Since Fitch head coach Phil Annarella took over the Austintown program four years ago his teams have never beaten perennial playoff threat and Federal League brother Canton GlenOak.
Coming off of an exhilarating win in week four over this year’s conference favorite Canton McKinley, the question around Austintown all week was if the Falcons could find enough resolve to win two major games in a row. Following the Sept. 24 game, Fitch turned that question into one emphatic statement.
The Falcons flew down to Canton and turned a tight game into an absolute laugher, winning 43-21.
“This win means a lot,” said Annarella from his home over the weekend. “We are maturing as a program. These kids understand the competiveness of the Federal League. We are pleased as a staff.”
Fitch’s staff was probably not too pleased when GlenOak jumped out to an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter. It may have been easy to think that the Falcons were possibly still celebrating their week four win over the other Canton club as a reason to why the Golden Eagles came out soaring on that starting drive, but Annarella thought it had more to do with a mistake made by his secondary.
“We let them sustain that TD drive with pass interference,” said Annarella. “I don’t think there was a letdown (by the Falcons). (GlenOak) is a good football team.”
Fitch is a good team too and the Falcons proved that late in the opening period. Demitrious Davis tied the score with a 25-yard touchdown run then Bruce Reed ran in from three yards out right before the end of the quarter to make it 14-7. GlenOak scored the only touchdown in the second quarter to make the game even at halftime. It was then time for the Will Mahone show to start for the Falcons. The junior speedster showed off that quickness with a blazing 88-yard kick return for a touchdown to open the second half. The Eagles would respond with a nice long touchdown drive to knot the score again, but GlenOak’s defense was no match for Mahone. Will willed his Falcons back in front when he caught a 51-yard touchdown pass from Davis to make it 27-21 after three quarters. The fourth quarter was all Fitch as Ken Kilpatrick started the scoring with a 30-yard field goal, Shane Stevens scored on a sensational 13-yard run then Mahone made Fitch fans’ eyes pop out again. He closed the scoring and put the game away for the local kids with an electrifying 61-yard touchdown run with 2:25 left in the contest. Mahone finished last Friday with 244 all-purpose yards, three long touchdowns and one thankful head coach.
“(Mahone) had a great game,” said an enthused Annarella. “He is a difference maker. He was really pumped up and wanted to win this game. (Mahone’s great game) is a tribute to him.”
Coach Annarella also paid tribute to Fitch’s defense especially against all-world GlenOak running back Brionte Dunn. Dunn came into the contest averaging over 300 yards per game, but the Falcons made it a priority to bag Brionte and did okay holding him to about four yards per carry. The most important thing was that Falcon defenders held Dunn to just 14 yards on his longest rush of the evening.
“We knew Dunn would do well,” Annarella admitted. “We tried to limit his game. We denied him any real big plays. If you told me before the game that 14 yards would be his longest run I would have taken it.”
The coach would also take another big night from his junior quarterback. Davis rushed 14 times for 148 yards and a touchdown and, although he only threw five passes all night, he completed three of them including one for a touchdown. Fitch’s offensive line also played inspired again opening up enough space to allow the Falcons to fall just a few yards under 300 for the game.
Beating the Eagles on the road this past Friday erases the bad memory of the other losses that the Annarella-led Falcons had to endure against GlenOak. Fitch sat in the exact same 4-0 position last season after defeating McKinley then lost at home to the Eagles. That is why this win is so gratifying to this Fitch team.
“We tripped up (in last year’s game),” Annarella said. “We were tired of hearing that this team had our number. We were due. Now it’s time to move on.”
Indeed the Falcons will move on to Massillon to take on 2-2 Jackson this Friday. Armed with that 5-0 record and backed by two outstanding wins in a row, Fitch should have the confidence to exorcise another demon from their past.
“We have never won at Jackson,” Annarella announced. “They will be looking for a win (coming off a 42-12 loss to McKinley).”
Annarella’s boys will also be looking for a win in Massillon and looking to keep this train steaming toward a playoff berth. Fitch’s coach will be looking for his kids to remain in the right state of mind and leave the wins of the past two weeks in the rear window.
“We will be picked by everyone to win this game,” said Annarella sounding less than thrilled with that idea. “We do not expect to win anything. We have to do some of the good things we did (against McKinley and GlenOak) and get better.”