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Prep bowling: Fairfield boys hold off Burlington on the lanes

Jan. 13—FAIRFIELD — No lead is totally safe against Burlington.

It's a lesson the Fairfield High School boys bowling team learned the hard way last year. The Grayhounds used 12 strikes in the fifth and final baker game in their last visit to Flamingo Lanes, erasing a 15-pin lead by the Trojans to earn a 2,572-2,509 Southeast Conference win last January.

Burlington was positioning itself for another rally against Fairfield on Thursday, cutting a 217-pin deficit down to 145 pins through just two of the five baker games. Ethan Cass remembered what it was like one year earlier to watch the Grayhounds surge past the Trojans and steal away a win.

"Everyone was down. We weren't converting spares. Everyone had their heads down and we were losing more and more pins to them," Cass said." At that point, I went up to the team and told them we needed to get our energy back up."

The Trojans responded instantly in the third baker game. Dayson Workman led off with the first of three consecutive strikes for Fairfield on the way to a 201 baker game that helped turn the momentum around against the Grayhounds, ultimately helping Fairfield secure a 168-pin win with a team score of 2,562 in one of the rare prep sporting events to take place this week in between the two strong winter storms that passed through Iowa, dumping nearly two feet of snow in some areas over the past five days.

"It's been tough. None of us have really bowled since last Saturday and not all of us bowl on Saturdays, so it's been a little while since we've even been able to practice together," Cass said. "That was a struggle for some of us. We were planning on bowling in Ottumwa (against Davis County) on Monday and that got cancelled. That was rough because everyone was planning on that. We kind got thrown back into action in this meet. That was pretty interesting."

Workman showed no signs of rust for Fairfield. The Trojan sophomore rolled his best game in the opening game of the dual with the Grayhounds, posting a 226 on the way to finishing with a meet-best and career-best 203 average.

"I was just able to hit my mark and pick up my spares," Workman said. "I really hope this is a big spark for us. If we bowl like this, we should be able to win more games and hopefully bring home that conference title."

Cass, a returning state qualifier for the Trojan boys, added a 201 average posting a 213 in his second individual game giving Fairfield a team score of 1,753 going into the baker rounds. After edging the Trojans by three pins in the first baker game, Burlington pulled away in the second game as Fairfield struggled posting a score of 122 allowing the Grayhounds to cut 72 pins off the Trojan lead, giving Burlington a chance to continue a rally and maintain a perfect dual record.

Workman, bowling in the lead-off position for the Trojans, also remembered the rally of the Grayhounds one year earlier. That memory helped fuel Workman as he stepped up to throw the first ball of the third baker game.

"We didn't want the same thing to happen to us again," Workman said. "I was just looking to spark a flame that would carry us through the baker games."

Dylan Adam and Kenneth Houston added strikes for the Trojans to open the third game, sparking Fairfield's 201 that added 31 pins back onto Fairfield's lead. The Grayhounds edged Fairfield by 19 pins in the fourth baker game, cutting Fairfield's lead back down to 157, before Fairfield secured the win with a 193 in the final baker game beating the Grayhounds by 11 pins in the same game that Burlington completed a comeback win last year with a 78-pin advantage over the Trojans.

"What's nice about this team is that you don't have one captain. We've got six guys that can lead us," Fairfield head bowling coach Chad LaRue said. "We've got several kids fighting to be among those top six varsity bowlers. This team has the ability to put it out there and beat some really high-quality teams. We've been averaging about 165 and above so far this season and we're continuing to grow."

The Fairfield girls, meanwhile, fell to Burlington 1,888-1,646 on Thursday with a 359 two-game series by Katelyn Ott leading the Grayhounds. Addison Harris edged Trojan teammate Grace Forrest by a single pin (237-236) for the team's top individual series score.

"Our girls have improved almost 100 fold from where they started," LaRue said. "Autumn McBride, Eleanore Houston, Grace and Addison have stayed very poised all the way through. I'm pleased with the growth of the girls."

Next up for the Fairfield boys (2-1) and girls (1-2) is a trip to Keokuk for a triangular with Washington at Arrowhead Bowl on Tuesday, weather permitting. The Trojans also are scheduled to compete on Thursday at Mount Pleasant before coming to Champion Bowl to compete in Ottumwa's Baker Tournament on Saturday in a meet that could prove to be pivotal for both Fairfield teams with Ottumwa serving as a host site this year for Class 1A girls and boys state qualifying tournaments Feb. 12 and 13.

"When we started practice this year, we worked on nothing but baker games," LaRue said. "These kids can string together strikes. That's how you can win bakers. If we get to bowl in Ottumwa, that could be huge. It's a house we're familiar with and a house we could get some work in before the postseason."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.