Firebird football program puts a winning season in the record books and looks forward to next year

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Photo: Jeffery Allen

Head Coach Andrew Aracri and senior wide receiver Kei’Vante Tanner embrace after his dominating performance in the Firebirds’ victory over St. John’s (Toledo). Tanner had 3 receptions for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns.

By Jeffery Allen, The Flyer Staff

The season that began with low expectations by some ended in praise, triumph and hope.

Varsity Football Coach Andrew Aracri and his Fairmont Firebirds refused to let history repeat itself and went 6-4 after finishing 2-8 the previous four years.

It’s evident that something changed, and some people may wonder what it is. But the man known as “Coach Rock” feels confident that he knows the answer.

“Just the experience and confidence coming into this season was huge difference,” Aracri said.

Aracri also emphasized the seniors and commitment as the keys to the season. “The leadership of the seniors was absolutely the driving force to why we had more success on Friday nights,” the coach said.

The Firebird victories came against St. John’s Jesuit (Toledo), West Carrollton, Greenville, Springfield, Northmont and Beavercreek. The losses were to Alter, Miamisburg, Centerville and Wayne.

Although it ended in a loss, the game against Centerville, ranked 5th in the state at the time, was memorable.

As the classic rivalry unfolded, Fairmont thrilled the spectators as they gave one of the best teams in Ohio a huge fight. The Firebirds took the Elks to overtime in an extremely dramatic game.

At the end of regulation, the score was tied at 14-14. Centerville drew first blood in OT to make it 21-14, but the Firebirds drove down the field and senior quarterback Jaryd Murphy scored a rushing touchdown.

When the Elks blocked junior Drew Gudgell’s game-tying extra point, Fairmont High School’s fans and players stood there in disbelief; some even in tears as the feeling of “almost” took over their bodies. The Elks had defeated the Firebirds in OT, 21-20.

The success makes us have higher expectations for ourselves because we know what we’re capable of doing, and there are goals to improve every year.”

— Corde Kyles

Instead of mourning the loss, Coach Aracri views it as a learning experience.

“Everything you go through as a team allows you to grow,” Aracri said. “The game just shows there’s a small difference between great and good.”

With a winning record in 2014, the Firebirds have given the fans, students and players nothing but good things to look forward to going into next year.

“We’re excited. When you have success, it breeds some excitement for the off-season,” Aracri said.

Perhaps the person who had the best individual season was senior wide receiver Kei’Vante Tanner.

Tanner had an outstanding season and established himself as one of the best players in the Greater Western Ohio Conference (GWOC). He led the league in receiving yards with 829, tied for second in receiving touchdowns with 10 and tied for second in sacks with 8.5.

“I just go play my game; football is what I love,” said Tanner.

The star wideout is a bit remorseful about the season, but thankful as well.

“We should’ve done better. There were a couple of games where we could’ve played harder but other than that, I love playing with that team. They are my brothers,” Tanner said.

“I just wished we had made it to the playoffs,” he said. “I know we didn’t, but it would’ve been a way better experience. Still, this has been a hell of a year!”

Although he’s played his last season in a Firebird uniform, Tanner is ecstatic for the future of Fairmont football.

“Of course, I’m excited. We have some young kids coming up who are going to be some stars,” he said.

Another key player on the Firebird football team was junior playmaker Corde Kyles, who played multiple positions. His quickness made a huge difference around the edge.

Kyles achieved 477 total yards and two total touchdowns and will most likely be starting at quarterback next year.

Kyles said he also feels like his team has much bigger expectations for upcoming years.

“The success makes us have higher expectations for ourselves because we know what we’re capable of doing, and there are goals to improve every year,” Kyles said. “6-4 this year makes us want to go 7-3, 8-2 next year.”

As Kyles looks forward to next year’s team, he’s optimistic about the surrounding pieces.

“I feel like the talent we have returning is going to be great, and just being the leader of the team makes me feel like I have to push everyone to the next step,” Kyles said.

Coach Aracri said he knew it was just a matter of time before his team achieved success.

“If you keep pounding the rock, eventually it’s gonna break,” he said.