Kettering, Ohio — Alter and Fairmont is always regarded as one of the top rivalries in the Dayton area when it comes to high school football. A battle between a public and private school in the middle of Kettering always makes for a great game to open up the high school football season and this year wasn’t any different.
Alter finished 8-3 last season and made it all the way to the State Semifinal before falling to St. Francis DeSales. They returned five-star Ohio State commit C.J. Hicks, four-star UC commit Derrick Shepard and Illinois State commit Christian Kirenga.
Fairmont went 4-5 last season but the Firebirds did notch their first ever playoff win in school history. They knocked off the 4 seed Perrysburg Yellow Jackets in a 41-14 blowout. They don’t return star runningback Keon Wright as he moved to Oakwood, but runningback Drew Baker and quarterback Malek Hillon would be big pieces coming back for Fairmont.
A balanced attack by Fairmont that ate up long drives all night and a risky 4th down pass led the Firebirds past five-star Ohio State commit C.J. Hicks and the Alter Knights 16-7 on Thursday night.
A huge performance from junior kicker Will Holt was the difference in this game as Holt outscored Alter’s offense with 3 field goals and an extra point. “This win gives us a ton of confidence and bright spots to feed off of. As a team, we still made a lot of mistakes, so now we just learn from those and get even better as we prepare for a tough GWOC schedule. Felt great to come out of Thursday night with a win,” said Holt when talking to Miami Valley Football Vault after the game.
Fairmont junior K Will Holt
“Beating Alter was huge for the team. The whole summer our focus was on Thursday August 19th and being prepared. Getting the win not only on the scoreboard but dominating them was awesome, especially after what we had went through as a team the whole offseason,” said Holt in regard to what this win meant for this season and this Fairmont program.
Fairmont senior quarterback Malek Hillon went 3/3 through the air with 57 yards and a TD as the senior controlled Fairmont’s triple option offense perfectly. A late 4th quarter touchdown pass on 4th down to Dalton Gustwiler was the dagger in this game.
Alter senior Danny Mangin was making his first career start at quarterback on Thursday night. Mangin got the opening drive started with a big gain as he found Jacob Schaefer for 21 yards on the first play from scrimmage. A big run from Ohio State commit C.J. Hicks set the Knights up with 1st & Goal. Mangin then capped off the drive with a 9 yard touchdown run to put Alter up 7-0.
Alter senior QB Danny Mangin
Junior runningback Drew Baker got the Firebirds opening drive started off hot as he broke off a pair of big runs. Runningback Will Porter also had a solid run as the trucked an Alter defender on his way to the first down. Fairmont would eventually get stopped on 3rd & 7 which brought on kicker Will Holt. He nailed a 37 yard field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3.
Fairmont junior RB Drew Baker
Mangin led another Alter drive down the field and converted on 4th & 1 as he fumbled the snap but was able to recover it for a first down. Aidan Pennix then came up with a pair of big plays as he tackled Mangin for a loss of 4 and deflected his pass to bring up 4th & 12. Out of field goal range, Alter went for it and Danny Mangin’s pass was knocked away by Malachi Bowling to give the Firebirds back the ball.
Drew Baker continued to grind out first downs as Fairmont moved the ball down the field once more but like their previous drive, they were unsuccessful at finding the endzone. Will Holt knocked down another field goal right before the half to make it 7-6 at the break.
Fairmont junior K Will Holt
Fairmont started with the ball to begin the second half. Baker broke off a couple of first down runs and then Hillon found Will Porter for a 33 yard completion. But once again, Fairmont was unable to convert and had to kick another field goal. Will Holt made his third field goal of the night to give Fairmont a 9-7 lead with 5:41 remaining in the 3rd quarter.
On the following drive, C.J. Hicks showed everyone why he has the offers he has. The Ohio State commit took a jet sweep to the right side, then circled back to the left side before stiff arming multiple defenders on his way to a 70+ yard touchdown. But the momentum would quickly change as Derrick Shepard was flagged for a blindside block and Hicks’ huge touchdown run was called back just as quickly as it happened.
Alter senior LB C.J. Hicks
Alter was forced to punt on that possession. Penalties continued to kill the Knights as a third down stop turned into an automatic first down for Fairmont following a horsecollar penalty. Drew Baker broke off a solid run that got him inside the Alter 15 yard line as the third quarter ran out with Fairmont leading 9-7.
Baker was just a couple yards short on a 3rd & 7 pitch play to begin the fourth quarter. This gave Fairmont a huge decision to make with a 4th & short upcoming. They originally sent out Holt once again but coach Miller then called a timeout. Then Hillon came back onto the field on 4th & 2 with the game on the line.
Fairmont then surprised the Alter defense with a play action pass. No one was within 5 yards of Dalton Gustwiler as he caught the huge touchdown pass to put the Firebirds up two scores. Following the extra point, Fairmont led 16-7 with just 10:50 to go in the game.
Fairmont senior TE Dalton Gustwiler
Alter’s Chase Stone would respond with a big return to give the Knights great starting field position. He then took a pitch from Mangin and cut to the outside for a big first down. A big run on 3rd & 3 from C.J. Hicks moved Alter into the redzone as they needed a quick response to stay in the game. The final dagger would come on the very next play as Mangin was stripped by Elijah Swallow and the fumble was recovered by Evan Thompson. This gave Fairmont the ball up by two possessions with limited time remaining.
Fairmont was able to pickup a couple more first downs as they ran down the clock and won the Battle of Kettering 16-7 over their rival. The Firebirds trusted in the triple option as they worked it to perfection and made a statement in their week one victory.
Alter started off the season 0-2 last year before turning the tables and making it all the way to the state semi-final. The Knights will have a pair of tune-up games against Belmont and Thurgood Marshall before their hardest test of the season against Hoban.
Fairmont will host a young but talented Trotwood-Madison team next week in what should be another tough test for the Firebirds. Their hard out-of-conference schedule should have them very prepared for their slate of GWOC games this season.