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East Fairmont Slays Dragons

Photo by Bradley Heltzel/Times West Virginian Cameron’s Cole Burkett tries to escape East Fairmont’s Vaughn Frederick (18) and Alex Culp (30) Thursday at East-West Stadium.

FAIRMONT — It was a new opponent, a new game day, and most satisfyingly for the East Side faithful, a new Bees team Thursday night at East-West Stadium as a rejuvenated East Fairmont squad defeated visiting Cameron 31-14 for its first victory of the season.

“It’s always nice (to get that first win), especially when you’re building a program. I’m happy for our kids,” said Shane Eakle, East Fairmont coach. “I’m happy for our kids. Give Cameron credit, they’re not a bad football team, but our kids played hard (Thursday).”

East Fairmont (1-3) and Cameron (2-2) weren’t originally scheduled to play each other at the start of the year, but after COVID-19 cancellations and reshuffling affected the statewide season slate, the Bees and Dragons both agreed to trade their previously-scheduled Week 4 byes for an extra game. The matchup was first slated for Friday at Cameron, then Friday in Fairmont, and finally, the rare Thursday night game at East-West Stadium.

“This is a Class AA school and we’ve never played here before, but you try to get a game for your kids,” Cameron coach Tim Brown said. “I’d much rather come and play a good team than sit at home.”

True to Brown’s word, East Fairmont, after taking it on the chin in its first three games this season, banded together and proved just what caliber of team it can be, taking the fight and the mite to the Dragons. The Bees bullied the Dragons at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, as it shut down Cameron’s spread shotgun attack in the first half while simultaneously churning the gears of its own shotgun-based offense.

“Give our kids a lot of credit, they were where they were supposed to be and doing their jobs,” Eakle said. “That’s kind of been an Achilles heel where we break down here or there, or one guy isn’t where they’re supposed to be, but (Thursday) we did a great job. It was a great team effort.”

The Bees outgained the Dragons 365-227 for the game, including 162-59 in the first half, as EFHS scored on five of its seven series while holding Cameron’s offense scoreless on its first four drives.

“The kids really came out and executed,” said Eakle, whose Bees led 14-0 at halftime and made it 21-0 early in the third quarter. “It’s the first time where we really haven’t our shot ourselves in the foot a bunch all year, so maybe we’re starting to see some glimpses. We’re excited.”

At the core of East Fairmont’s turnaround compared to its first three contests was junior quarterback Clay Hershberger, who returned after missing last week with a hand injury and tapped into his duel-threat dynamism behind an EFHS offensive line of Kolten Haddox, Matthew Collins, Josiah Smith, Evan Helm and Jacob Ogden that overpowered the Dragons all night. The Bees finished the game with 279 rush yards on 47 attempts (5.9 ys/carry), with Hershberger’s 142 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries leading the way. Nicholas O’Dell tallied another 89 rush yards, including a 53-yard scamper in the fourth quarter, while Will Sarsfield rushed for 62 yards and a pair of TDs.

Hershberger also completed 6-of-10 passes for 86 yards as he diced up Cameron with quick-hitting slants and bubble screens in the first half.

“Our offensive line did a better job of staying on people and picking up their blitzes – that was a big thing out of those three-man fronts – so they did a nice job tonight,” Eakle said. “And give Clay a lot of credit, he made some smart reads for us with run reads and he did a nice job in the passing game, too; he was smart with the ball and took some of the underneath stuff.”

Following a stop by the Dragons on East’s first possession, the Bees proceeded to score on their next three drives to take a 21-0 lead in the third quarter as they ticked off series of 56, 67 and 61 yards over the course of 10, 11 and 9 plays, respectively.

“Defensively, we were not getting the job done,” Brown said. “We were kind of getting confused and part of that was because we had guys playing out of position with injuries.”

Cameron, however, flirted with making it a game yet in the middle of the third quarter when quarterback Colson Wichterman went to his lead playmaker in Isaac Ball in 1-on-1 coverage for a 50-yard gain on 3rd-and-long. Wichterman, who went 14-of-22 for 188 yards with a TD and two INTs, then zipped to a 4-yard TD run moments later, and then re-connected with Ball for a two-point conversion that sliced the lead to 21-8.

East Fairmont countered with a field goal, but even at 24-8, with Cameron in possession to start the fourth quarter, it was still a two-score game. Once again Wichterman and Ball provided some fireworks with Wichterman hitting Ball for 27 yards and then a 9-yard TD pass with 7:24 left in the game. The crucial two-point conversion attempt to try to make it a one-score game failed, however, and from there, East Fairmont stamped its first win of the season with a gut-check 54-yard scoring march.

Ball finished with a game-high 95 receiving yards on five catches, while Cole Burkett snagged a game-high six receptions for another 55 receiving yards for the Dragons.

East Fairmont, meanwhile, combined for five tackles for loss, including two by Adam Earls, and got a sack from Ian Crookshanks defensively, and Alex Culp also snatched two interceptions for the Bees.

East Fairmont 31, Cameron 14

East Fairmont 0 14 7 10 — 31

Cameron 0 0 8 6 — 14

E — Clay Hershberger 10-yard run (Stinespring kick)

E — Will Sarsfield 1-yard run (Stinespring kick)

E — Hershberger 10-yard run (Stinespring kick)

C — Colson Wichterman 4-yard run (Wichterman pass to Isaac Ball)

E — Stinesrpring 20-yard field goal

C — Wichterman 9-yard pass to Ball (Pass failed)

E — Sarsfield 9-yard run (Stinespring kick)

Rushing: East Fairmont: Hershberger 25-142 2 TD, Nicholas O’Dell 8-89, Sarsfield 12-62 2 TD, TEAM 2-(-14). Cameron: Jourdan Presto 11-30, Wichterman 8-14 TD, Jason Ross 3-13, Cole Burkett 1-(-2), TEAM 1-(-16).

Passing: East Fairmont: Hershberger 6-10, 86 yards. Cameron: Wichterman 14-22, 188 yards, TD, 2 INT.

Receiving: East Fairmont: Adam Earls 3-32, Alex Culp 2-31, Joel Myers 1-23. Cameron: Ball 5-95 TD, Burkett 6-55, Presto 2-20, Brandon Leasure 1-18.

First Downs: East Fairmont 20, Cameron 11

Penalties-Yards: East Fairmont 11-75, Cameron 10-70

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