DAYTON — Fairborn pulled itself together in the final minutes of Friday’s game at Stebbins in time to allow for a chance at a comeback win.
With just over 20 seconds remaining, it instantly came crumbling down.
JT Smith’s final pass was intercepted by a Stebbins defender who went 47 yards untouched down the sideline as the final seconds ticked off the clock to secure a 35-21 win for the Indians.
“I saw some things at the end where we’re trying and we’re getting after it,” Fairborn head coach Larry Cox said. “I’ve never said we’ve laid down and let them take us, but hats off to them. They made plays up front on our defense that we couldn’t stop.”
Stebbins grabbed a 28-15 lead with 7:56 to play in the fourth quarter on a two-yard touchdown run. Fairborn’s Caelan Bush would return the following kickoff 90 yards to the end zone, but a lengthy discussion between referees eventually led to a holding call to negate the score and bring the ball back to Fairborn’s 17.
Fairborn was able to calm themselves and put together a 12-play drive that ended with a 21-yard Jay Kidd touchdown to pull within six. Its defense then got assistance from a Stebbins holding penalty to force a punt and give the offense a final chance to go 65 yards with 1:14 remaining to try and tie the game or take the lead.
An early holding call backed up Fairborn, but Smith set up a fourth-and-2 play with an 18-yard scamper. However, it led to the dagger play by the Stebbins defense.
“I told the kids it’s just one little thing here, one little thing there,” Cox said. “There’s times we couldn’t get a stop and we couldn’t make a play on offense, but you know I can’t fault our effort.”
Without its starting quarterback and leading rusher Adrian Norton who did not play, the Indians turned to Caydon Caudill to shoulder the majority of the load. He carried the ball 45 times for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
“I think when the money was on the line, their offensive line took control,” Cox said. Stebbins on three different drives handed the ball to Caudill at least eight consecutive plays as Fairborn was unable to make a stop fewer than two or three yards from the line of scrimmage.
Elija Ward started the scoring on defense for the Skyhawks. He intercepted a pass near his own 15 and took it back for a pick-six. Jared Lauderman ran in a two-point attempt for an 8-0 lead.
Following a three-and-out, Fairborn got things going on offense and on its second play, Kidd received a handoff and used a burst up the middle of the field to secure a 62-yard touchdown run. The 15-0 lead for Fairborn was its largest of the season.
Stebbins responded with a touchdown throw of 49 yards and forced a Fairborn fumble on the Skyhawks’ next drive. The Indians used 10 straight runs to Caudill to drive 55 yards and pull the score to 15-14. Both teams traded punts and failed fourth down conversions to head into halftime.
The Indians ran twice as many plays (42) to Fairborn (21) in the first half, but total yardage was only 170-140 in favor of the Indians due to big plays in the run game by Kidd.
Stebbins grabbed its first lead on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Rayvonn Harris-Belle with 1:52 remaining in the third and went up two scores after forcing a Fairborn punt.
Kidd ran for 186 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns to lead the Skyhawks.
Fairborn drops to 1-6 this season and 1-5 in MVL games.
“We got to have that breakthrough moment when we’re just not afraid to win,” Cox said. “Don’t be afraid to take that step and go try and make that plays. And slowly but surely we’ll get there.”
Contact Steven Wright aat 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.