FAIRFIELD – Gaining just 80 yards on the ground would be tough for a lot of football teams to overcome in just one game.
For Fairfield, 80 yards on the ground is all the Trojans have been able to muster in two games of the 2019 campaign.
One week after being held to 39 rushing yards in a 16-9 loss at Knoxville, the Trojans gained just 41 more yards on Friday in the home opener against Clear Creek-Amana. The Clippers would eventually neutralize the passing attack of the Trojans, picking off quarterback Carter Ferrel six times on the way to a 33-7 victory in a battle of teams looking to avoid 0-2 starts to the season.
“You have to establish the running game. Certainly, we came out and threw the ball fairly well,” Fairfield head football coach Nathan Weaton said. “Each time like we gained momentum, we shot ourselves in the foot. From an execution standpoint, the mental errors pushed us back.”
Ferrel, coming off a 203-yard passing effort in last Friday’s opener against the Panthers, came out firing completing five of his first six passes against the Clippers. After connecting with Landon Schafer for a 39-yard catch and run, Ferrel found Landon Kooiker for a 28-yard gain that put the Trojans on the CCA 1. Ferrel would carry the ball in three plays later to tie the game at 7-7 midway through the opening quarter.
“We proved we could come out and play with them,” Weaton said. “They scored and we came right back down the field to score. We showed that we could hang with a good football team.”
CCA was in danger of starting 0-2 in a season that had plenty of promise starting out as one of the top 10 rated teams in Class 3A. The Clippers were dealt a surprising season-opening loss last Friday to Mount Pleasant, falling 42-20 to the Panthers in a game that dealt a valuable lesson to the eastern Iowa squad.
“Don’t take anything for granted. We came off a big season last year and made a run, but we didn’t really give our full effort last week,” CCA junior T.J. Bollers said. “We definitely left it all on the field tonight. We had shirts made up at the beginning of this season that had a target on our backs. That’s how we need to feel each week. Teams are going to be coming out ready to give us their best shots.”
Bollers is one of the top Iowa prep football prospects with several major colleges showing interest in the 6-3, 240-pound junior with Iowa and Iowa State both in pursuit of the Clippers tight end and defensive line threat. After giving up the tying touchdown, Bollers put CCA in front for good catching a 41-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter to put the Clippers up 13-7.
“The season we had last year was big for us, but that was last year,” Bollers said. “We have to keep right on going. We can’t let up. I think this game opened the flood gates for us.”
Fairfield (0-2) failed to capitalize on a pair of Clipper turnovers in the first half. Gage Freeman’s seven-yard touchdown run with 4:41 left in the first half sent CCA to the locker room with a 20-7 lead.
Alex Figueroa and Bollers both had huge third down receptions in the third quarter that helped extend the Clipper lead. Figueroa capped the opening drive of the second half by hauling in a 25-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-18 before Bollers made a 51-yard catch on 3rd-and-24 to set up a 1-yard Cole Pfister touchdown run, giving the Clippers a 26-point lead.
Ferrel, meanwhile, completed just two of his final nine passes for the Trojans finishing 11-26 for 155 yards. The last seven passes by Ferrel either fell incomplete or, in the case of four second-half passes, were taken away by CCA defenders.
“Listen, this team is a great team. I told the guys at the end of the night that we’re this close to being over the edge,” Weaton said. “We talk about pounding the stone every day and that stone is about ready to break. The guys have a great attitude and they never give up. They play the game until the tank is empty. Those are intangibles you don’t always find at the beginning of the season. We tell the guys every day that, because they have that, it will start to push you over the edge and we’ll get a win here very soon.”
The next chance for Weaton and the Trojans to get that first win comes next Friday night. Fairfield plays host to Oskaloosa, a Class 3A state playoff qualifier from a season ago.
“We just have to put it all together,” Weaton said. “If we can play mistake-free football and put the effort in we did tonight, it’s going to be a different result.”