2023 HS Football Preview: Fairborn looking inward to seek success


FAIRBORN — What second-year head coach Larry Cox is looking for from his Fairborn football team is for the players to lead one another instead of the coaches.

Cox believes a team can determine for itself how great it wants to become based on the effort players put into those creating leadership qualities.

“You take the next step by pulling everybody together,” he said. “I always tell them don’t push each other, but pull each other. Push is a negative connotation and pull is positive.”

He likes what he has seen so far.

Fairborn is trying to create that unity as it prepares to start what could be historical campaign. The school has never officially competed in the OHSAA playoffs and has only made the field during the 2020 season when COVID-19 forced a cancellation of its first round contest.

Last year’s team likely fell one win short of making it into the expanded field of 16 in Division II, Region 8, but it’s past memories now as Cox said he talks to this year’s team about just wanting to be better.

“It’s tough because you’re wanting to improve on yourself and what you did a year ago to make it better,” he said. “Wins and losses will take care of itself, because other teams are going to have a breakout year.”

Fairborn will be helped by having one of the best players in the Miami Valley League at quarterback. J.T. Smith is the top returning dual threat player in the league having thrown for more than 1,000 yards, rushed for more than 500, and produced 16 total touchdowns last year. He stands out figuratively and literally among his peers with his 6-foot, 3-inch frame that makes him tough to bring down.

“He’s a big part, and don’t get me wrong, he means a lot to this team,” Cox said. “However as I tell the team, it’s up to [everyone] to lift each other up. It could be the line after making a play or any way to say you gave me the time to do something and I think that’s important.”

As Smith peers over the field, Jay Kidd as his 5-foot, 7-inch cohort creates a 1-2 punch in the backfield which will keep all opponents on their toes. Three new receivers also will provide athletic options on the perimeter for the passing game as Cox noted they will adapt to the group’s inexperience.

The offense was able to score plenty of points last season, but Fairborn’s only wins came in high scoring affairs. This year’s defense is already showing signs for optimism after having produced a shutout for a full half in its final scrimmage at Beavercreek.

“Let’s talk after [Friday’s] game when the pressure hits a little more and see how we handle it there,” Cox said.

Even so, the Skyhawks appear to have a bright future. Cox said he sees his group coming together as he wants them to and is as healthy as they have been in recent years.

And if they lead one another as Cox thinks they can, it could be a memorable season for Fairborn in 2023.


Fairborn Skyhawks

Coach: Larry Cox (2nd year, 2-8)

2022 record: 2-8 (MVL Valley 4th); Points Per Game: 17.4 (Off.) 42.0 (Def.)

What to expect: The Skyhawks made the playoffs in 2020 when the state included all teams in its postseason, but they weren’t able to participate due to COVID-19 concerns. It’s the only time Fairborn has been in the bracket. This year’s team will like its chances to be the first Skyhawks squad to qualify into the expanded 16-team field.

Key Players: Jay Kidd, Jr., RB (119 att., 559 yards, 4 TD); Jared Lauderman, Jr., LB (42 tkls, 18 solo, 1 sack, 3.5 TFL, 1 FR, 1 pass deflection); Dez Mata, Sr., LB (77 tkls, 39 solo, 3.5 TFL, 1 FR); J.T. Smith, Sr., QB (122-223 passing, 1,140 yards, 7 TD, 10 INT; 128 att., 563 yards, 9 TD)

Captains: Team votes at conclusion of season

Schedule (all games 7 p.m.)

Aug. 18 — TECUMSEH


Sept. 1 — at West Carrollton

Sept. 8 — at Sidney

Sept. 15 — STEBBINS

Sept. 22 — XENIA

Sept. 29 — at Butler

Oct. 6 — at Greenville

Oct. 13 — TROY

Oct. 20 — at Piqua

Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.

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