FAIRMONT — For the first time since the 2015 season, the Douglas Byrd football team rallied to their endzone in jubilation after shaking hands with their opponents following a game.
After 25 games of offensive struggles and close calls, Mike Paroli’s team came out on the winning side on a Friday night, taking a 38-28 road win over Fairmont.
“I’m just happy for our kids, and our school. Coaches want to win, but at this point, with the staff we have and how many years we have been doing this, we are just doing it for the kids,” Paroli said. “We couldn’t be happier for them.”
Behind two big plays to start the game from Earlee Melvin, Douglas Byrd (1-0) threw an early haymaker at the Golden Tornadoes (0-1) that struggled to recovered until the second half.
Melvin, the team’s leading rusher from a year ago, used his speed in the open field to make Fairmont pay. The senior running back took the opening kickoff 81 yards for a touchdown, and then scored other the next time the ball went his way on a handoff through the right side of the offensive line he took 77 yards for a touchdown to put the Eagles up 14-0, almost four minutes into the game.
“We are going to go as far as Earlee takes us,” Paroli said.
The combo of Melvin, along with fellow running back Ronald Carroll and John Carroll, exploited Fairmont’s weakness up front stopping the run, with 415 yards on the ground, led by Melvin’s 254 yards. As a team, Douglas Byrd averaged 8 1/2 yards a carry against the Golden Tornadoes.
“They are greatly improved and Coach Paroli has done a great job over there,” Fairmont coach Kevin Inman said. “That was a good test for us early, especially going up South Columbus, Whiteville, who are traditional run teams.
“We gave up some big plays early, but our guys did a good job of fighting back. The biggest thing we have to work on is consistency.”
Fairmont used big plays of its own from senior Jordan Waters to dig itself out of the 14-0 hole, with an 88-yard touchdown catch and run by the wide out on a pass from Jayvon Morris on Fairmont’s first offensive play of the second quarter. Waters returned the favor that Melvin had in the first half, taking the second-half kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown and tie the score at 14-all.
Douglas Byrd answered with back-to-back touchdown drives that sandwiched a Fairmont three-and-out in the third quarter. Melvin scored his third touchdown of the night on a three-yard scamper with less than five minutes to go in the third quarter, pushing the lead to 22-14. His touchdown was followed by a 40-yard Ronald Carroll touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter to stretch the game out to 30-14.
Waters and sophomore quarterback Jakeem Moore hooked up for a 42-yard score to answer the Eagles’ touchdown drive, cutting the lead to 30-20. Moore and Morris split time at quarterback, and while both completed four passes and had a touchdown pass, there is the still a quarterback battle the Golden Tornadoes will address in the bye week coming up.
“That’s something that we are definitely going to look at,” Inman said. “All of our quarterbacks bring a different aspect. …Moore brings his ability to escape and move the pocket and keep his eyes down field. That’s pretty impressive.”
Nofountay Cromartie had Fairmont’s last score on a one-yard touchdown with less than two minutes to go in the game.
Waters hauled in 152 yards with his three total touchdowns. For him, the off week coming up before Ashley on Aug. 31 is about getting the younger players back up to speed.
“We need to be able to play all game, and come out better,” Waters said. “We’ve got a small team so we’ve got to play both sides, and be ready to play the whole game without coming out.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.