Freedom Prep Academy’s Eagles and the Fairley High School Bulldogs knew when the schedules were released that the winner likely would secure the 2A Region 8 District Championship.
Add on that both teams entered the game undefeated in district play and the likelihood of a hard-fought contest went up exponentially.
The result was a classic 14-6 defensive battle with Fairley (10-0) holding off Freedom Prep (7-2, 5-1 district). Last season Fairley defeated the Eagles 24-20.
“It was a helluva football game. It was playoff football,” said Fairley head coach Frederick Copeland. “Going 10-0 don’t come easy. I can’t describe it. It is a great ride. We are glad to be here after losing 22 kids last season.”
The only district loss the Bulldogs had last season was to the Memphis Academy of Health Sciences (24-0). This year, they wanted to turn that silver plate into a gold one.
“It means everything,” Copeland said about finishing on top of the district. “This was playoff football. It is cold outside; the ground is hard. It means everything to the school and the community.”
The Eagles got the first opportunity to get on the scoreboard. They had the football first and 10 from the 35-yard line. They drove to inside of the five-yard line but were stopped by the Bulldogs’ defense. The game was scoreless going into halftime.
The Eagles had another golden opportunity to get on the scoreboard. On a punt attempt by Freedom Prep, a Bulldog returner touched the football while it was on the ground and the Eagles recovered on the 9-yard line. Two plays later, Desi Hemphill rumbled into the end zone on a six-yard touchdown for the first score of the game (6-0). The run attempt failed for the two-point conversion.
The Bulldogs answered with a 7-play touchdown drive that had seven penalties combined by both teams. FPA had two 15-yard personal foul penalties that extended the drive for Fairley.
The Bulldogs had three delay-of-game penalties, including two after the four-yard, game-tying touchdown by freshman running back Quinterrion Hollins. Quarterback Andrew Johnson found freshmen wide receiver Jaylon Russell for the two-point conversion to give the Bulldogs their first lead (8-6) with 2:00 minutes left in the third quarter.
Fairley had 128 total yards on offense. Freedom Prep finished with 171 total yards and had 93 penalty yards on 10 violations.
Noting the mistakes, Copeland said, “We just will celebrate all week and come back and practice the next week. When we get ready for the playoffs … we will preach discipline. We have to stay humble.”
With a forfeit on their schedule for this week, the Fairley Bulldogs will wait to see whom they will host in round one of the playoffs on November 4.
“We are going to do something special for these kids for bringing the Regional Championship to Fairley,” said Copeland.
“We are going to treat them right this week.”