LIMA — The Fairview football team erased an early 14-0 deficit to come back and defeat Lima Central Catholic 29-27 in a Division VI, Region 23 quarterfinal game at Spartan Stadium in Lima on Friday.
It’s the second straight year the Apaches have opened up the playoffs with an upset victory on the road.
Lima Central Catholic (9-2) jumped out to its early lead after a pair of rushing touchdowns by Rossi Moore and Shaun Thomas put the Thunderbirds up 14-0 at the 6:02 mark of the first quarter.
“We knew they were going to come out on fire,” Fairview coach Doug Rakes said. “We knew it was going to be tough to adjust to their speed, because it’s so hard to simulate that in practice. We tried the best we could. But as athletic as we are, and I think we’re pretty athletic, we don’t have anyone as fast as (Shaun Thomas) or (Rossi Moore). It was hard to simulate that, but once we adjusted a little bit, … made just a couple of tweaks schematically, and then really we started playing well defensively, and offense really started clicking then.”
Fairview (10-1) eventually responded when defensive back Noah Hagerman came up with an interception late in the first quarter on LCC’s next drive.
Then, a few plays into the second quarter, Fairview quarterback Cade Polter found Riley Lucas for a 35-yard touchdown pass to close Lima Central Catholic’s lead to 14-6 with 11:05 to play in the half.
The Thunderbirds took over from there and drove the ball nearly seven minutes all the way down to the Fairview 15-yard line. The Apaches were able to come up with a fourth-down stop, though, and quickly drove down the field to score when Polter found Luke Timbrook for a 20-yard touchdown pass to close Lima Central Catholic’s lead to 14-12 with 1:03 left in the half.
The Apaches continued to roll to open the second half, and Timbrook found paydirt on a 43-yard touchdown run to give Fairview its first lead of the game. Timbrook then caught the 2-point conversion from Polter, and the Apaches led 20-14 at the 10:24 mark of the third quarter.
Lima Central Catholic responded with a lengthy drive, and Moore scored on a 5-yard touchdown to put the Thunderbirds back up 21-20 with 5:08 to play in the third quarter.
The lead wouldn’t hold for long, though, as Lucas returned the kickoff 87 yards on the next play to put the Apaches up 26-21.
“We joke with those guys all the time, and we think we have some pretty fast guys,” Rakes said. “So on the rare occasion when they get caught, we kind of give it to them. Riley broke one (earlier this year) that would have been about a 98-yard touchdown, and he got shoe-stringed at about the 25-yard line, and we didn’t let him hear the end of it. So I knew he wasn’t going to get caught on that. I knew he was going to house it.”
Lucas also said the jokes he received served as motivation as he sprinted down the sideline on Friday.
“I just thought of Coach (Bob) Olwin up in the box,” he said. “And I just said I wasn’t getting caught this time.”
The Thunderbirds continued to move the ball on their next drive, but the Apaches were again able to make a fourth-down stop in the red zone, this time with 11:18 to play in the fourth.
Fairview then proceeded to drive the ball down the field, and Caleb Frank converted on a 21-yard field goal to give the Apaches a 29-21 advantage with 7:09 to go.
Lima Central Catholic wouldn’t go away, though, and Moore scored his third touchdown of the night on a 6-yard rush to close Fairview’s lead to 29-27. The Thunderbirds’ 2-point conversion try was no good, however, and Fairview maintained its narrow lead with 3:25 left in the game.
Needing to make a stop on the next drive, Lima Central Catholic had Fairview pinned back on a 3rd-and-17 situation from its own 18-yard line with just over three minutes to play. However, Polter found Doug Rakes Jr. for a 29-yard strike downfield and gave the Apaches a fresh set of downs.
“That was a huge play,” Polter said. “But what goes unnoticed is the linemen on that play. They gave me plenty of time, and I just had to throw it up, and Doug made a heck of a catch.”
With less than a minute remaining, Fairview was faced with another fourth down, but an offsides penalty on Lima Central Catholic iced the game for the Apaches.
Polter was 17-of-25 passing for 278 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Apaches through the air. Lucas had three receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown. Rakes Jr. had seven receptions for 88 yards, and Timbrook had four receptions for 56 yards and a score.
Thomas had more than 200 yards of total offense for the Thunderbirds. He had 29 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown, in addition to three catches for 51 yards. Moore had 18 carries for 100 yards and three scores.
Fairview advances to play Anna (10-1) in a regional semifinal next Friday. Anna beat Minster 47-21 on Friday.