East Fairmont bounces back against Grafton in 56-14 home opener victory

Sep. 1—FAIRMONT — Coming off one of its worst losses in recent memory, East Fairmont wanted to show last week was a fluke by taking on Grafton at East-West Stadium. The Bees inflicted multiple stings to the Bearcats, winning 56-14.

"We had to come out and fix some of the mental mistakes we did [last week]," East Fairmont Head Coach Shane Eakle said. "We were better at that. Not perfect. We still got room for improvement. But it was much better, cleaning some stuff up. For our guys that was a big step in the right direction."

The big step started with a 48-yard touchdown connection from senior quarterback Ian Crookshanks to senior receiver Avery Brown to open the scoring. The point after attempt by Karson Church gave East Fairmont a 7-0 lead with 5:54 left in the first quarter.

A little under two minutes after, freshman defensive back Rowan Cramer intercepted Grafton's Camden Foley and returned it 30 yards for a Pick 6, making it 14-0 with the extra point.

Before the quarter finished, junior running back Dominic Fantasia ran into the end zone from six yards out, giving East Fairmont a 21-0 lead by the end of the first.

Crookshanks threw another touchdown pass to Brown to open the second quarter, this time for 31 yards. East Fairmont grew its lead 28-0 with 10:50 before halftime.

Grafton found the endzone on a strong 75-yard drive, capped off by a seven-yard touchdown run by Kaden Keener. The Bearcats made it 28-7 with 8:07 left in the second quarter.

Crookshanks threw a third touchdown to Brown less than two minutes later off an 86-yard pass, including 50 yards after the catch. The quarterback also scored on a five-yard rushing touchdown with 4:16 left in the half. And with 7.8 seconds before halftime, Fantasia scored from five yards out to make it 49-7 going into halftime.

East Fairmont opened the second half starting its drive at Grafton's 48. Sophomore running back Adrian Fleming carried the ball four times for 33 yards that drive, and Crookshanks finished it by punching it into the endzone on a three-yard rush. With 8:30 to go in the third, East Fairmont extended its lead 56-7.

The Bearcats scored one final touchdown by a seven-yard touchdown run by freshman Cash Nestor in the fourth quarter to get the final score of 56-14.

"We were disappointed with our effort last week" Bee's linebacker Tristan Ramsey said. "Over the week of our break, we've had a really heart-to-heart team and realized we need to come together if we want to win and get to the playoffs."

The effort by the Bees to improve showed in every aspect of the game. The first team defense held Grafton to seven points and scored one of its own.

"I play my hardest, and I know the other guys do too," Ramsey said. "I have trust in every one of my brothers that step on the field with me. We go to war with each other."

The special teams stepped up in big ways too, blocking two punts to get East Fairmont's offense deep in Grafton territory. The offense did convert both blocked punts into points.

Offensively, East Fairmont played nearly perfect. Crookshanks completed all six of his pass attempts, going for 187 yards. He also had three rushes for 10 yards. He scored five total touchdowns: two rushing and three passing, all to his big receiver Brown.

Brown finished the game with three receptions, all touchdown catches, for 135 yards.

"[Brown] really showed out today," Crookshanks said. "He showed us, for his size, he can actually get off the ball like how small wide receivers can. Six-[foot]-three, 225 [pounds], that's not a small receiver at all. For him to create space and get open into the open field is a big emphasis for us and our offensive control."

Rounding out East Fairmont's big three on offense, Fantasia finished with 61 yards on 9 carries and scored two rushing touchdowns. He also blocked a punt and made a touchdown saving tackle on a kickoff in the third quarter.

"I think it starts up front," Eakle said. "We did a decent job of picking some guys up, and [Fantasia] did a nice job getting some gaps us, give us some running control. And [Crookshanks] was smart with the ball, made some really good reads. When he had his option plays, he took advantage of what they gave us, which we're proud of."

East Fairmont returns to East-West Stadium next Friday, Sep. 8 to host Berkeley Springs.

Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548