Midway through the third quarter of its opening Federal League game against Canton McKinley at home Sept. 17, Fitch’s football team found itself in a 21-7 hole.
Coming off three consecutive wins, albeit against non Division I opponents, to start the season Fitch was now staring at a huge uphill climb against the preseason Federal League favorites in order to move to 4-0. The 2010 Federal League season is still in its infancy stages, but what Fitch did over the last 18 minutes of the game may be the turning point of its season. In a truly titillating turn of events, the Falcons scored 17 unanswered points to shock McKinley, 24-21.
“The kids fought and never gave up,” said a still-hoarse Fitch head coach Phil Annarella a night after the game. “That’s the mark of a winner. I am so proud of them. I am so proud I can bust.”
With about six minutes left in the third quarter it seemed as if the Falcons went bust themselves. Bruce Reed then sparked a rally running for an eight-yard touchdown to make the score 21-14. The fourth quarter would start with that same score, but three minutes into the final frame the Davis twins would bring the Falcons all the way back against the Bulldogs. Quarterback Demetrious tossed a short pass to his brother Chris who sailed down the sideline toward the end zone. Before he made it all the way, Chris met face to face with a Bulldog defender who had aspirations of stopping the dynamic Davis. Chris must have tapped his inner juke button, however, as he made a Maddenesque move around the defensive back into the end zone to tie the game.
“That was a great run by Chris,” marveled Annarella. “It was a phenomenal play. There was great blocking and (Chris) used his blockers well.”
After a McKinley punt pinned the Falcons back to their own one-yard line, Fitch began a drive that championships are built on. In 18 plays, Fitch marched 94 yards down to the Bulldog five. At the 1:56 mark of the fourth quarter, Fitch’s Ken Kilpatrick kicked a 22-yard field goal to finally put Fitch ahead. Scoring so fast in the last quarter and a half was a great tribute to how these Falcons can take control of a contest.
“We didn’t make any big adjustments,” explained Annarella. “We just wore them down. When our offense gets into a flow we play pretty fast. (McKinley) was tired in the fourth quarter.”
The Bulldogs defense may have showed fatigue, but their offense still had a little bite left in them. The Canton kids drove 35 yards in just two plays to set up a first down at the Fitch 24 yard line with about a minute left in the game. After three straight incomplete passes, McKinley quarterback Kyle Ohradzanski threw a fourth down heave into the hands of his receiver in the end zone. The receiver did not secure the pass and as the ball fell to the ground, so possibly did the Federal League hopes of the now 0-2 Bulldogs.
“I was saying a prayer,” joked Annarella as he described his feelings on that last play. “We made a big play at the end and (McKinley) didn’t.”
Demetrious Davis made big play after big play all night as the Falcons fought to an early lead and then came back. The junior tossed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Shane Stevens to stake the Falcons to an early 7-0 lead. His 47-yarder to his twin later in the game gave him 126 yards passing on 10 for 21. Davis also rushed for 69 yards. Reed was next on the team in rushing with 60 yards and a score while Chris Davis had 59 yards receiving with a touchdown and Will Mahone had 3 catches for 27 yards.
One would think that with a perfect record and a humungous win under his belt, coach Annarella would be relaxed a bit over the past weekend. With 3-1 Canton GlenOak on Fitch’s radar this week, relaxation for Annarella meant sitting in a chair in his home staring at film of the Eagles.
“The good feeling (from the McKinley win) is over,” Annarella mused. “It ended Saturday morning. GlenOak is one of two teams that I haven’t beaten yet (as Falcon coach). I want to change that.”
The Eagles started their Federal League season with a solid 28-9 win at Massillon Jackson in week 4. In order to stop GlenOak, Fitch’s defense will have to be ready to slow down one of the most talented backs in the conference.
“(Brionte) Dunn is averaging over 300 yards per game,” Annarella said in amazement. “He is then new (former Mr. Ohio in football) Erick Howard of the Federal League. When he starts going north and south he is a load. We have to have gap responsibility and tackle well to stop him.”
Fitch will also need to clean up a few things that caused some consternation on the Falcon sidelines last Friday night.
“We won, but we didn’t play one hundred percent especially in the first half,” says Annarella. “There is always room to get better.”
One of the areas where the Falcons may want to improve is in the amount of penalties they have called against them. Fitch was guilty of seven infractions totaling 65 yards in the McKinley game. The biggest penalty of all for Fitch may be if it starts believing it has the Federal League in hand just because it is undefeated and has already beaten one of the best teams in the conference.
“It is too early to start worrying about the Federal League championship,” warns Annarella. “Anything can happen in six weeks.”
Anything can truly happen, but whatever it is it will be hard pressed to top the fantastic finish of Fitch’s first Federal League victory of the season.
Austintown’s Bill Price leads the way for quarterback Demitrous Davis as he plows through the McKinley defense Friday. Davis rushed for 69 yards and kept the Falcon offense on the move to take the 24-21 win.