FAIRBORN — Getting the better of play after halftime, it appeared Fairborn could overcome a late two-score deficit.
The hole was too much though as the Skyhawks fell to Butler 35-21 in its home opener on Friday.
After dominating the yardage battle in the third quarter but unable to get points on the scoreboard, the Skyhawks got the lead down to eight midway through the fourth quarter. Just as its offense created a big play on its next drive, Butler snatched everything away from the Slyhawks’ grasp.
Dominique Johnson created what would have been a 25-yard reception to take the ball into the Butler redzone, but a heads up play took it away in an instant.
Butler’s Rayvon Brown got his hands on the ball and was able to strip it out of Johnson’s grip just before momentum took both players out of bounds.
It was a back breaking play with the Skyhawks beginning to carry the momentum.
“What we will see on film is his feet were out of bounds,” first-year head coach Larry Cox said. “Ref said he saw it the other way. So it is what is is and not much we can do about that.”
Butler used several chunk yardage plays on the next drive to finish off a 80-yard touchdown drive with 2:05 remaining to help seal the win.
JT Smith threw for 218 yards on 17 of 33 passing as Fairborn almost went exclusively to a passing attack in the second half. Dominique Johnson carried the ball nine times for 60 yards with a touchdown, and Smith did so 11 times for 54 yards and a score.
Nathan Speakman, Alan Mixon, Jared Lauderman and Kern Jackson all led the defensive effort with seven tackles.
“Our kids gave a great effort tonight,” Cox said. “There’s things that we still have growing pains, but if we keep getting efforts like that, we’re going to stem the tide.”
Fairborn had the early momentum with a three-and-out stop by its defense, followed by a 33-yard touchdown run on 4th and 1 by Dominique Johnson to take a 7-0 lead just over three minutes into the game.
Fairborn got the ball back, but the first of two interceptions by JT Smith in the first half gave the Aviators back some life. A 35-yard toss by Luke Seibert to Austin Florhe tied the score a play later.
Butler gained the lead on a blocked punt later in the first quarter which went out the back of the endzone for a 9-7 lead.
After allowing another score and trailing 16-7, Smith completed his only pass of the first half across the middle of the field to Caelan Bush, who leapt to haul in the ball, and took it to the house for an 80-yard touchdown.
Butler responded right away by marching down field for a 65-yard drive to go back up by nine late in the second quarter.
“We just get some mistakes at the wrong time,” Cox said of his team’s overall play. “I still feel like offensive we did some good things and defensively we did some good things.”
Fairborn was coming off a 35-point loss in its opener at Tecumseh and Cox thought there was more of a fight from his team during its MVL opener.
“We still have to learn to finish a little bit,” he said. “If we don’t turn the ball over, they probably had 14 points off turnovers.
You take those 14 off the board and put them on ours, then it’s a different game. And we’re talking a different tune right now. But that’s stuff we got to learn to do.”