NORMAL — The butterflies fluttering around Normal West High School sophomore Mitch Fairfield’s stomach made a hasty exit Friday.
Immediate success – both individually and team wise – will send any case of nerves packing.
Fairfield completed 9 of 13 passes for 157 yards and three touchdowns in the opening half of his first varsity start and West scored 48 first-half points in a 55-14 Big 12 Conference victory over Champaign Central.
“At the beginning I was a little nervous because I had never taken snaps against teams of this caliber,” Fairfield said. “It kind of set in after I completed a couple of passes.”
A 51-yard run by Justin Fisher-Montgomery set up a 14-yard screen pass for a touchdown from Fairfield to Marquett Suggs on the game’s initial possession.
“Coach wanted to get me a couple handoffs and then a screen to get my feet wet a little bit,” said Fairfield.
Steven Lorenz forced a fumble recovered by Luke Nohns on Champaign’s fourth play from scrimmage. A 14-yard run by Suggs set up a 2-yard scoring plunge from Dominique Stevenson.
West got the ball back quickly again courtesy of a Cole Bumpus interception.
Fairfield found Phillip Yuncker with a 40-yard pass on the next play and tossed another screen that Suggs turned into an 8-yard TD as the Wildcats led 21-0 at the 6:41 mark of the first quarter.
“To give Mitch that confidence early is huge for a sophomore,” West coach Darren Hess said. “Most sophomores are going to be a little nervous, but he’s really cool, calm and collected. He has a lot of character traits (ex-quarterback) Alex Jefferson did.”
The Maroons capped a 10-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Toby Rivera before West took off again.
Stevenson took a pitch right 2 yards into the end zone for a 28-7 margin, and Fairfield lofted a perfect 44-yard scoring toss just over the fingers of an outstretched Champaign defender to Fisher-Montgomery.
Taking a direct snap on third-and-goal, Stevenson’s third rushing score came from 4 yards out at the 3:36 mark of the half.
“Offensively, we looked very sound. Everything up front looked really good,” said Hess. “The great thing about the spread is we can be very balanced which makes it difficult for defenses.”
Ryan Frye then stepped in front of a Maroons’ pass and returned the interception 41 yards for a touchdown at the 1:14 mark.
With a running clock the entire second half, Champaign struck for a 26-yard scoring pass from Jamal Stovall to Michael Manard.
West ran only six second-half plays but one was a 57-yard TD sprint by Genia Fuss.