Fairborn shocks Xenia, reclaims Clifton/Spahr Memorial Trophy


FAIRBORN — “People from around the state will look at the scoreboard and we’re going to tell them ‘hell no, that’s not a misprint.’”

Check out more photos from Friday’s game.

Fairborn head coach Larry Cox’s words in his postgame speech to the Skyhawks received cheers and applause following one of the biggest wins for Fairborn in recent years.

The Skyhawks overcame a 14-point deficit to win the Clifton/Spahr Memorial Trophy and upset rival Xenia 28-21 Friday at Memorial Stadium.

“This puts an exclamation point on Fairborn,” J. T. Smith said. “We finally did it tonight and this trophy is going to stay right here.”

Smith held up and kissed the trophy following those words. He connected with Antwan Willis for a 36-yard touchdown pass down the sideline with 2:38 remaining in the fourth quarter for the winning score.

It’s the first time Fairborn has been able to hoist the trophy since 2020. Friday’s game was the final meeting between the rivals at Memorial Stadium and the penultimate game at the field before Fairborn moves to its new field next season.

The Skyhawks had been outscored by a combined 89-2 margin against Xenia in the two previous meetings. They fell behind 14-0 Friday unable to stop the Buccaneers and showing few signs for optimism before one play changed everything near halftime.

After scoring on its first two possessions, Xenia closed in on making it a three-score lead during its final drive of the half before it stalled due to an illegal shift penalty on third-and-2 in the redzone with 45 seconds left.

Opting to go for a field goal on fourth down, Fairborn’s Corbin McCoy-Bush came off the left edge to block the ensuing 35-yard attempt. He picked the bouncing ball up and wove his way down and across the field for a touchdown to make the score 14-7 at the break.

“That was such a momentum swing because we came out of halftime knowing we could win the game,” Cox said. “It was a completely different attitude.”

Fairborn (2-4) seized everything it could coming out of halftime.

The Skyhawks’ defense forced its first three-and-out of the game to start the second half, and Zyaire Cavitt on the second play of the next offensive drive received an option pitch and maneuvered 37 yards to the endzone to tie the score at 14.

After a holding penalty brought back what would have been a 39-yard run to Fairborn’s 1-yard line for Xenia, the Buccaneers had to punt again midway through the third quarter.

Fairborn began its next drive at its own 3 and produced the first of two game-defining marches down the field. Multiple big runs by Jay Kidd got the Skyhawks out to midfield and forced a Xenia timeout to try and slow the tempo. Fairborn used 11 straight runs to get to Xenia’s 18 before a false start penalty ended the period.

Two incomplete passes began the fourth quarter and set up a fourth-and-18 scenario. Cox rolled the dice and was rewarded.

Smith corralled a high snap and scrambled to his left, finding Sean Townsend at the goal line for a 23-yard touchdown pass to cap a 14-play drive and give Fairborn its first lead.

“J. T. did an outstanding job ,” Cox said. “He wants to do all he can to win, but I’ve told him to play within himself and let his guys do what they have to do. I knew he would make the plays when it was time because he has trusted the process and been patient.”

Xenia (4-2) revived itself and quickly tied the score. Shawn Fishwick caught two passes covering 48 yards and Elijah Johnson, the Miami Valley League’s leading rusher coming into the game, ran in his third touchdown of the game with 9:39 left to make it 21-all.

Fairborn’s winning drive began at its own 20, but faced a road block at the 39-yard line with a fourth-and-2 situation. After calling a timeout, Fairborn decided not to punt and leaned on its run game which had rarely been stopped throughout the night. The Skyhawks rushed 39 times for 230 yards in the game.

Cavitt just reached the line to gain running for two of his game-high 165 yards to keep the drive going.

“Coach Cox tells me to say what I see and we’ll change things off that, but the run game was working all night so why change things that they haven’t stopped?” Smith said.

Fairborn continued to get first downs on the ground and wind down the clock before an unannounced 15-yard penalty backed them up to the Xenia 43 with only a few minutes left.

Cox then put the game in Smith’s hands. A 6-yard scramble set up third and long, but rolling to his right Smith found Willis in stride streaking into the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown.

“When the ball was in the air, I saw Antwan had’em beat on that home stretch and the ball got there,” Smith said. “I got hit but I felt it was there.”

Xenia’s final chance to tie the score again ended after two plays when Johnson took a swing pass to Fairborn’s 31 but fumbled as he nearly stepped out of bounds. Tameron Whitely alertly pounced on the ball for Fairborn after it landed inbounds in what was the only turnover of the game.

Fairborn finished the win doing what it had throughout the second half, using three rushes right into the heart of the Xenia defense and pushing them back to run out the clock and start the celebration where students stormed the field.

“This is why we’ve worked all season long,” Smith said. “There’s been roadblocks but I felt it at the beginning of Monday when we started practice and I felt it at school today. It felt like everybody was different.”

The two sides tied one another with 17 total first downs and 304 total yards of offense, but the Skyhawks dominated the ground game by more than doubling the Buccaneers rushing yardage. Fairborn had the ball for nearly 17 minutes in the second half and ran twice as many plays as Xenia.

“We respect [Xenia],” Cox said. “But as I told our kids, if you come out and play together we’ve got three things: Hit the hardest, win the turnover battle and make the fewest mistakes. I think we won all three of those.”

Cavitt’s big game doubled his total output through the first five games this season. Kidd added 70 yards on 12 carries. Willis had 50 yards on his three receptions, and Townsend had two for 24 yards.

Xenia was led by 105 yards from Johnson on 25 rushes. Gavin McManus completed 15-of-18 passes for 193 yards.

Cox said he teared up as the final knee hit the ground and he watched his team begin to celebrate. Weeks ago when the season began, he said Fairborn lost games with what boiled down to a level of toughness which needed to be learned.

The Skyhawks changed its tune Friday and won its biggest game in years.

“We were standing toe-to-toe with a really good team and we didn’t back down,” Cox said. “Now we know how to fight. I told the other coaches that’s why I came here. I knew it was possible, and now they’ve proven it.”

See all of the Greene County football results from week six.

Check out more photos from Friday’s game.

Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on X (formerly Twitter) @Steven_Wright_.

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