Coming to grips
- Cliff Pfenning
- Portland Tribune - Sports
Kacy Fairfax fumbled and Wilson's season came to an abrupt end A costly football miscue turns into one of life's lessons for Trojan senior
Kacy Fairfax is past 'the fumble.' Sort of.- The Wilson High senior says time has helped him deal with the fallout from a 34-31 loss to Tigard in the second-round of the state playoffs.
After Tigard kicked a field goal in overtime, Fairfax lost control of the ball on Wilson's first play. The Tigers recovered, ending the game.
Tigard went on to win three more games and the state title.
Wilson, the Portland Interscholastic League champion for the second year in a row, was shattered. The Trojans will always wonder what might have been had they scored a touchdown on that possession and continued on.
'It's been tough, especially watching how Tigard did in the playoffs,' Fairfax says. 'But I think I'm OK now.
'I'm all right, but it's still with me. Whenever I go work out, whenever I lift or run or train, it's right there with me Ñ the fumble. I don't dwell on it, but I think about it.'
Fairfax, an all-league running back as a junior and senior who ran for more than 2,000 yards as a varsity player, is getting ready for baseball season Ñhe is a catcher Ñ and then a college football career at the NCAA Division I-AA or II level.
The experience has made him believe in a universal power.
'I definitely think there is a higher power that controls things and there is a plan for me,' he says. 'And part of that plan is that I should be struggling to overcome this at this point in my athletic career, at this point in my life.'
The immediate response
Fairfax fell down on his face on the field as the Tigers celebrated.
'I couldn't think of anything,' he says. 'I couldn't believe our season was over, high school football was over. That it happened right there Ñ again.
'I had trouble breathing.'
Wilson's season had come to a similar end the year before. A fumble by Fairfax in overtime of a first-round game against Pendleton was recovered by Pendleton, and the Buckaroos then scored on their OT possession to win 27-21.
But the impact from that fumble didn't weigh as heavily on Fairfax.
Wilson had a chance to stop Pendleton on defense and win the game in a second overtime. And Fairfax, along with most of the Wilson team, still had another year of eligibility.
But the Tigard fumble had more emotional impact. Fairfax caught a short pass from Sean Setzer and was hit by two Tigard players. In his effort to get free, Fairfax lost the ball.
'I had 225 carries during the season and lost three fumbles,' he says with a grin. 'That's a really low total, but that (fumble) is what people will remember.'
Running backs coach Hashim Hall was first to get to Fairfax as he lay prone on the field in disappointment. Hall talked to Fairfax about his value to the Trojans during the season, and about how Fairfax was an integral part of their previous 10 wins, including the first-round victory over Centennial that was Wilson's first playoff victory in nearly 10 years.
Fairfax got up, but he stayed on the field all by himself, staring at the scoreboard until teammates came back from the locker room to offer support.
Fairfax says a conversation with former Trojan coach Steve Pyne, who moved to Central Catholic for the 2003 season after four years at Wilson, was instrumental in helping him move forward.
'He talked about the personal challenge that was confronting me and that I had to stand up to it,' Fairfax says. ' 'This can't be the end of Kacy Fairfax, don't let that happen.' That helped me.'
At home, Fairfax says his parents Ñ his biggest fans Ñ had trouble talking with him the weekend after the Tigard game. His friends, especially those from the football program, bring up the fumble sparingly.
'When we get to joking, one of them will call me 'Butterfingers,' and that's just part of the fun,' he says. 'I can handle that OK because I can throw stuff back at them. But people that I don't know so well, when they bring it up É that hurts.'
The breaks of the game
Football is a funny game, of course. Odd bounces can decide games.
Tigard has some history with this, too. In the 1989 quarterfinals, Tigard beat Benson 6-2, after recovering Tech running back Ramon Hall's fourth-quarter fumble at the Tiger 4-yard-line. Hall Ñ the brother of current Franklin girls basketball coach Floyd Hall, was later stopped on fourth-and-inches inside the Tiger 20. And Tigard scored its lone touchdown when Eric Green recovered a fumble in midair and ran a short distance into the end zone.
Ramon Hall could console himself, though, with the memory of the previous year, when Benson won the state title. But the word 'fumble' still follows him.
After Tigard's win over Wilson, the Tigers won three more games with their impressive defense, which allowed just 54 total points in five state playoff games.
'We put up 31 on them,' Fairfax says. 'Those guys were lucky they got away from us.
'That was tough watching them win the state title.'
Fairfax says he's being recruited by schools such as Portland State and Western Oregon. He could play running back or outside linebacker, and he chuckles at suggestions that he focus on defense at the next level.
'You know, maybe that's the thing Ñ I should be an outside linebacker,' he says with laugh. 'Because the idea of touching a football doesn't even sound remotely interesting to me right now.'