LAGRANGE-Fairfield hardly missed a beat in Week 8 as they came into the Swamp and dominated the Lakeland Lakers 28-7 to win their second straight NECC Big School Division.
The themes from this night came at the expense of Fairfield’s front 7 overpowering at will against an improving Lakeland team. After a 47-yard run by quarterback Carter Kitson on third and five, he found his target Braedon Helms on fourth and four to extend the drive. The Falcons struck first with a 3-yard score by Austin Custer to make it a 6-0 Falcon lead after a failed 2-point conversion.
Lakeland punted for the second straight drive, and the Falcons immediately made them pay with a 24-yard gain from Kitson and later a 1-yard touchdown run down the middle from Custer to make it 12-0 (missed on their second 2-point conversion) with 9:32 left in the second quarter. That would be the score going into intermission.
During that second quarter, Lakeland had four tries near the goal line to score at least 6 points. Lakeland failed to get a single point when Sellers was stopped by the Fairfield front 7 on third and fourth down. That wouldn’t be the last time this happened as the Lakers would have three fourth down misses.
But in the second half, Lakeland would finally reach the end zone when Deion Marshall connected with Mark Burlew for a 35-yard touchdown pass and cutting the Falcon lead to 12-7. However, costly Lakeland penalties extended Fairfield’s next drive, which resulted in Custer’s 3rd touchdown of the game to make it 20-7 with 5:34 left in the third quarter. Custer ended up with 59 yards rushing plus his 3 touchdowns.
However, the fourth quarter was where the Falcons put this one out of reach. Jonathan Estep (who ran for 161 yards on 19 carries) took the snap and then ran 53 yards for the back-breaking score with 9:18 left in the game. After making the 2-point conversion, it made it a 3-score game, and considering how dominant Fairfield’s front 7 and triple-option offense was, that 21-point lead felt like an eternity.
Lakeland (3-5, 2-2 NECC Big School) ended up committing 2 INT’s and 7 penalties for 50 yards. Fairfield out-gained Lakeland 327-6. That’s the kind of defense that makes Fairfield a formidable opponent. In addition to that, Fairfield had 18 first downs on 63 plays, and they had the ball for 20 more minutes than Lakeland (33:54 to 13:41). These are the kind of things that decide championships deep into October.
After starting the season 0-3, the Falcons are tied for the 2nd best record in the NECC since week 4 (with Churubusco). Speaking of Busco (6-2, 3-1 NECC Small School), that’ll be Fairfield’s (4-4, 3-1 NECC Big School) next opponent when they host the Eagles on senior night in Benton (near Goshen).