KNIGHTS

Fairfield quarterback Jake Myers scrambles during a game against Delone Catholic earlier this season. On Friday, the Knights host Littlestown with a shot to qualify for the District 3 Class 1A playoffs.

Win, and they’re in.

Maybe.

The Fairfield Knights find themselves with plenty to play for on Friday when they host Littlestown in a Week 10 football matchup. Fairfield currently holds the second spot in the District 3 Class 1A power rankings by a small margin over YAIAA-3 counterpart Delone Catholic. The gap between the two teams is so slim (.47923 to .463604) that should both Fairfield and Delone (5-4) win on Friday, the final spot in the 1A playoff field will be decided by a calculator.

“If we beat Littlestown, I think we’re in,” said Thurston on Monday evening. “But we have to beat Littlestown. If we were to lose and Delone Catholic beats Hanover, I think they jump us to No. 2. It’s really close.”

The fact that Fairfield (5-3) is playing in Week 10 with a playoff bid at stake can not be overstated. Less than 20 Knights suited up for the season opener, and Gang Green has been hit with a rash of injuries – some serious – over the last several weeks. Yet Thurston’s team continues to prevail, ignoring the damage inflicted during the annual war of attrition.

“It’s been tough and we’ve had to ask some of the younger and less experienced kids to step up, and they’ve done a nice job,” he said. “The last couple of weeks have been interesting because we definitely haven’t been at full strength since (Week 6).”

Fairfield has been steadily chipping away in the YAIAA-3, where a hierarchy of sorts has been established. Thurston said they see the division as traditionally having two halves, with a top tier of four teams and a bottom tier. Their goal in his first year was to beat just one bottom tier team, and they did that by knocking off York Tech.

The following year they took down Tech and Hanover. As the program continued to progress, so did the expectations. The goal for 2021 was to sweep the other three teams in the bottom tier and take out one in the top. That happened when the Knights rose up and played inspired defense in a 14-13 victory over Bermudian Springs on Sept. 24.

“We try to be realistic, we’re not going 10-0,” said Thurston. “Every year we try to get a little bit better.”

Fairfield has received significant contributions at every level of its offense, defense and special teams. Senior quarterback Jake Myers is closing in on a 1,000-yard season as he takes the field on Friday with 803 yards and eight touchdown passes. His passer rating of 145.7 ranks third locally.

Myers distributes the ball well, but the primary target has been playmaker Andrew Koons, who is fifth in the area with 17 receptions. Koons averages nearly 18 yards per catch and has five scoring grabs.

When the Knights look to chew up some turf they turn to bruising Peyton Stadler, who has 515 yards and a handful of touchdowns to his credit.

A stingy defense, which features a slew of two-way players, gives Fairfield a puncher’s chance even in games where it is an underdog. The Knights are allowing 19.6 points per game and have been particularly stout against the run.

In order to grab a playoff spot – and tie a program record with their sixth win of the season – the Knights must contend with a Thunderbolt team that has mustered only two wins through eight games. Turnovers have plagued the Bolts this season as they’ve given the ball away an area-high 20 times.

Quarterback Xavier Benner directs the Ltown offense, which has shown flashes of its past prominence. Benner enters Friday with 845 passing yards and six touchdowns but has also been intercepted 10 times. The Bolts use a stable of receivers, including Zyan Herr (14 catches for 272 yards), Caleb Unger (14-177) and Nathan Thomas (11-131).

Between the tackles it’s Nate Holt, who has found pay dirt seven times.

“Six wins would tie the best win-loss record we’ve ever had speak volumes about the kids and what we’ve been able to do,” said Thurston, who noted the win over Bermudian was positive reinforcement that his team needed. “We finally proved to ourselves that it can happen. We’re hoping to do it again against Littlestown but it certainly won’t be an easy feat. They’re doing some good things and they have so much culture and tradition.”

Thurston said they’ll look to the blueprint used to beat Bermudian, which was playing fast and physical.

“They have size up front and some athletes,” he said of the Bolts. “We have to hang with them until the fourth quarter, play our style and not beat ourselves. If you’re in the game in the fourth quarter kids get excited and make a play or two that is the difference.”

Contact Josh Martin at jmartin@gettysburgtimes.com. Follow on Twitter at @JoshMartin33

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