(Story by Ethan Collins)
FAIRMONT, W.Va. –– The Fairmont Senior Polar Bears (9-2) advanced to the Class AA quarterfinals with a 31-27 win over the Wayne Pioneers (6-5) Friday night at East-West Stadium.
Each team committed three turnovers in the contest. However, Fairmont Senior made more plays to get five scores (four touchdowns and one field goal), to Wayne’s four (four touchdowns).
“You would like to say we have experience in big games. Ultimately though, for a majority of the game we were outplayed.” said Fairmont Senior head coach Nick Bartic. “However, you give it to our guys in terms of the adversity and how much they were able to stay the course.”
Despite a turnover on downs from the Polar Bears’ first possession, both teams traded turnovers. The Pioneers threw an interception, and the Polar Bears gave the ball back on a fumble. This turnover set up the game’s first score on a 39-yard touchdown run from Wayne’s Colton Mathis. Fairmont would answer right back though when Brody Whitehair hit a wide-open Logan Canfield in the middle of the field. Canfield popped the ball up in the air, and it fell right into the hands of Cannon Dinger for a 41-yard touchdown reception.
After a wild first quarter, Wayne settled in, marching down the field and taking a lot of time off the clock. A 7-minute drive for the Pioneers ended with a touchdown pass from Fisher Fry to James Spradlin. Fairmont added a field goal to pull within four points at 14-10
The first offensive play from scrimmage in the second half was a second turnover on a fumble from Wayne. The Polar Bears capitalized on the takeaway, completing a 23-yard pass from Whitehair to Logan Canfield. The Polar Bears had their first lead of the game. Fairmont Senior looked as if they were about to seize control of the game, forcing a three and out on defense. But a penalty on third down replayed the down and set up a 62-yard touchdown run from fullback Jaxon Damron. The Pioneers took back the lead.
Both teams traded scores on the next two possessions, but Wayne failed to get the extra point. The Polar Bears got the ball back with over five minutes left, after Wayne failed to capitalize on a Fairmont turnover, forcing the first punt in the game. The Polar Bears scored quickly on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Whitehair to Damani Johnson, with four minutes left on the clock.
The last possession for Wayne seemed to go completely in their favor on a 52-yard rush by Colton Mathis that would’ve been a touchdown if it weren’t for a tackle from Cannon Dinger to put Wayne at the red zone under two min left.
“That’s a thing I stress to our guys you never know what play could dictate the outcome,” said Bartic on Dingers tackle.
That effort paid off as two plays later, as Dinger sealed the game with an interception.
Next week, Fairmont Senior will host No. 10 Philip Barbour.
When Coach Bartic was asked what he sees on the Colts, he said, “I know they run the wing T, so they will probably have some good film to watch on us now. So, we are going to have correct some things next week.”