BENTON — Fairfield couldn’t get a grip on Jason Nicodemus and let a share of the Northeast Corner championship slip out of its hands.
Nicodemus tormented the Falcons’ defense with 285 rushing yards as Churubusco slipped, slugged and muddied its way to a wild 29-23 victory Friday night.
The Falcons had a chance to keep its NECC title hopes alive when Eldon Burtsfield punched through a 25-yard field goal with 2:14 to go in the game. But in a game where the lead changed hands five times in the second half, the Eagles leaned back and made the final counterpunch.
Cory Miller’s backbreaking 82-yard kickoff return to the FHS 16 set up a Cody Conwell 5-yard run with six seconds left and dashed Fairfield’s hopes.
Miller’s breakaway, like many of the runs by Nicodemus, came with Falcon defenders in position to make stops.
The big stops didn’t go Fairfield’s way.
“Nicodemus is an outstanding player ... he’s going to make plays. You just have to limit them,’’ said Bob Miller, Fairfield’s coach. “We had opportunities and just didn’t make plays when it came down to crunch time.
“The kid’s a bowling ball. He’s hard to bring down,’’ Miller said. “We’ve got to gang tackle. It’s a matter of making those plays.”
Nicodemus, a 5-foot-9, 205-pound senior, left his calling card early with runs of 17, 11, 7 and 14 on his first four carries. His biggest run was a 41-yard fourth-quarter gallop which gave ’Busco a 21-20 lead three minutes after Fairfield grabbed the edge with a blocked punt score.
Burtsfield broke through cleanly and smacked away Nicodemus’ punt attempt around the Eagle 30 and, after a wild scramble, Lucas Miller fell on the ball giving the hosts a 20-15 advantage.
It was ’Busco’s relentless run game, which produced 421 yards, which sealed Fairfield’s fate.
The Falcons, who lost at Lakeland last week, head to Culver Military next week at 6-2. The Eagles and Lakers, each 7-0 in the NECC, will go head-to-head next week for the league title.
Cameron Kitson, who rushed for 100 yards on only 14 carries, and Brett Baumgartner, who caught two passes for 64 yards, including a 36-yard TD from Garrett Scott, were the only real offensive threats for Fairfield.
“It’s frustrating, disappointing for our kids. They played hard, came out and gave everything they had,’’ said Miller, whose club held a 14-7 edge at halftime. “If we make a couple of those plays, it’s going to go the other way.
“This was by far the best game we’ve played. That’s what you want to be ... playing your best football at the end of the season. If we play like that, we’re going to do well.”
churubusco 29, fairfield 23
Scoring by Quarters
Churubusco 0 7 7 15 — 29
Fairfield 0 14 0 9 — 23
School — Scoring Play
FF — Cameron Kitson 60 run; Eldon Burtsfield kick, 8:47.
Chu —Jay Petrie 7 run; Parker Conrad kick, 5:54.
FF — Brett Baumgartner 36 pass from Garrett Scott; Burtsfield kick, 4:04.
Chu — Jason Nicodemus 7 run; Cory Miller kick, 7:36.
FF — Lucas Miller recovered blocked punt in end zone; run failed; 7:55.
Chu — Nicodemus 41 run; pass failed, 4:51.
FF — Eldon Burtsfield 25 field, 2:14.
Chu — Cody Conwell 5 run; Cory Miller run, :06.
Team Statistics Chu FF
Net yards rushing 421 103
Net yards passing 8 116
Total Yards 429 219
First Downs 20 8
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties 11-73 5-21
Churubusco: Rushing — Jason Nicodemus 37-285, Cody Conwell 10-91. Passing — Jay Petrie 1-7-8 (1 int.). Receiving — Cory Miller 1-8.
Fairfield: Rushing — Cameron Kitson 14-100. Passing — Garrett Scott 7-10-116 (0 int.). Receiving — Brett Baumgartner 2-64, Caleb Noble 3-22.