Kettering Ohio–The Kettering Fairmont Firebirds varsity football team opened its 2021 regular season Thursday, August 19, 2021, against their crosstown rivals Archbishop Alter Knights.
The battle of Kettering took place at Kettering Chester A. Roush Stadium. Roush Stadium seats roughly 6522 fans. It was nearly full for the rivalry rematch. Both the Kettering and Alter fans made their excitement and voices heard throughout the game.
The Firebirds were coming off of a losing 4-5 record in 2020. The team’s last winning season was in 2018-19 when they went 7-4.
The Knights finished the 2020 season with an 8-3 record and had not had a losing season in at least 17 years.
The two teams last met on August 29, 2019. In that battle of Kettering, Archbishop Alter topped Kettering Fairmont 21-7. The Firebirds last beat the Knights on August 23, 2018. In that game, Fairmont overcame a 6-3 4th quarter deficit to score 9 unanswered points to win 12-6.
In the 2021 version of the battle of Kettering, Fairmont won the coin toss and elected to defer, giving Archbishop Alter the ball first. The Knights took full advantage of getting the ball. Senior quarterback Danny Mangin (#3) engineered a drive that included a long 30+ yard rush from Alter Senior running back CJ Hicks (#1). Hicks’ rush set Alter up with first and goal inside the 10. Mangin capped off the opening drive with 8:29 left in the first quarter when he punched it into the end zone himself. Alter made the extra point, giving them a 7-0 lead.
Fairmont’s Senior quarterback Male’k Hillon opened his first drive of the 2021 season on the 21-yard line. Hillon and the Firebirds methodically moved the ball 59 yards downfield. The drive featured a steady diet of rushing plays from Fairmont Junior fullback Drew Baker (#30). Kettering ended up with 4th and 5 from the Alter 20-yard line and sent in Junior Kicker Will Holt (#16) to try a field goal. Holt booted the kick through the uprights with 1.8 seconds remaining in the first quarter to make the score Fairmont 3–Alter 7.
In Alter’s next drive, Fairmont had Alter facing a 4th and short with 9:03 left in the half. Mangin kept the ball on a quarterback sneak. Although it required a measurement, Mangin’s sneak gave the Knights the first down on Fairmont’s 29-yard line. On 2nd and 8 from the Fairmont 27, Firebirds Junior Aidan Pennix (#25) sliced into the Alter backfield sacking Mangin for a 4-yard loss. With 12 yards to go for the first down, Mangin, under pressure, tried a pass to Knights Junior running back Jacob Schaefer (#36). The pass was incomplete, with the ball falling short. Alter went for it on 4th and 12. Mangin tried another long pass downfield that fell incomplete among several Firebird defenders.
Fairmont took over on downs on their own 31-yard line. The Firebirds began the drive with several running plays featuring Baker. On 2nd and 10 from their own 46-yard line, Hillon completed his first pass of the game to Senior receiver AJ Mullen. Mullen’s catch to Fairmont all the way to the Knights’ 27-yard line. The Firebirds ran several running plays, moving the ball to the 12-yard line with 4 seconds left on the clock. Holt came in to kick his second field goal of the day for a halftime score of Fairmont 6–Alter 7.
After winning the coin toss and deferring, Fairmont took the ball on the 2nd half opening kickoff. The Firebirds made progress with several running plays until an illegal block penalty backed them up. But on the next play, Hillon threw deep downfield to Senior Will Porter (#24). Porter’s reception and run set Fairmont up with first and 10 on the Alter 15-yard line. Kettering could only move the ball to the 9 and on fourth and 4 brought in Holt for his third field goal attempt of the day. Holt didn’t disappoint the Firebird faithful, making the field goal with 5:41 left in the 3rd quarter. Holt’s field goal made the score Fairmont 9–Alter 7. This gave Fairmont its first lead of the game and its first lead of the 2021 regular season.
With 4:42 left in the game, Alter’s Chase Stone (#7) broke a long 73-yard run down the sideline all the way for a touchdown. But a penalty nullified the touchdown, dashing Alter’s hopes of retaking the lead. The penalty brought the ball back to Alter’s own 10-yard line. Alter couldn’t get a drive going and had to punt the ball to Fairmont.
Fairmont took the punt to the Alter 45-yard line. After an alter penalty, the Firebirds had a new set of downs with first and 10 on the 28. Fairmont kept moving the ball to the 11-yard line to close out the 3rd quarter with the score still Fairmont 9–Alter 6.
Fairmont opened the 4th quarter with the ball on the 11-yard line. It was 2nd and 9. They eventually moved the ball to the 4-yard line, giving them 4th and 2 to for a first down. After a timeout, the Firebirds lined up for what appeared to be a running play, but Hillon dropped back and passed Dalton Gustwiller (#44) for Kettering’s first touchdown of the 2021 campaign. With 10:50 left in the game, the touchdown sealed the victory with the score 16-7 after the extra point.
Alter strung together a solid comeback drive. The drive included a long kickoff return and a long rush by Stone. But the drive stalled when Mangin fumbled the ball on Fairmont’s 11-yard line for Alter’s first turnover of the year.
Fairmont took over on their own 7. Fairmont moved the ball as far as their 37-yard line. The drive included a 4th and 2 conversion for a first down. But after getting to the 37, Hillon pitched the ball back to Porter. Porter missed the ball but recovered the fumble in the backfield. Then the Firebirds took a short loss on a running play before they could take a knee on the next play to run out the clock on their 16-7 victory.
With the victory to open the season, the Firebirds appear to be set for a bright 2021 campaign. In fact, with their first four games at home, Kettering can start their season strong. The team, led by Head Coach Dave Miller, faces the Trotwood-Madison Rams on Friday, August 27, 2021. The game will be at Roush Stadium at 7:00 P.M. If you would like to join the fun and excitement of Firebirds Football, or other Kettering Fairmont sporting events, you can visit https://kffirebirds.com/ for information on purchasing individual game tickets or season passes.
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