Frontier dominates Fairfield Christian, wins 1st ever playoff game
The Frontier Cougars claimed their first ever playoff victory Friday night with a dominating 54-13 win over the visiting Fairfield Christian Knights in a Division VII, Region 27 playoff opener at Frontier High School.
The Cougar backfield combination of Slade Amos and Noah Barnhart combined to score five rushing touchdowns and quarterback J.D. Schmidt fired touchdown passes to Breckin Hoff and Tanner Bills respectively as Frontier raced out to a 24-0 first quarter lead and never looked back to roll to their fifth win of the season against just two losses.
Frontier head coach Russ Morris, who led the Cougars to their last playoff appearance more than a decade ago was thrilled to see his team rise to the occasion in what will go down as one of the biggest wins in school history.
“This is the fourth time we have been in the playoffs and we had never won a playoff game and now it’s happened,” said Morris, in his second tenure and 15th season overall as coach of the Cougars. “This is something that will link our team together forever.”
Frontier got a huge spark from defensive back Lucas Cox in the opening quarter as the sophomore came up with an interception, a fumble recovery and also returned a punt deep into Fairfield Christian territory to put his team in position to score three of their five first half touchdowns.
After the Cougar defense forced the Knights into their second three-and-out of the game midway through the opening quarter, Cox returned a punt 32 yards to the FC 26-yard line where two plays later Barnhart bulled his way into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown.
Cox wasted little time getting the ball back for the Cougar offense on the next Knight possession as he picked off a pass and returned the ball to the Fairfield Christian 12-yard line.
Once again it took the home team just two plays to capitalize as Amos scored on a 5-yard run.
Fairfield turned the ball over once again on their next possession and once again Cox was in the right place at the right time as he recovered a fumble at the 39-yard line to set up the third score of the quarter for the blue and gold.
This time the Cougars would score through the air as Schmidt delivered a perfect strike into the arms of a wide open Hoff who raced 39-yards for the score.
Morris felt the effort Cox gave his team was crucial to getting off to a fast start.
“He’s just a sophomore but he made some big plays there that really set us up,” said Morris of Cox. “He’s a good player and you need 11 players out there making big plays especially in a playoff game.”
Frontier continued to build their lead in the second quarter as Schmidt connected with Bills on a 10-yard touchdown pass and Amos rambled into the end zone for his second score of the half.
On a night where their execution was near perfect, the Cougars converted all five of their two-point conversions to open a commanding 40-0 lead at the intermission to ensure a running clock in the second half.
Amos broke a 55-yard run in the third quarter and Barnhart capped the scoring for the FHS with a 1-yard plunge minutes later.
As good as the Cougar performance was on the offensive side of the line it may have been even more impressive on the other as the Frontier starters kept Fairfield Christian from making a first down through the first three quarters of the game and did not commit a single penalty the entire game.
“Defensively I thought we were excellent,” said Morris, whose team surrendered just 139 total yards with the majority of those coming in the final few minutes of the game. “We were able to get our young guys on the field in the fourth quarter and get them some playoff experience.”
Amos finished the game with a team-high 120 yards on just 10 carries while Schmidt completed 7-of-14 pass attempts for 106 yards.
Fairfield Christian quarterback Julius Wilson fired a pair of touchdowns late in the final quarter to keep the Knights (2-5) from being shutout.
The Cougars will look to keep things rolling next Friday night when they travel to Shadyside but Morris first wants his kids to realize the monumental feat they have accomplished.
“We had a wonderful week of practice and the kids knew the importance of the game. I thought we came out and played with plenty of intensity,” said Morris. “I’m just so proud of these kids… they are a wonderful group of young men and they have worked so hard in the off season and they deserve this.”