BLYTHEWOOD — The Fairfield Central Griffins trailed the Redhawks of Westwood early in the season opener, but the Griffins made key plays, overcoming 112 penalty yards and two fumbles to knock off the Redhawks 35-26 on the road.
The miscues started early for the Griffins, with penalties plaguing their first drive and forcing them to punt.
In its second year, Westwood started out sharp on its first drive by converting two third downs. Redhawks quarterback Chris Patterson scampered out of the pocket for 25 and 15 yard pick ups. But facing a first and goal at the eight yard line, the penalty bug bit the home team as well.
Pushed back to the 24 yard line and facing a third and goal, Westwood committed the first turnover of the game. Fairfield Central defensive back Josh Bell picked off an errant pass by Patterson at the goal line to give the Griffins the ball at the one-yard line.
Momentum swung back and forth like a pendulum. The Griffins put the ball on the ground on the next play after a mishandled hand off between the quarterback and running back. Westwood’s defensive lineman Bradley Carter pounced on the football in the endzone to give the Redhawks the early advantage, 7-0.
On the ensuing possession, Fairfield took over with good field position after a kickoff return by Shadarius Hopkins to the 44-yard line. That is when the Griffins began executing their game plan by calling run play after run play. Quarterback DeAndre Belton capped off a six-play drive with a 15-yard touchdown run on a third down play to tie the game 7-7.
On Westwood’s next possession, Khalil Keitt sacked Patterson on third down to force a punt.
Fairfield Central would take the lead on its next drive. Belton threw a strike down the middle of the field to Kewan Squirewell for a gain of 23 yards to set up the Griffins inside Westwood territory. On third and goal, Larry G. Bell finished off the eight-play drive with a seven yard touchdown run up the gut. Bell’s touchdown gave Fairfield its first lead of the game, 14-7.
The two teams exchanged punts and turnovers in the second quarter, but the Griffins were able to capitalize just before the half on a Westwood miscue. After a muffed punt that was recovered by Devin Simmons, Fairfield set up on the Redhawks 37.
With 10 seconds remaining in the first half, the Griffins extended their lead when Squirewell caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Belton. On the two-point conversion attempt, Javahhne Neal hauled in a pass from Compton Walker to give Fairfield Central a 22-7 advantage at the half.
To start the second half, Westwood turned the ball over on its first possession when Davon Pearson fell on a fumble at midfield.
On the ensuing possession, Fairfield faced a fourth down at the Westwood 43-yard line. Head coach Demetrius Davis called for the fake punt and Walker rattled off 23 yards for a fourth down conversion. The Griffins would score when Belton busted off his second touchdown run of the game, this time from 18 yards out. With that score, Fairfield Central led 29-7.
Later in the third quarter after trading punts, Westwood began to show some life. Facing a fourth and nine at the 44-yard line, Westwood head coach Rodney Summers elected to go for it. Patterson heaved a deep pass down the middle to connect with Adonus Lee for a 44-yard touchdown. It was Westwood’s first offensive score of the night and made the score 29-14.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Griffins answered the long touchdown pass with one of their own. On a third and 12 play on its own 23-yard line, Belton lofted a pass down the left sideline into the arms of a streaking Byron Sampson as he galloped untouched into the endzone to extend the Griffins lead to 35-14.
Down 21 points, the Redhawks continued to show fight by returning the kickoff to the Fairfield Central 28-yard line. After a penalty set up the Westwood offense with a first and goal from the 10-yard line, Redhawks running back Christian Brown punched it in from 10 yards out. The two-point attempt was no good and the Fairfield Central lead was cut to 35-20.
Although the Redhawks were able to recover the onside kick, they were unable to convert a fourth down play and turned the ball over on downs.
Westwood would add a touchdown late, when Brown scored for the second time to make it 35-26.
Fairfield Central recovered the onside kick attempt and lined up in the victory formation and improve to 1-0 on the season. Westwood fell to 0-1.
Defensively the Griffins forced four turnovers (two interceptions and two fumbles). Larry J. Bell led the team with 11 tackles and Keitt had a team high two sacks.
Next up, the Griffins host Abbeville on Sept. 6. Kick off is at 7:30 p.m. Abbeville is 1-1 and is coming off a 35-14 loss to Woodruff.
Contact Lucas Vance at 635-4016 ext.15 or email him at lvance@civitasmedia.