The East Fairmont Bees are in a position they have not seen in 15 years after qualifying for the Class AA playoffs to earn the program’s first postseason berth since 2007.
In what is the school’s 102nd season of football, it’s only the fourth time East Fairmont has reached the playoffs.
“This is big. Any time you can punch your ticket in the top 16, you have a chance,” said fourth-year head coach Shane Eakle. “We told our kids they get to play an extra week, which is like a second season. For our kids, school, and community, it is exciting.”
East Fairmont was heading in the right direction last season after splitting its first games, before the Bees’ playoff hopes vanished after losing three of their final four games.
Flash forward to 2022 and the Bees finished 7-3 despite dropping their regular season finale last week to Fairmont Senior in the annual Marion County rivalry.
The seven wins amounted to a No. 13 seed in the Class AA playoffs.
Before the loss to the Polar Bears, East Fairmont had won six straight games.
“We have come together and we have had guys trust each other, especially in assignment football,” Eakle noted. “Guys are doing their job and 11 guys are playing together. That is a big key for us. We may not have some superstars. However, we have 11 guys working that play hard for us every Friday night. That is a big way of how we have approached games.”
While the Bees may not have the high-end talent of some other playoff teams, Eakle relishes the fact that he’s getting the most out of the roster.
“We have guys you can trust,” Eakle stated. “You look at your guy on the right and left, and you trust they will do their jobs. We have some guys who can make plays for us, like our quarterback Ian Crookshanks. He has done a great job and set the all-time school record for passing yards against Fairmont Senior last week. Some good things are going on, and we will lean on them. We have 11 guys that are going to go out and play hard.”
The Bees struggled in Eakle’s first three seasons and finished with a combined record of 10-19.
That’s made this season’s substantial improvement all the more enjoyable.
“It is rewarding for the young men who took a chance on us in the first season,” Eakle said. “I think the year before we took over , they had around 17 kids and were 0-10. That first year we had 30 or so kids compared to the 50 we have now. Every kid who has come through our program over the last four years is a tribute to those guys who have put in the work to get us to this point. It is also an exciting time for our community.”
East Fairmont will make the 166-mile trip to Madison for Friday’s first-round matchup with No. 4 Scott.
The Skyhawks check into the first round with a 9-1 record after splitting their last two games.
Scott’s offense has been a focal point for its success this season. The Skyhawks rank fourth among Class AA playoff teams with 40 points on average.
“They are explosive and they have speed on edge,” Eakle said. “They are disciplined. They are 9-1 for a reason. Their only loss came to the No. 1 team in the state, Winfield. Scott is a good football program, and they have done a great job down there. It will be an exciting task for us come Friday night.”
Eakle sees a comparison between Scott’s explosive offense and what his team faced last week against the Polar Bears.
“They are similar to when we play Fairmont Senior,” Eakle stated. “The good thing for us is that we saw an explosive team last week in our city rival game. We cannot give up big plays. We break football down into small categories: Do not turn the ball over, do not give up big plays and try to keep it manageable. If we can do those things, then we have a chance.”