By John Goolsby
FAIRFIELD – The Shades Valley Mounties escaped Fairfield with a 34-28 double overtime victory Friday night.
For the second week in a row, it took a Mountie defensive stand, and a Christian Thomas score to get the win.
“It was a good win and the kids are still learning,” said Mountie head coach Rueben Nelson. “We just couldn’t get things going all night.”
The Mounties took the opening kickoff but could not pick up the first down and had to punt.
Fairfield started their opening drive from the Mountie 42-yard line. The Tigers came up with a big 4th down conversion to the Valley 18-yard line. The Valley defense stiffened and got a big sack by Malique Steele on 4th down.
The Mountie took over on their own 17-yard line but were forced to punt again.
Fairfield began the drive from their 30-yard line with 5:04 in the first quarter. Landy Saxton and Caleel Holifield came up with another big sack on third down for the black helmets, and the Tigers were forced to punt.
The Mounties started the possession on their 39-yard line and drove deep into Fairfield territory. With 30 seconds remaining in the quarter, quarterback Steve Brown hit Christian Thomas with an eight-yard scoring strike to get on the board.
Thomas, filling in for an unavailable Jair Aguilar, kicked the PAT and the Mounties led 7-0.
Fairfield then put together their own scoring drive and got on the scoreboard with a 1-yard pass with 9:46 remaining in the half. Senior Jacob Mahand blocked the PAT, and the Mounties held a 7-6 lead.
It didn’t take the Valley offense long to answer after starting on their 44-yard line. Brown hit Thomas with a 23-yard TD pass. Thomas again converted the PAT, and the Mounties held a 14-6 lead with 6:18 remaining.
The two teams traded punts on their next two possessions. The Mountie defense held again and forced Fairfield to punt. The Tigers were penalized for kick catch interference, and the Mounties started from the Fairfield 36-yard line. Valley drove to the Tiger’s 16-yard line, but the drive stalled, and the Mounties turned the ball over on downs.
Fairfield ripped off an 80-yard run, but a penalty backed the Tigers up to the Valley 40-yard line. The Mountie defense held, and the Tigers threw two incompletions in a row to end the half.
Fairfield received the second half’s opening kick and began their first drive from their 26-yard line. The Tigers drove to the Shades Valley 16-yard line before senior Jacob Mahand intercepted the ball in the endzone.
The Mounties were forced to punt and the Tigers got the ball back on their 41-yard line with 6:02 remaining in the quarter.
The Tigers put together an impressive drive and scored from one yard out with 2:41 remaining in the half. Fairfield converted the two-point conversion, and the game was knotted at 14.
Valley was forced to punt on their next possession, and the Tigers gave the ball right back in good field position after a bad snap while punting.
The Mountie offense struck quickly. Brown hit Thomas for a 46-yard touchdown pass with 10:31 remaining in the game. Thomas converted the two-point conversion, and Valley led 22-14.
Fairfield started the series from their 43-yard line and methodically drove to the Mountie’s 30-yard line. The Valley defense held, and the Tigers turned the ball over on downs with 5:31 remaining in the game.
Valley had an opportunity to run the clock out but was unable to and had to punt. The Tigers got the ball on their 39-yard line with 2:54 remaining. Fairfield threw a 12-yard touchdown pass with 60 seconds on the clock to pull within 2. The Tigers converted the two-point conversion and tied the game.
The Mounties could not move the ball, and the two teams headed to overtime. Valley had not played in an overtime game since 2017 and had not had an overtime win since 2000.
Fairfield went on offense first and scored on 4th down from two yards out. The PAT was blocked, and the Tigers led 28-22.
Junior Ethan Johnson scored from 1 yard out to tie the game at 28. Thomas attempted the PAT for the win, but the kick sailed wide left by less than a foot.
The Mountie defense rose to the occasion and held the Tigers out of the endzone on their next possession. On first down, Malique Steel made a tackle for a loss of five yards. On second down, junior cornerback Kendall Odom broke up a pass in the endzone. On third down, Carterius Ford got a finger on the ball and forced an incompletion. On fourth down, Fairfield attempted another pass. Odom got a hand on the ball and ended the Tiger’s scoring opportunity.
On first down, Christian Thomas took a screen pass from Brown and scored on a physical 10-yard run to end the game.
Steve Brown ended the night 11 of 21 for 153 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Christian Thomas had five receptions for 97 yards and four touchdowns. He scored a two-point conversion and kicked two extra points.
David Ware was the leading rusher for the Mounties.
Nelson was happy to escape with a win but sees room for improvement for his young team. “We are in a building phase,” Nelson said. “We’ve got to get better and get better fast.”
The Mounties move to 2-0 with the 34-28 victory. The Mounties travel to Oxford and open region play next Friday.