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A Football Contest for the Ages

Fairfax gives its best in 75th anniversary tribute game.

It was Fairfax High’s perfect night — all but for the final score — at last Friday’s football game, which was a part of the public school’s 75th Anniversary tribute week of events as well as being homecoming weekend.

"All week long, people I didn’t even know, I’d see them at places like the grocery story," said Fairfax senior receiver/defensive back Sam Bechert. "They would say how they were supporting [the football team]. They’d say, ‘Keep working hard, we’re behind you.’ That [community support] really meant a lot to us."

The Fairfax team wanted desperately to win, for their school on the celebratory night, for all the former students and players who were on hand for the special occasion, for their fellow students as well as their coaches, friends and family members, and, of course, for themselves.

"We let them down," said Bechert, following the Rebels’ down-to-the-wire, exciting 28-21 loss to visiting Liberty District opponent Langley. "But our fans are still behind us. Both teams fought hard."

Under first year head coach Kevin Simonds, Fairfax lost the game. But both teams gave the large, enthusiastic crowd the quality of game fitting for the festive occasion. There were electrifying touchdowns, crisp, all-out play from both teams, and late game heroics.

At halftime, there was a historical homecoming theme as each of the school’s four classes, freshmen through seniors, showcased their respective "celebration of the school’s past anniversaries" floats, which were decorated in colorful, eye-catching detail. The sophomore class (2013) float was a creative look back at Fairfax’s silver 25th Anniversary from 1960 and displayed a pep rally night bonfire. Ultimately, the senior class float, celebrating the school’s diamond anniversary, won first prize.

Following the halftime parade of floats and the grand entrance, by way of nifty, classy sports cars, of the members of the 2010 homecoming court, the crowning moment arrived when the new homecoming queen was named. The honor went to Ellie Jordan, a school band member attired in her marching uniform.

While her fellow band members chanted her name from the stands, Jordan was presented with her crown as the close-to-capacity, partisan home crowd cheered. In the background, way up in the sky beyond the far side end zone, an autumn full moon added to the mood.

THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT, the Fairfax public address announcer called upon the numerous alumni from the school’s past decades to stand and be recognized. Beginning with the classes from the 1930s and 1940s, and through the classes of the 2000s, former students stood up and were cheered politely by those around them.

The game itself was a ride of emotions for the Fairfax faithful, who watched their heroes fall behind early, 7-0, before rallying with a pair of touchdowns to take a 14-7 lead, only to see the Saxons tie the game before halftime at 14-14.

The home crowd erupted loudly when Fairfax quarterback Spencer MacLeod, on a third-and-goal play from the 1 yard line, pressed forward and across the goal line to put the Rebels ahead again. But Langley, behind star quarterback Braden Anderson, scored touchdowns on its next two possessions to curb the home fans’ enthusiasm and ultimately win the game.

Most of the crowd remained in the stands following the game in order to take in a fireworks show. Later, school alumni made the short drive to the local Army-Navy Country Club for a night of catching up with old school mates.

The football loss hardly dampened the spirits of those who attended the historic game at Harold Stalnaker Stadium.

"The fans saw some of the excitement that’s coming to this football program," said coach Simonds, whose team had pulled off one of the Northern Region’s biggest early season upset wins two weeks earlier with a victory over the powerful Robinson Rams. "I told the guys afterwards that they won’t remember the score of tonight’s game [with Langley], but that they will remember the excitement and overall feel of the game. They’re upset, and rightfully so. There’s even some crying. They put so much fight into this week."

MacLeod, the Fairfax quarterback, said it had been a fun but hectic week for members of the football team.

"We just tried our best to concentrate at practices during the week," said MacLeod. "We had a pep rally [in the gymnasium] at the end of school today. It was exciting and everyone was pumped up. I wasn’t as much nervous about tonight as I was excited. We always like to hear the cheers from our fans. Both teams played hard tonight. We just didn’t win."

The Fairfax team, naturally, wanted sorely to cap the special week with a win.

"We practiced hard all week," said Fairfax running back Marcus Bailey. "There was a lot of stuff going on and we had to stay focused. We might have gotten a little caught up in it all but we had really good practices. We wanted to bring a really good show to the alumni. It was a fun game and a great atmosphere."

Langley coach John Howerton was glad his players got to experience playing in such a grandeur game.

"It was a great atmosphere to me," said Howerton. "They’ve got a great facility here with a new [turf] field and great concrete bleachers. It was a great crowd. Our kids seemed to enjoy it. I told them this is why you come out and play football, to be a part of the main show."