FYFFE — The rain and fog didn’t deter the top-ranked Fyffe football team from focusing on the task at hand Friday night — whipping No. 4 Red Bay 45-6 in the Class 2A state playoff quarterfinals at Long-Ridgeway Stadium.
Junior running back Ike Rowell set the tone by dashing 54 yards for a touchdown on Fyffe’s fourth offensive snap. Rowell rushed for 223 yards in the first half as the unbeaten Red Devils (13-0) built a 31-0 advantage.
“Our offensive line blocked really good tonight, like they do every game,” Rowell said. “We were focused this week and we just tried to do our best, and we did.”
No. 1 Fyffe ran its winning streak to 28 games over the last two seasons. The Red Devils have won 39 straight home games. Red Bay finished 12-1.
The Red Devils will host Region 8 rival and No. 3 Collinsville in the 2A state semifinals Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. Collinsville (12-1) advanced by beating Region 8 foe North Sand Mountain 37-28.
The Fyffe-Collinsville rematch could be considered the biggest football game between county rivals in DeKalb County history, because two DeKalb teams have never met with a berth in the state championship game at stake.
“Collinsville is a really good team,” Rowell said. “We’re just going to have to stay focused all week and practice hard and get ready for them.”
Rowell’s 54-yard TD run came with 8:34 left in the first quarter. Brody Dalton hit the first of his six extra points.
The Red Devils scored 24 second-quarter points.
Rowell’s 16-yard TD run capped a six-play, 60-yard drive with 7:53 remaining, making it 14-0.
Following a short punt, Fyffe took over at Red Bay’s 48-yard line and reached the end zone in five plays. Kyle Dukes bulled his way up the middle and into the open, rambling 20 yards for a score at the 4:31 mark. Dalton kicked it to 21-0.
Fyffe’s defense forced another punt, giving its offense possession at the FHS 48. Rowell ripped off a 29-yard gain on first down. Three plays later, Zach Pyron hit a wide-open Hunter Gillilan with a 13-yard touchdown pass.
Dalton toed the conversion, extending Fyffe’s margin to 28-0 with a minute on the clock.
Justin Stiefel’s diving interception with 44.9 seconds to play gave Fyffe one more first-half possession. Dalton ended it by hitting a 22-yard field goal as time expired.
The Red Devils took the second-half kickoff and marched 55 yards in nine plays to expand their advantage to 38-0. Pyron completed the drive with a 1-yard TD run with 6:51 on the clock.
Three plays later, Rowell intercepted a pass and returned it 18 yards to Red Bay’s 43.
Fyffe drove to the end zone behind the rushing of Malichi Mize, who carried on five of the eight snaps. His 1-yard TD run made it 45-0 with 26.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Jacob Mitchell grabbed a fourth-quarter interception for the Red Devils.
Red Bay avoided the shutout on Hunter King’s 37-yard TD run with 4:50 left in the game. The score came against Fyffe’s reserves. The Red Devils’ starting defensive unit has surrendered only three points all season.
Fyffe head coach Paul Benefield picked up his 250th win at Fyffe and 295th overall.
“I thought they came out and started the game with some intensity about them,” Benefield said of his squad. “We knew we were playing a really good team, and we knew the weather could be a factor in it. As it turned out, maybe we stayed out of the worst part of that.
“Our guys are really competitors. I’m mighty proud of them, and hopefully we’ll have a huge crowd next week. There’s a really, really good team coming here.”
Fyffe outgained Red Bay 465-138. The Red Devils rushed for 438 yards, paced by Rowell with 228 on 17 attempts. Pyron ran 15 times for 76 yards, and Dukes had six carries for 50 yards.
Will Stephens, Brodie Hicks and Eli Benefield all made six tackles to lead Fyffe’s defense.
Fyffe vs. Collinsville
The Red Devils beat semifinal opponent Collinsville 24-3 in their third game of the regular season. Fyffe has won 19 consecutive games in the rivalry, with nine of the wins coming during Benefield’s tenure. Collinsville’s last victory in the series was a 14-0 decision in 1983.
“I think our kids stay focused on whoever we play,” Benefield said. “I might be worried with some groups as far as not being focused, but I think these guys know Collinsville is a really good team. We’ve got to execute and just play our game and keep playing hard.”
Fyffe has outscored its opponents 562-36 this season. No team has driven inside Fyffe’s 20-yard line in the first three quarters in 2019.
In the last five years, Fyffe owns a plus 136 turnover margin.
“It’s the work ethic,” Benefield said of the key to his program’s success. “It’s an all-year thing. It’s too much for some kids to handle. They just don’t want to commit themselves to that much work.
“I’m mighty proud of our [grades] nine through 12. We’ve got about 32 guys who are committed to that, and I’ll take them anywhere and be proud of them ever how it comes out.”
The Fyffe-Collinsville winner faces either No. 6 Reeltown or No. 8 Leroy in the Super 7 state championship game Dec. 6 at 3 p.m. at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium.