Rain, cold, mud. Joe Swarm's favorite football conditions were all there yesterday in the Virginia Group AAA Northern Region Division 5 championship game at Fairfax High School. And the 6-foot, 186-pound junior fullback rushed for 174 yards on 24 carries, including a 16-yard run that set up Lonnie Goldberg's six-yard touchdown pass to Carroll Smith with 32 seconds remaining that gave Marshall a 12-6 victory over Fairfax.

The Statesmen (11-1) will play the winner of today's Central Region final between Dinwiddie and John Marshall in the state semifinals next Saturday at Fairfax at 1:30 p.m. The Rebels finish their season 8-4.

"I enjoy it {playing in the mud} more than anything," Swarm said, "because you get to get down and get a little gritty and it's harder for guys to make tackles on you when you're wet and muddy. You kind of slide off people a lot easier. Plus, when you get done, you get to look at yourself and feel satisfied that you've kind of accomplished something."

Despite holding Fairfax to 56 yards on 36 rushes and 107 yards total offense, the Statesmen came extremely close to needing an overtime tie breaker.

A 41-yard punt by Marshall's Robert Kramer with 2:17 left rolled dead at the Fairfax 12. Three running plays netted minus-two yards and, after Rob Menefee's 26-yard punt from the end zone, the Statesmen took over at the 36 with 55 seconds and one timeout remaining.

Goldberg passed to Thomas Horn for a 14-yard gain. Goldberg got his team organized without a huddle and handed to Swarm, who carried tacklers to the 6. After Marshall called its final timeout with 38 seconds left, Goldberg rolled left, stopped and then threw over the middle to Smith, who was open in the end zone.

The Rebels took a 6-0 lead 10 seconds before halftime on a bizarre fourth-down play that started at the Marshall 26. David Bedwell's pass down the middle was intercepted by Marshall All-Met Richard Kinsman inside the 5. Kinsman returned the ball to the 20, where Bedwell (five of 19, 51 yards, three interceptions) and center Rob McGough blindsided him, causing a fumble that Fairfax's Randy Belknap caught in midair and returned for a touchdown.

Marshall tied the score after forcing Fairfax to punt on the opening possession of the second half. On first down from his 46, Goldberg passed 20 yards to Kevin Froelke. Swarm and Smith did the rest.

Smith carried three times for 15 yards and Swarm carried five times for 19 yards, including a one-yard touchdown run with 6:02 left in the third quarter.

On their first possession of the fourth quarter, the Statesmen moved from their 44 to the Fairfax 19 before Swarm fumbled for the second time in the game. Sam Newman recovered.

"I didn't even touch that one," Swarm said. "Somebody hit the quarterback's arm and the ball flew right past me. It still made me mad, but I knew we would come back." Fairfax (8-4) 0 6 0 0 6 Marshall (11-1) 0 0 6 6 12

F -- Belknap 20 fumble return (pass failed)

M -- J. Swarm 1 run (kick blocked)

M -- Smith 6 pass from Goldberg (pass failed)