Injuries to two-way starters may prevent the Fairport Red Raiders from sprinting into the Section V Class AA football tournament.
The Red Raiders will not slump into the playoffs either, after turning back a Hilton team that tried to rally on Senior Night at Fairport for a 31-28 win during the regular season finale Friday.
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A 40-yard field goal kicked by Connor McMahon early in the fourth quarter was the winning margin for 6-1 Fairport, the Monroe County Division I champion.
“Oh, I’m ready for sectionals,’’ Fairport senior Mike Kozar said. “This team is ready for sectionals. You know, we’ve been waiting for this for a long time.
“We’ve been hearing about how good the 1990s were for Fairport, and we just want to bring that back to Fairport and make (winning) a tradition again.’’
The Red Raiders clinched a home game when the Class AA sectional begins next weekend, and likely will play Friday. Hilton (4-3), while hurt by its third loss in three weeks, should advance into the tournament. Games on Saturday will solidify the field, determine matchups, where and when.
“That’s not going to flush itself out until (Saturday),’’ Fairport coach Dave Whitcomb said. “That is just a road map.’’
Winning keeps things clear for most of the teams still in the race, and Kozar helped launch the Red Raiders offense against Hilton.
Kozar ran for two touchdowns and quarterback Keshawn Howard connected with Mike Sabatine Jr. for a 56-yard scoring pass to help move Fairport out to a 28-7 lead early in the third quarter.
Hilton running back Kyle Napier ran for 137 yards and scored three touchdowns as the Cadets rallied. Johnathan Letta, Hilton’s quarterback, ran for 124 yards on 20 carries, including a 10-yard touchdown run and intercepted a pass in the second half that sparked Hilton’s rally.
Fairport has lost at least three starters to injuries since Sept. 24, and Kozar had an ice pack around one of his legs after the game.
Kozar, a senior, became the starting running back after a season-ending injury to two-way starter Dominic Gombetto.
Maybe other teams have similar or more dire injury reports, but the Red Raiders can say they have not let the loss of players deflate this season. They say kick off the playoffs.
“We are very excited about it,’’ Howard said.