Fairfield Central takes unbeaten record into playoffs
The rain might have fallen on Deandre Belton on Friday night at North Central. But in the 2A playoff bracket, the sun is shining on the senior quarterback and his Griffins as they try to mount a return to the state championship game.
Belton, who came into Friday’s game 76-for-124 for 1,325 yards and 11 TDs, had five runs for 33 yards and 28 yards passing in a rain-soaked 19-0 shutout at North Central.
“It was a sloppy game, but in games like this, what matters are fundamentals,” Belton said. “We had some bad turnovers, and we need to limit those. We’re going to work hard on those next week.”
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North Central finishes the season 3-7, 0-5.
The Region 3 champion Griffins (10-0, 5-0) have a first-round bye in the playoffs, which start Friday. They fell to Dillon in the final game last year, but Belton and the Griffins know they have to work to return.
“We know they (Dillon) might make a run, too,” Belton said. “But we’ve got to make a run, and that’s why we work hard every week.”
Fairfield Central coach Demetrius Davis said his main job from now through the playoffs is keeping his team focused.
“It’s going to be tough. We’re just going to have to take it one game at a time. We can’t take it for granted that we finished the season 10-0. Everybody’s 0-0 now.”
As for the North Central matchup, it’s in the books as far as the Griffins are concerned.
“We could have played better,” Davis said. “In these kind of conditions, you take it. They were able to do some things to us to where we couldn’t throw the football, and I didn’t want to run him (Belton) all around a whole lot.”
Fairfield Central didn’t need an overflowing offense.
The Griffins got touchdown runs of 3 and 33 yards from Joseph Young. Compton Walker returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown at the 6-minute mark of the second quarter.
The lead could have been 30 points or more. Young’s lost fumble inside the North Central 5-yard line in the first quarter, as well as Jay Parks’ pickoff of a second-quarter Belton pass in the end zone, kept the margin from ballooning.
In the second half, Fairfield Central mustered 44 yards of offense.
“There were some things we could have done,” Davis said. “but to be honest with you, once we got up 19-0, we just really wanted to get out of here.”
The Griffins defense held firm, holding the Knights to 23 yards on the ground, 13 through the air, and three first downs. North Central had seven punts and two turnovers. North Central’s leading rusher, William Jenkins, had 28 yards on 25 carries.
“Our plan was to slow it down, frustrate them, keep the ball out of their hands,” North Central coach Louis Clyburn said. “Their defense is so fast, and our speed on the outside kills us, but this team doesn’t quit. We did a great job of not making mistakes, not playing sloppy.”
Keeping people healthy before a playoff run was the Griffins’ goal.
“To be honest, I told the kids that if there’s a way we could come in and win 2-0, we’d move on,” Davis said. “Our main goal in this game was to come in and not get anybody hurt.”
None of Belton’s main targets or options saw much time. Young finished the night with 107 yards and two scores on 16 carries.
F – Joseph Young 3 run (Compton Walker kick) 7:58
F – Young 33 run (kick failed) 1:40
F – Walker 85 punt return (pass failed) 6:00
RUSHING – Fairfield Central, Young 16-107, Bell 10-73, Belton 5-33, Neil 4-11, Sampson 3-12. North Central, Jenkins 25-28, Parks 3-2, Wyant 6-(-7).
PASSING – Fairfield Central, Belton 8-4-1, Whittaker 0-1-0. North Central, Wyant 7-2-1, Jenkins 0-1-0.
RECEIVING – Fairfield Central, Squirewell 2-14, Cook 2-14. North Central, Barnes 1-7, Ostas 1-6