Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
The race for the high school football postseason takes place on a narrow path in 2020. It’s unforgiving of any misfortune or misstep.
Surefooted — Fairview, untouched through the first two games of its squeezed six-game regular season, has possessed perhaps the most dominant defense in Class 5A. On Friday at Christian Recht Field, as smoke from nearby wildfires hung overhead, the Knights handcuffed a second straight opponent in a 26-7 win over Rocky Mountain.
Aidan Christiansen followed up his touchdown reception on the Knights’ opening drive by picking off the Lobos in the end zone on their first possession. Jay Barry grabbed his third interception of the year a short while later and Fairview’s harassing line recovered two fumbles to propel the Knights to a 20-0 lead at half.
They added four stops after the break to salt the game away. With a drive starting inside the Knights’ 20, Rocky Mountain hung the first points on them, scoring with 2:02 remaining.
“Bottom line is we have some ballers and they’re hungry,” Fairview coach Thomas McCartney said. “They just want to play. And if they keep putting up goose eggs, that’s how you get ranked all-time.”
The bludgeoning followed a Week 1 performance in which Fairview allowed 159 total yards and had three interceptions at the expense of two quarterbacks in a 19-0 win over Poudre. They now have seven turnovers to just seven points allowed.
Now, this momentous roll for McCartney’s bunch must only continue with the stakes in this not-so normal regular season as high as they’ve ever been. Because if holding up through COVID-19 wasn’t enough — with a number of games around the state already cancelled due to positive tests — on the field, high school teams will more than less need to be unblemished through its six-game regular season to make it into a tight eight-team playoff bracket.
Despite the blowout win in Week 1, the Knights (2-0, 2-0 5A North League) fell in the 5A CHSAANow.com rankings as they sunk from seventh to ninth.
Their response was telling.
Their defense was sparkling.
“Our offense has been doing a great job for many years but it’s time for the defense to get the shine,” said defensive end Brayden Wood, who shed blocks to get into the backfield on nearly every play. “It’s my senior year. I’m tired of seeing in the paper, ‘The QB did this. The wide receiver did that.’ I want to see tackles on the defense. I want to see stats on the defensive side.”
With billowing clouds tinted in an orange glow hunched over the field during pregame, and a burning odor that lingered for most the night, senior quarterback Liam O’Brien gave Fairview a strong start.
He completed five of his six passes on the opening series, leading the Knights on a nine-play, 65-yard scoring drive to go up 7-0 less than four minutes in.
Through the air and on the ground, O’Brien showed all his gifts. He scrambled up the middle for 12 yards on fourth-and-2 to extend the possession. Then lasered a 17-yard pass to Barry inside the 20 and capped it off with an 18-yard TD throw to Christiansen.
Later, a sensational catch by Josh Rouland — his first of two acrobatic grabs in the game — set up a short TD run by O’Brien. Following the Lobos’ fourth turnover, O’Brien hit Christiansen for his second TD with 54 seconds left in the half. And a short TD run by Blake Berdan in the fourth pushed the lead to 26-0.
The Knights beat Rocky Mountain (1-1, 1-1) for an eighth straight time to move to 2-0. With four games left on the slate, they travel to French Field to face Fossil Ridge Thursday.