FAIRFIELD
BY JACK BULLOCK
The Fairfield Mules came out of the gate firing away in the early going of the 2016-17 season but they faltered down the stretch, finishing below .500 overall at 12-16 to go along with a 5-5 ending in Black Diamond Conference play.

After that 8-2 start, things didn't go well in the second half of the campaign.

Head coach Scott McElravy heads into season number 13 in leading Fairfield and things won't be any easier this year.

Fairfield lost four seniors to graduation; Macklin Snyder, Brant McGill, Caleb Smothers and Gage McGaha.

Those kids must be replaced if they are going to challenge for another conference championship.

Coach McElravy has four returning senior starters with some size up front and skill in the backcourt.

Two 6-foot-4 seniors; Jayden Lewis and Kobi Dagg are back to play up front while a pair of 5-foot-9 senior guards; Jaymon Vaughan and Andrew Stewart bring some experience to the table.

Coach McElravy mentioned a foreign exchange student that should help out.

Six-foot-three senior Luka Borda should help out for the Mules, who are slated for their annual trip the Lawrence County Capital Classic to begin the season.

Fairfield also has some returning letter winners that will give this coach some depth on the pine.

Brian Estes is a 6-foot-5 junior while Derek Estes is a 6-foot-4 junior.

When playing against the powerhouse 2A teams they see during the season, size up front won't hurt the cause any.

Add the names Reese Lee, a 5-foot-10 junior to the list of potential help along with 6-foot-1 junior Cody Cantrell, 5-foot-10 sophomore Wyatt Gilbert and 6-foot-2 sophomore Kane Hixenbaugh.

The Fairfield middle school produced an unbeaten state championship squad last season and those freshman will likely help out in the long run in junior varsity contests along with making practices much more interesting.

An interesting tidbit about last season's junior varsity squad is that they were an emergency replacement at the Wayne City Holiday Tournament last December and they more than held their own.

The JV Mules took home third place honors at the varsity event, beating Crab Orchard, Grayville and Bridgeport Red Hill in the process.

“Realistically we could go 10 deep this season because we have some height and good athletes to choose from,” said Coach McElravy, a Toledo Cumberland grad who has a 189-163 mark in his 12 seasons at Fairfield. “I think we could be a good team with hard work and good attitudes. We start off the year at the very tough “Capital Classic” but feel like Mules basketball is on the upswing. We can compete for the conference and a regional if everything goes right.”

OUTLOOK – Against a very tough schedule every year, this coach has finished with a winning record in 7-of-12 campaigns. Despite back-to-back 12-16 marks, this team looks to show marked improvement after seeing what the junior varsity was capable of doing last December in person. The trip to Lawrenceville the first weekend of the season will let Coach McElravy know much more about his team. They are definitely a threat to win another league crown and will be a tough out in the post-season.

2017-18 VARSITY SCHEDULE
N24-25 Lawrence County Capital Classic J12 @ Carmi-White County

D1

Cisne J15-20 Carmi-White County Invitational
D5 @ Johnston City J26 Johnston City
D8 Eldorado J30 Wayne City
D9 @ Olney Richland F2 @ Eldorado
D12 McLeansboro Hamilton County F6 @ McLeansboro Hamilton County
D15 @ Albion Edwards County F9 Albion Edwards County
D19 Lawrenceville F13 @ Flora
D26-28 Eldorado Holiday Tournament F16 Carmi-White County
J6 Bridgeport Red Hill F19-23 IHSA Regional TBD