FAIRFIELD — With its season on the line in the Class B football semifinals, Fairfield was locked in an overtime battle with Florence that was scoreless after 48 minutes of regulation.
That’s when Miguel Perez, a junior running back and linebacker, came up with the biggest two plays of his life.
Fairfield received the ball first in the extra period, and Perez plowed in for a touchdown for the first points of the game. After a two-point conversion it was 8-0. The Falcons scored on the first play of the ensuing possession and were forced to go for two to keep the game alive.
Pat Duchien Jr. scrambled right and threw the ball toward the end zone, but Perez jumped the route and came up with the game-sealing interception. Fairfield won 8-6 in overtime to advance to the State B championship for the second time in three years.
“The thing that made me jump that route was (the receiver) came across, and he kind of tried to post me up in the end zone, and I’m like, ‘Not today,’” Perez said. “This is my season on the line, so I just went with all I got and ended up picking it off, and just the feeling of getting that game-sealing interception was incredible.”
But the moment wasn’t a fluke. Perez has shown a knack for making the big play all season. In addition to his game-winning touchdown and interception, Perez was a dynamo on defense, helping the Eagles keep the high-scoring Falcons bottled up for much of the game.
“He’s a special player, special kid,” said Fairfield coach Greg Misner. “And he just comes ready to go every single day. He seems to always know where the ball is going and where the ball is, so I was real excited.”
When asked how he would describe himself as a player, Perez laughed and said: “I’m trying to stay humble.”
But don’t mistake his confidence for arrogance. Perez has grown up in the Fairfield tradition where ‘we’ is always more important than ‘me’.
“My mindset going into a game is that no one's going to stop me in every aspect of the game, and I'm just going to do the best I can to come out on top and win every open ball that's in the air, fight for extra yards and win every tackle," Perez said. "So, just trying to be a menace on the field”
One thing Perez hasn’t forgotten was the way the Eagles' season ended last year. Fairfield was on the losing end of a last-minute touchdown in the semifinals against Manhattan. Perez and the Eagles have been waiting all year for another crack at the Tigers, and they’ve earned it.
For a state championship, on their home field.
“It’s almost like it's a story book pretty much because we lost out in a nail-biter last year with them,” Perez said. “And then just to get some of that sweet revenge is what we're hoping for.”
Though Fairfield is traditionally one of the most successful programs in Class B, this year has been anything but traditional. Longtime coach Les Meyer moved on to an administrative position in Frenchtown, with Misner taking over the program after moving to Fairfield from Michigan.
Plus, COVID-19 has touched all aspects of life in Montana and provides a constant distraction with restrictions, quarantines and protocols altering schedules and conferences. The Eagles have done their best to focus on what’s in front of them, and it’s led them back to the State B title game.
“Getting a new head coach, we weren't very sure what to expect at first. And then we started to buy in and then it just started clicking,” Perez said. “Coming out to practice every day, it’s like our own little sanctuary away from the outside world and stress of school and COVID. Being out here to hang out with our brothers was just great, and then we focused up.”
Saturday’s kickoff is set for 1 p.m. in Fairfield. Due to Montana High School Association rules and COVID-19 protocols in the county, attendance is limited to six family members per player. For more information please contact Fairfield Public Schools.