FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield Eagles are in a familiar place: the final four of the Class B football playoffs, as they advanced to semifinals with a 40-13 win over Whitehall on Saturday.
Last year, when the going got tough, the Eagles relied on magic from Keeley Bake. But in this playoff run, they’re spreading the wealth.
Miguel Perez scored four touchdowns, Daniel Faith added two, and timely defense kept Whitehall's dangerous passing game at bay in the win.
Fairfield started on the ground with a Perez touchdown, and then after Conor Murray returned a punt all the way down into the Trojan red zone, Fairfield struck again with a run from Faith to take a 12-0 lead.
But Whitehall quickly answered back with a 95-yard touchdown pass from Miles Hoerauf to Flint Smith. Fortunately for Fairfield, that connection would only hurt the Eagles once more, a touchdown in the second quarter that put the Trojans at 13 points.
"(Smith) for Whitehall, he's a player. We knew about him, and he's a good player," said first-year Fairfield head coach Greg Misner. "And we did our best to try to contain them. We couldn't stop him, but we contained him a little bit."
The run game gave Fairfield a 26-13 lead going into halftime. Each defense stymied the other throughout the third quarter, except for one Whitehall drive that took the Trojans inside the Eagles' 5-yard line. But Gavin Mills stepped in for his second interception of the game, and Whitehall would never threaten the end zone again.
"After the first one when they did the hitch and I missed the tackle, I knew something," Mills said. "They might keep on picking on me since I was struggling in there for a little bit. And I just read it right away and just tried to make a play on the ball and catch it."
In the fourth quarter, Fairfield truly, finally, broke things open. Perez got the ball on the 25 and found his way to pay dirt again before scoring another touchdown on the next possession to seal the deal.
"The very last one, that one, just put the icing on the cake. I'm like, 'We won this,'" Perez said. "So I was so excited after it. I'm like, 'I can't believe I scored another one back to back.'"
"Overall, I'm just really happy with the way our kids played (Saturday). Overall, the team swarmed to the ball on defense. Offensive line look pretty solid. And you know, we just had a great week, and we took it to them on the field," Misner said.
The win means Fairfield is once again in the State B semifinals on the cusp of another title game appearance and quite clearly still among the best in Class B.
"I've grown up here and had a strict tradition to make it to the playoffs and always be successful. And coming back to the semifinals this year we're looking for redemption because last year we lost out to Manhattan. We're just hungry for it," said Mills.
The Eagles will host Florence next week. The Falcons are the No. 1 seed out of the Western B and defeated Townsend 28-7 last week to advance. It’ll be a tough task, but if anyone knows how to win in the postseason, it’s Fairfield.
"Florence is very physical. They're a big running team. The have great coaching, they got good coaches over there, and we just got to be ready to play," said Misner. "And I'm glad we're playing home, so we don't have to travel."