Fairfield High senior Thomas Bollinger has spent years asking classmates to join the football team. His success has been limited because not many wanted to join a team that entered the season with 29 straight losses.
The losing streak ended at 37 Friday night as the Green Knights beat Hanover 27-21 at Sheppard & Myers Stadium.
"Everybody that said stuff, they're looking back now and saying, 'I wish I had never said anything. Fairfield isn't a bad team like I thought they were,'" said Bollinger, who will take a recruiting trip to Shippensburg University today. "They don't mean anything to me now."
The game ended when Bollinger, one of two healthy seniors, punted as the final eight seconds ticked away. He then ran to hug coach Darwin Seiler.
"I'm just so stinking happy for the kids," Seiler said. "You see Thomas being as emotional as he is, that's why you coach."
The Knights (1-8, 1-7 YAIAA III) were without starting quarterback Mason Flickinger, who suffered a concussion last week. They started sophomore backup Michael Quealy, who split time with Bollinger.
"That was a big loss," Bollinger said. "We couldn't hang our heads about it. We had to figure things out with me and Michael at quarterback. It paid off."
Bollinger had a part in 211 of his team's 325 yards. He rushed 29 times for 191 yards, completed two passes for 25 yards and caught a pass, albeit for minus-5 yards. He had two rushing touchdowns, one for 1 yard and another for 50.
"He's a heck of an athlete," Seiler said. "We knew putting the ball in his hands that he was going to do everything he could."
Bollinger's biggest play perhaps was an 18-yard completion to Chase Senseney on fourth-and-9 deep in Hanover territory. A 1-yard touchdown by Nick Mort, his second, capped the drive and gave the Knights the 27-21 lead.
"Every time Chase gets near it," Seiler said, "he's going to catch it."
The Nighthawks (0-9, 0-8) mounted one final drive, reaching Fairfield's 35-yard line and with fourth-and-6, but Toby Anders sacked quarterback Brady Goodfellow to force a turnover on downs.
The Knights ran off the final two minutes, Bollinger rushing for a first down to keep his team from having to punt earlier.
Oddly, the Nighthawks didn't attempt to return Bollinger's final punt as time expired, and the Knights surrounded the ball before beginning to celebrate.
Several Nighthawks dropped to the ground, upset with the loss. Many were overcome by emotion, their eyes red.
"It hurts," Nighthawks coach Eric Ketterman said. "That's all right to say. It hurts. It was a long time coming for (Fairfield). I guess (their losing streak) had to end sometime, and we happened to be in their way."
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Fairfield 15 0 6 6 -- 27
Hanover 0 6 8 7 -- 21
F -- Thomas Bollinger 1 run (Evan Wolfe pass from Michael Quealy), 8:20
F -- Nick Mort 15 run (Brandon Hummel kick), 2:38
Han -- Ian Brown 31 run (run failed), 4:34
Han -- Dylan Krieger 16 pass from Brady Goodfellow (Goodfellow run), 6:58
F -- Bollinger 50 run (kick failed), 3:52
Han -- Goodfellow 1 run (Tyler Hahn kick), 11:14
F -- Mort 1 run (kick failed), 5:36
-- F -- Han
First downs -- 13 -- 16
Rushes-yards -- 50-305 -- 31-138
Passing -- 3-4-0 -- 13-22-1
Passing yards -- 20 -- 138
Total yards -- 325 -- 276
Punts -- 2-32.0 -- 1-25.0
Fumbles-lost -- 1-1 -- 0-0
Penalties-yards -- 7-50 -- 1-15
Rushing -- Fairfield, Thomas Bollinger 29-191, Michael Quealy 8-62, Nick Mort 13-52; Hanover, Ian Brown 13-73, Brady Goodfellow 11-36, Brad Irvin 5-22, Spenser Durika 2-7.
Passing -- Fairfield, Thomas Bollinger 2-2-0-25, Michael Quealy 1-2-0-(-5); Hanover, Brady Goodfellow 13-22-1-138.
Receiving -- Fairfield, Chase Senseney 1-18, Michael Quealy 1-7, Thomas Bollinger 1-(-5); Hanover, Dylan Krieger 6-54, Jose Gonzalez 4-54, Ian Brown 2-14, Juan Aguilar 1-16.