FAIRMONT — As Fairmont’s head football coach and primary defensive coordinator, Mark Heil is a fan of ball control and winning the time of possession.
The Golden Tornadoes dominated in both areas on Friday night against Whiteville, earning a 31-15 home win for their third straight victory and first win over the Wolfpack since 2001. It’s also only the third win over Whiteville since 1983.
“I don’t know what plays Coach (Lonnie) Cox was calling, but the time-consuming drives that kept our defense off the field were beautiful,” Heil said. “With me running the defense, I like offense like that.”
After trailing 7-6 to start the second quarter, Fairmont (3-3) reeled off 25 unanswered points to take a commanding 31-7 lead over the Wolfpack (2-4) and never looked back.
It was the opening drive of the second half that helped the Golden Tornadoes keep their foot on the gas as they drove the ball 90 yards, killing seven minutes off the clock before Halijah McLean scampered for a five-yard touchdown. Fairmont followed with a five-minute drive to start the fourth quarter, capped with a one-yard run by quarterback Julius Caulder.
“That drive to start the second half, it takes seven minutes off the clock and that really hurt them,” Heil said. “We had some big plays go our way.”
Caulder led the way for the offense, accounting for four touchdowns with a pair through the air and two more on the ground. He finished 23-of-31 for 310 passing yards and rushed for 49 more.
Jarique Moore hauled in both of Caulder’s touchdown throws, capping a monster first half with four receptions for 113 yards. The senior skied between a pair of Whiteville defenders for his second score by reeling in a 30-yarder with one hand in the final minute of the first half to give the Golden Tornadoes an 18-7 lead at the break.
“He’s made so many great ones, but that one had to be an ESPN highlight,” Heil said of the catch. “That thing was unbelievable.”
The Fairmont defense played with a bend-not-break mentality, giving up 374 rushing yards but forcing a pair of turnovers. Joshua Hunt forced one fumble in the first half and jumped on another in the second. The Golden Tornadoes have five takeaways in their last two games.
“They kept fighting and we made some plays when we needed them,” Heil said of his defense. “The fumble in the red zone and then the (fourth down) play at the end really made a difference.”
Whiteville had a trio of running backs rush for more than 100 yards, with Jamario Norton leading the way with 118 on 13 carries and a score. Bradley Pridgen finished with 117 yards on 13 carries and Phillip Powell added 100 yards on seven totes. Keshawn Bellamy cut the Fairmont lead to 31-15 on a one-yard run with 5:56 left in the fourth quarter but Whiteville would get no closer, ending the game with a turnover on downs in the red zone.
Halijah McLean kept the Wolfpack defense honest with 14 carries for 20 yards and had four catches for 30. Derrick Arnette hauled in six catches for 65 yards and Jordan Waters added five receptions for 80 yards.
Caulder’s play-action fake got the Whiteville defenders looking in the backfield early in the first quarter, with Moore breaking free on a 54-yard touchdown pass to give the Golden Tornadoes an early lead at 6-0.
Norton answered on the ensuing drive with a 59-yard score to give Whiteville a 7-6 lead, but Caulder gave Fairmont the lead for good early in the second quarter on a two-yard run.
Fairmont improves to 2-0 in Three Rivers Conference play with, moving into a tie for first place with South Columbus and St. Pauls.
The Golden Tornadoes will travel to West Columbus next week.
“We’re getting better,” Heil said. “We’re still not there. We have to practice harder. I just pray we stay healthy.”