Fairmont’s program reversal last football season continues to reverberate through the Firebirds. A stunning season-opening defeat of Alter was followed by a rare playoff appearance. And the Firebirds are following that script again.
“It’s a learning process and really what our team needed,” said Firebirds senior running back Jesse Deglow, who scored the winning touchdown with 14 seconds left to clinch another season-opening knockout of Alter, this time 12-6 at packed Roush Stadium on Thursday night.
“Going through the rest of the season, it’s going to be a really good confidence booster for us.”
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Loaded with a senior-dominated team, many of whom are three-year starters, Fairmont looked every bit the equal of Alter. That wasn’t so when Alter had its way with Fairmont for 12 straight openers until last season, a 13-12 Fairmont upset. And now Fairmont has done it again.
“We’re setting tradition,” beamed Fairmont senior defensive end Jonas Smith, whose second fumble recovery set up the winning drive. “We’re setting a path for the future.”
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Both teams were offensively challenged throughout. Alter had 179 yards of total offense and Fairmont 159.
Fairmont’s Asher Rohm had field goals of 32 and 25 yards. He was matched by Alter’s Jack Ruffolo, who connected on kicks of 32 and 29 yards.
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The rivals appeared destined for overtime. That changed when Fairmont senior quarterback Braden Miller, the son of Firebirds head coach Dave Miller, completed his only pass, a 34-yarder to senior Marquies Williams in the final minute.
Stopped at Alter’s 1-yard line, Deglow vaulted over the middle of the line on the next play for the game-winner. Fairmont fans rocked the stadium in approval and the Firebirds celebrated likewise. Alter’s final pass attempt was intercepted by Ryan Hall and Fairmont celebrated more.
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Defense dominated for both teams. Firebirds senior linebacker Trey Baker had 10 tackles and an interception. Alter senior quarterback Connor Bazelak, who’s committed to the University of Missouri, completed seven passes for just 55 yards and was intercepted twice. That was part of four turnovers that continually undermined the Knights. Fairmont had none.
“Whether it’s uncharacteristic or not, we made the mistakes and Fairmont did not make those same kinds of mistakes,” veteran Alter coach Ed Domsitz said. “The (Alter) defense did an amazing job until the last drive. They struggled and Fairmont took advantage of that.”
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It was another significant season-opening statement by Fairmont, which went 7-4 last season following 1-9 in 2016, Miller’s first as coach. Fairmont is at top-ranked Northmont in a Week 2 Greater Western Ohio Conference crossover matchup.
“It’s a credit to our kids that (the process) is working,” Miller said. “They came to work two years ago. We never had below 50 in our weight room and this year the same thing. They’re starting to understand what hard work and paying the price does for you. I’m hugely proud of all of them. This is so neat.”
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Alter, 9-2 last season, won out in the regular season after losing to Fairmont in 2017.
“They’re a bonified, good football team,” said Domsitz, whose Knights play Thurgood Marshall at Welcome Stadium on Thursday in Week 2. “We need to rebound with some resolve. That’s what great teams do.”
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