Fairmont State’s 2006 football team took some small steps in the right direction Saturday afternoon with its 14-0 victory over West Virginia State at Duvall-Rosier Field.

First and foremost the Falcons got a victory, which they needed. The win improved Fairmont to 1-3 overall and to 1-1 in the West Virginia Conference, which is once again proving to be an unpredictable league.

Concord currently sits atop the league standings with a 2-0 conference mark after Saturday’s 27-23 upset win over West Liberty. Shepherd is 1-0 in the WVC after dominating Glenville 23-6 this past weekend. FSU, Charleston, Glenville and West Virginia Wesleyan are all 1-1, West Liberty is 0-1 and West Virginia State is 0-2.

Next up for Fairmont is the toughest test of the season when it travels to Shepherds-town to challenge not only the best team in the WVC, but also one of the top Division II squads in the nation. Shepherd University is 4-0, ranked ninth in the country and will bring a 22-game regular-season winning streak into Saturday’s 1 p.m. contest against Fairmont State.

“Our kids played hard and competed for 60 minutes,” said Fairmont coach Rusty Elliott, following the Falcons’ 14-0 win over State. “We played some young guys and at the end of the game, I told them I was very proud of their effort and their willingness to work hard for 60 minutes.

“We still made mistakes and one of the things that did bother me was that we had some of our older guys making those mistakes. We had a veteran get called for holding and another veteran get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and that should never happen. Those are the types of mistakes which are hurting us right now. We can’t afford those.”

Elliott says FSU will only momentarily enjoy its win over State before turning its attention to Shepherd.

“Shepherd is going to be a big challenge for us, but you know that’s why you play this game to have opportunities like this one,” said Elliott. “We’ve got guys who have never played a team like this before. We’ve got some young freshman who are going to have to strap it up and bring it.

“But you know we’re Falcons. We’re all Falcons. We’re all on this team together. We’re going to take our best 11 guys on offense and our best 11 guys on defense and we’re going to lineup and work as hard as we possibly can Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and on Saturday we’re going to let it go and see what happens. We have nothing to lose. I think we’ll play well. We got a taste of victory Saturday and it was good for us.”

Fairmont’s defense continues to improve. Saturday the Falcons turned in a pair of impressive goal line stands, came up with four turnovers, held State to a season-low 18 yards rushing and to their second-lowest total offensive output of the year (209 total yards). FSU’s defense also posted its first shutout of the season.

No fewer than 120 of State’s 209 total yards came in the final quarter when the Yellow Jackets went almost exclusively to the air throwing 28 passes and completing 14 of them. After three quarters Fairmont’s defense had held State to just 89 yards on 40 plays.

Offensively Fairmont enjoyed a productive second quarter. However, the Falcons struggled somewhat to gain yards and with costly penalties in the second half.

FSU finished with 208 total yards in the win, but 101 of them came in the second quarter when the Falcons scored both of their touchdowns and possessed the football for 11 minutes.

In the second half Fairmont ran only 28 plays and netted just 87 yards. Thirty-one of those yards came on the Falcons’ first possession of the second half. FSU also turned the ball over twice in the second half, suffered two sacks, had a pair of holding penalties and one costly personal foul. In addition, Fairmont was 0-of-7 on third downs in the final 30 minutes.

“We made mistakes, but we played hard and got a win and hopefully that’ll help our confidence and give us something to build on,” said FSU senior running back Wendell Johnson, who finished with 106 yards rushing and a pair of TDs on 27 carries.

“We need to work on becoming a mistake-free football team, and we just need to keep playing hard and competing for a full 60 minutes.”

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