be Oct. 29 at Foyil.