Fairfield had just scored the go-ahead touchdown with 47 seconds left in the game when one of the Fairfield coaches told John Bachtel the Eagles were fixing to get a turnover. Bachtel’s response, “Yeah, whatever.”
With Connally facing 2nd and 10 on its own 30-yard line with 34 seconds to play, JaShaughn Hatcher picked off the Cadet quarterback and took it to the house. That sealed the 28-14 victory for the Eagles as Fairfield moved to 3-0 in district play, while Connally dropped to 2-1.
“I didn’t actually get to see it,” the Fairfield coach said. “I was watching the guys back in the back. JaShaughn did a super job. Next thing I know I’m looking up and he’s scoring a touchdown.
With less than 50 seconds left in the game and a tie game, Chad Rushin rolled to his left and passed to Kadarrius Walker in the flat. Walker caught the ball and sidestepped the defender which left a wide open lane to the end zone. That 15-yard touchdown by Walker capped off a 14 play, nearly seven minute drive by the Eagles.
“We were trying to hurry up,” Bachtel said. “I thought we had a chance to hit a guy in the flat. Walker made a great catch. It was a great throw. What a game. Connally did a super job. Coach (Shane) Anderson does a super job with those guys. It was a fun game. We need to quit having these close games.”
While the Fairfield offense made the play at the end, the Connally defense kept the Eagles out of rhythm for most of the first half.
Walker probably saw all of Javion Dawkins he wanted to in the first quarter. After Walker’s teammate, Jar-Mychael Hudson, was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage by Dawkins on Fairfield’s first play from the line of scrimmage, Walker was smothered two yards behind the line of scrimmage by Dawkins. Three plays later, Dawkins body slammed Walker for another two-yard loss.
While Dawkins had a few “ooohh” inducing hits on the night, the rest of the Connally defense played well. Shelby Lee recovered a fumble on the Eagle 12-yard line early in the first quarter. With such good field position, the Cadets only needed to run three plays to find the end zone as Javion Sunday had runs of four and seven yards before he punched it in from one yard out.
The Fairfield offense started to find some rhythm as Rushin synced up with his receivers for double-digit gains. The Eagles made it to the Cadet 19-yard line and settled for a field goal on 4th-and-4. Once again, Connally’s defense made a big play as the field goal was blocked.
It continued to be a defensive battle for both teams as Fairfield and Connally traded punts before a seven yard completion from Rushin to Avery Archibald on 4th-and-2 kept the Eagle offense on the field and moved them down to the Cadet 11-yard line. Fairfield scored three plays later off a four-yard run by Hudson. Once again, though, Connally blocked the extra point attempt.
Fairfield wasn’t kept down for long as the Eagles scored on their first possession of the third quarter. A 35-yard reception by Archibald set Fairfield up in the red zone. Then, Rushin carried the ball himself on 4th-and-2 from the 5-yard line. Rushin twisted his way to a first down before Walker ran it in from three yards out.
“We didn’t make a whole lot of adjustments at half time,” Bachtel said. “We just decided to calm down and play Fairfield football. When we did that, we started to play a whole lot better.”
Nearly a minute into the fourth quarter, Kavian Gaither came in under center for Connally. On first down, Gaither exploded up the middle for a 43-yard gain. That sparked the Cadet offense as Korie Black followed with a 20-yard run tiptoeing down the sideline before Sunday bulldozed his way to the 2-yard line. Sunday then carried it in himself to tie things up at 14 with 10:24 left.
Sunday finished the night with 17 carries for 59 yards. Gaither had only four carries but was right behind Sunday with 53 rush yards. Overall, the Cadets were held to less than 200 yards of total offense.
The Eagles finished with around 250 yards of offense as Rushin completed 13 of 25 passes for 155 yards. Archibald had four catches for a team-high 70 yards, while Walker led the ground attack with 24 carries for 78 yards.
“He had a super game,” Bachtel said. “I thought our kids did a great job of keeping their composure. The first half didn’t go how we wanted it to. The second half we came out and calmed down a little bit and were able to move the football and make some stops. Then Hatcher made a great play at the very end. I’m proud of them. It feels good to be 3-0 right now.”