Cory Lantz and Matt Thacker deserved a win.
After dealing with the disappointments and bruises of an 0-9 2018 season and a tough loss to Goshen in the 2019 season opener, the Fairfield quarterback and his coach finally tasted victory last Friday night.
The Falcons scored on a four-yard touchdown run by Carson Abramson in the fourth quarter to defeat Osceola Grace 22-18, to break a 19-game losing streak that dated back to the opening game of the 2017 season.
"This was just a great win for out football team and I couldn't be happier, for them and our coaching staff,'' Thacker – the Falcons' second-year coach said. "We felt good about the way we played against Goshen, but we came up just short. So for the kids to stay focused and really battle on Friday made it even better.
"Our numbers are up and the excitement around the school is up, which has been good for our program. Plus, it was great to see the support we've gotten the first two weeks from our students and the community.''
Fairfield led 16-6 at the end of the first quarter, before Osceola Grace stormed back to take an 18-12 lead into the fourth quarter. The touchdown that gave the Eagles the lead came on a 76-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Maxwell.
But the Falcons' defense buckled down and didn't allow Osceola Grace to get back on the scoreboard, which allowed Abramson's touchdown to be the game-winner.
"It was one of the most stressful games I've been involved in,'' Thacker admitted. "There were a lot of ups and downs for us both offensively and defensively, but our kids just kept battling and this time we were able to get the win.''
Thacker was especially happy for Lantz, his quarterback last season too, who took plenty of punishment as the Falcons struggled through Thacker's first season as head coach.
"I was very proud of the way Cory stood in and took all the bruises last season against a very good schedule and then totally dedicated himself to our program in the off-season,'' Thacker said. "He was in the weight room hitting it hard and being a leader for this team. Was great to see him able to celebrate on Friday.''
On of the revelations for the Falcons this season has been senior wide receiver Nolin Sharick, who scored a touchdown on a 58-yard punt return against Osceola Grace. Sharick also caught a pair of touchdown passes from Lantz in Fairfield's 20-14 loss to Goshen on opening night.
"Nolin is just a tremendous athlete and he's helping us both offensively and defensively,'' Thacker said. "On his punt return, I would have had most players just catch it and fall on it to make sure we kept possession. But when the ball bounces right into your best athletes hands and there isn't someone in front of him, you're happy when he tries to make a play ... and Nolin did on that return.''
Fairfield will play its third straight home game on Friday when Central Noble (0-2) travels to Benton. For a team that was outscored 493-27 last season, Thacker is making no predictions for the rest of the season after breaking the losing streak.
"Last year we were a J.V. team playing varsity football and it was a tough learning experience,'' Thacker said. "Bunt nearly all those kids came back and talked their buddies into coming out and they've worked hard to get better. Now, we have a win, but can't be satisfied. We need to keep working and keep digging.''
• BROWNLEE UPDATE: With his 290 yards rushing against Goshen last Friday, Elkhart Central senior Mark Brownlee became the all-time leading rusher in Elkhart school history.
Brownlee, who played his first two seasons at Elkhart Memorial, has a career total of 3,473, topping the mark of Memorial graduate David Link (3,452).
After rushing for just under 500 yards in his first two games this season, Brownlee and the 2-0 Blue Blazers will host Jimtown at Rice Field on Friday night.
Jimtown at Elkhart Central
NorthWood at Concord (C)
Elkhart Memorial at Goshen (C)
Wawasee at Northridge (C)
Central Noble at Fairfield (C)
Homewood-Flossmoor at Penn, 7:30
All games at 7 unless noted.