Fairbanks quarterback Braxton Wilhelm looks downfield for a receiver in this file photo. Wilhelm helped lead the Panthers to their victory over Northeastern on Friday. (Photo submitted)
Fairbanks High School head football coach Patrick Cotter didn’t have very many worries heading into Friday evening’s game at Northeastern.
The way his team played supported that relaxed nature.
“The guys just went out to play,” said Cotter after the 37-13 verdict earned the Panthers’ their fourth consecutive victory.
“Our defensive unit did its job all night,” said Cotter, whose team is now 4-2. “Our defensive backs (Gatlin Luke, Trey Good, Braeden Fairchild, Ethan Kise and Braxton Wilhelm) kept everything in front of them.
“Our defensive line (Dakota Key, Cole Shepherd, Joe Kinsley, Sam Rengert and Billy Reed-Bodey) was a force to be reckoned with.”
Fairbanks limited the Jets to just 169 total yards, including a mere 31 on the ground in 21 carries.
The Panthers took a 9-0 lead in the opening quarter, thanks to special teams work.
Cade Ziegler capped one series with a 25-yard field goal and Riordin Stauffer scooped up a blocked Northeastern punt and ran the ball into the end zone.
The Jets pulled to within a couple of points during the second period on a defensive touchdown.
Hunter Albright picked off a pass thrown by Wilhelm and returned it for the TD.
The extra point narrowed Northeastern’s deficit to 9-7.
From that point on, however, the Panthers had things pretty much in control.
Wilhelm used his legs to churn out TD runs of one and nine yards.
Ziegler cashed in on a pair of extra points as Fairbanks took a 23-7 lead at the turn.
The Jets scored their final points midway through the third quarter.
Albright ran for a 23-yard touchdown, but the two-point conversion failed.
Wilhelm tossed a 21-yard scoring strike to Luke with 3:25 on the third-quarter clock.
Ziegler’s PAT sent FHS into the final 12 minutes of action with a 30-13 margin.
Wilhelm helped complete the scoring early in the fourth period with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Ashton Griffith.
Ziegler booted the extra point to finish the scoring.
Fairbanks’ offense was just as effective as the team’s defense.
The Panthers tallied 360 total yards, including 208 on the ground.
“Our offensive line (Rengert, Ethan Chippas, Key, Reed-Bodey and Zach Schmidt) turned it on during the second half,” said Cotter.
The Panthers will return home on Friday to face the 6-0 Tigers of West Liberty-Salem.
The contest will mark the 500th football game in FHS’ 50 years of the sport.
Festivities are planned to recognize former players and coaches, along with highlight moments of the program’s history.
“We will need to come out with the same type of force in both halves as we did tonight,” said Cotter. “We can’t take off any plays.”
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