Fairmont Senior runs past Bluefield, 21-19 in state semifinals

(Photos by Marcus Constantino)

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — Fairmont Senior put the ball in the air only five times, using a ground-heavy attack to defeat Bluefield 21-19 in a Class AA semifinal matchup at Mitchell Stadium.

“It was the game plan coming in,” said Fairmont Senior head coach Nick Bartic. “We wanted to establish the run. Once we were able to do that, we stayed with it. All week, we really challenged the offensive linemen. They accepted that challenge and it looked great.”

Gage Michael opened the scoring for the No. 6 Polar Bears (10-2) on their first possession, capping a lengthy drive with a 2-yard touchdown tote. FSHS led 7-0 after one.

“It was huge to set the tone right off the bat,” Michael said. “You always want to do that in every game, but especially against these guys who can score at any moment.”

The Polar Bears doubled their lead early in the second quarter when Michael found Alex Brophy in the end zone on a 32-yard strike. Bluefield answered before halftime after a Gillis Walker interception. Brandon Wiley capped a 17-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run. The Beavers trail 14-6 at halftime.

BHS scored on their opening possession of the second half when Jaeon Flack scored from 2 yards out, cutting the Bluefield deficit to 14-12. The Polar Bears marched right back down the field and freshman Dylan Ours scored on a 2-yard run. Fairmont led 21-12 through three quarters.

The Beavers scored with 2:30 to play when Carson Deeb tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Ryker Brown, making the score 21-19. Fairmont Senior freshman Jayden Cheriza however recovered the ensuing onside kick and the Polar Bears ran out the clock with consecutive first downs.

“We played one of the toughest schedules in the state. So I knew we were battle tested — Spring Valley, Musselman and Bridgeport, all those very tough Class AAA teams. I knew we could get the job done tonight,” Michael said.

The Polar Bears left Mitchell Stadium assuming they would be named Class AA state championships for the second time in three years. The opposite semifinal between Oak Glen and Robert C. Byrd was canceled by the Saturday 5 p.m. state COVID metrics map.

“There may be an asterisk by this in the record books. And that is fair with the way everyone was affected. But at the same time, we had to deal with the same adversities to get through the season. It feels unfair for the guys that didn’t get an opportunity to play,” Bartic said.

“That said, for our program, being able to play Bluefield at Mitchell Stadium, from last season to redeem ourselves and even out the series and get a win here… this validated our postseason right here.”

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