ScoutSouth: Tigers look north for Bearcats

Fairfield's defensive end, Isaiah Whitaker (6-1 250) probably got tired or hearing about Springville's talented quarterback, Seth Baker (6-4, 200). The senior was in on four of the Tigers' five sacks while Baker also had two interceptions. One of those interceptions was huge with a tipped ball on Fairfield's goal line falling into the hands of defensive back, Marcus Saltmarch.



The score was tied at the half 21-21, but the purple and gold Tigers settled down in the second half. Region 5's second seed (9-2) stopped Springville's offense and scored the winning touchdown in the 28-21 victory. Fairfield advanced to the second round where they will meet the top seed in Region 6, the Cullman Bearcats (9-2).

While the 6-4, 200-pound Baker was a lot for Fairfield to deal with, it doesn't get easier this week. Cullman's 6-0, 200-pound throwing machine, Tyler Caldwell.

The senior received honorable mention last season by the ASWA. He passed for 2,979 yards with a 64.9-percent completion ratio as a junior.

Caldwell has surpassed that total this season by gaining 3,231 yards with a slightly lower completion number of 61.7. However, he has attempted (412 vs. 376) and completed (254 vs. 243) more passes this season.

His career total, thus far, 7,239 yards through the air.

This is not lost on Fairfield head coach Jim Vakakes. "He is absolutely tough. It's going to be a difficult task for us," he said.

"We've had a good week so far," Vakakes said of practice for the upcoming game.

While the humble coach offered the positive comment, he never fails to show his angst-ridden side. Without a breath in between, he started fretting.

"I don't know what the weather is going to do," Vakakes said. "They are talking rain. We really don't care for rain. They are probably a little better at that. It would hurt our speed."

"It is going to be a very interesting game. They are very well coached. Coach [Mark] Britton and his staff do a great job year after year after year. Cullman is in there every year."

"They are one of the better coached teams we have played here in a long time. They have a bunch of coaches, which means individualized instruction. They are a very good football team."

Springville was averaging 34 points per game in their 10 prior outings, and it was a very good effort for Fairfield to hold them to 21.

"It was," Vakakes concurred. "Isaiah had a great game. Josh Gentry, Tim Brown and Sam Pugh all had tremendous games. The secondary stepped up. We had some picks and had a very important one in the end zone. If they had scored there, we might have been in trouble."

"It was a big win."

Offensively, Fairfield spreads the ball around with senior quarterback Antonio Hagler (5-11, 190) throwing for two touchdowns and scoring twice more on a pair of one-yard runs.

Senior Mike Robinson (6-1, 180) caught a 37-yard touchdown pass and senior running back Qualin Young (5-10, 170) rushed for 110 yards on 17 carries.

Vakakes touched on the offensive effort, "Coach Tim [Vakakes] has done a great job with the offense. He works night and day. He does a great job. We are going to have a good plan this week, and we are going to have a good plan defensively."

With worry creeping back in, Vakakes added, "But the kicking game comes into play."

"We finally stepped up last week and kicked all four extra points. Ryan Jordan kicked all four. Just a one step mule kicker, no style, no prettiness, he just kicks it."

The rugby-style punt has gotten some attention collegiately over the last two weeks, and Vakakes is prepared to see it Friday night.

"Caldwell does that," he said. "We've got to be prepared for that at all times. He'll quick kick on third (down) rugby-style. He's a very, very good player."

Fairfield will be on the road this week, but the Tigers get good support from their community and with the trip right at an hour Vakakes felt good about their numbers.

"I think we are going to take a good crowd up there, hopefully," he said.

Then, the self-described "worry wart" added, "Rain could hurt us with the crowd."

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