By MICHAEL S. ADAMS
H-P Sports Editor
FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield Eagles have started the season with a lot of attention around Texas.
Fairfield began the preseason ranked No. 6 in the TexasHoops.com poll and is currently ranked No. 7 by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
The attention is creating a lot of excitement but with it comes a lot of adversities.
“It puts the bulls eye on you,” Fairfield head coach Joey Worley said. “It’s good to be ranked this early, but it is more important on how you finish.”
The Eagles have opened the season with four straight wins, including defeating Grapeland Tuesday. Fairfield has a margin of victory of 38.8 points per game and has defeated two opponents by more than 40 points. Fairfield’s smallest margin of victory has been 21 points against Grapeland.
Leading scorer Alfraid Manning is averaging 15.5 points per game and his cousin Jarrett Manning is averaging 10.3 points per game.
But in a sport that embraces the individual performer, Worley has taken a different approach.
“We have put our emphasis on being a good teammate and playing hard for the team,” Worley said. “We have 10 kids who are very talented and could step in and start at any time.”
What has been Fairfield’s biggest asset this season also is their biggest challenge, according to Worley.
The Eagles have 14 players on their roster and nine of those players are averaging five or more points per game.
Senior Asa Douglas, who came off the bench and scored 13 points against Westwood Monday, averages eight points a game.
“We teach these kids they have to come together and play together,” Worley said. “It’s a lot different than having one player than can put up 34 points and having four role players around him.
“They have embraced the concept of playing together.”
Fairfield’s roster features five seniors, eight juniors and one sophomore in Eric Palmer, Fairfield’s second leading rusher in football.
Of the five seniors, Douglas and Ben Sturtevant are the only ones in the top five (fourth and fifth respectively) in scoring for Fairfield.
“We returned a lot of players from last year,” Worley said. “That definitely has us excited this season.”
For Fairfield to continue its success, the Eagles will have a serious challenge in the upcoming weeks. The Eagles will host their annual tournament Dec. 8-10 which will feature Palestine, Waco La Vega, Waco University, Mart and eight other teams.
Two days after the Christmas holiday, Fairfield will travel to Fort Worth and participate at the Whataburger Tournament at Nolan Christian High School.
Before starting district play Jan. 13 at home against defending District 18-3A champion Mexia, Fairfield will travel to Class 3A No. 2 Bullard on Jan. 3 and Class 1A No. 1 Martins Mill on Jan. 6.
“Those games will be good measuring stick for us,” Worley said. “It will definitely be a challenge, but it will allow us to see where we are.”
Once district play starts Worley said it will be just as tough. He said getting out of the district will be a challenge with eight-time defending champion Mexia and athletic teams in Madisonville and Marlin.
“Mexia are still the champs until someone knocks them off,” Worley said. “Madisonville and Marlin have a lot of athletes and are very talented teams.”
Fairfield will host Palestine Tuesday with the freshman scheduled to tip-off at 5 p.m.
By MICHAEL S. ADAMS