FAIRMONT — Brow furrowed, hands latched to his hips, Fairmont football coach James Atkinson gave his team a message at midfield: “This is a wake up call.”
Atkinson had just watched his Golden Tornadoes sleepwalk through a 21-6 season-opening loss to Union at home Friday night.
It wasn’t the debut with Fairmont the first-year coach had envisioned.
“I’m surprised and I’m extremely disappointed — it’s my fault,” Atkinson said. “We have to work harder and I didn’t have them prepared. Kids don’t lose games, coaches do. We have to do a better job or we’re going to be tasting this (losing) again.”
Fairmont amassed just 54 yards of total offense to Union’s 158 and charted just three total first downs.
The Golden Tornaodes’ longest play from scrimmage came on their only score, a 36-yard touchdown pass from Jarrod Neal to tight end Luke Hunt at 7:56 in the third quarter.
After going 0-for-4 with two interceptions in the first half, the first-year starter Neal finished 4-of-13 for 42 yards.
After the two teams struggled to move the chains, the Spartans (1-0) opened their scoring in the final seconds of the first quarter when Dezmond Faison snuck in a 3-yard score to put Union up 6-0.
The Spartans showcased a two-quarterback, Veer offense with snaps being split between Alfredo Garcia and Faison. Garcia, who also served as the kicker and a defensive back, threw for 47 yards on 3-of-7 passing and rushed for a team-high 49 yards on 18 carries.
“He didn’t come off the field, kicked, defense… he maybe came off the field one time,” Union coach Doug Burley said of Garcia. “He’s one of our leaders out of many.”
The Golden Tornadoes never made a dent in the Spartans’ defense in the first half — compiling a meager 28 yards — but showed signs of life on defense when Zach Caudel picked off a Garcia pass and made a 25-yard return before being shoved out of bounds as first-half clock expired.
“Our defense played a great game for three and a half quarters,” Atkinson said. “Offensively, we just didn’t get it done.”
After Fairmont evened the count at 6-6 on Neal and Hunt’s connection midway through the third, the Golden Tornadoes offense was stymied by the Spartans.
Garcia and Natrone Banks each punched in 3-yard touchdown runs in the fourth as Union pulled away for the 21-6 nonconference win.
“I was really pleased,” Burley said of Union’s play Friday night. “We led six to nothing at halftime, and came out and did what we needed to do to get the win. There’s still some things we need to work on, and we need to continue to get better each week.”
(Editor’s note: Independent sports writer Adam Capps contributed to this article.)