Sometimes the hardest thing for a football team to do is win a game it is supposed to win.
Coming off back-to-back tough assignments against Canton McKinley and Canton GlenOak followed by a road game at Massillon Jackson, the Fitch Falcons were expected to have an easy time when they hosted an average North Canton Hoover outfit on Oct. 8. The fact that the Falcons did cruise to a 42-12 victory squashed any concerns anybody had about the Fitch kids’ ability to concentrate week to week.
“We have kept our feet on the ground all year,” said an elated Fitch head coach Phil Annarella over the phone. “We have been preaching to stay grounded and the kids have listened to us.”
It took the Falcons little time to hit the ground running last Friday evening. Four minutes into the game, quarterback Demitrious Davis dashed in from 10 yards out to put the Falcons on top 7-0. Davis would add touchdown runs of two and 46 yards before the night was over to total 66 yards rushing and three scores. Running back Will Mahone has been magical as of late and he continued his stellar play against Hoover. Mahone scored Fitch’s second touchdown less than two minutes after Davis scored the first one when he bolted 66 yards for a score to make it 14-0. Mahone would end the game with 92 yards on the ground. Davis’ two-yard plunge made it 21-0 after one period.
The second quarter started with Hoover scoring a touchdown, but any illusions the Vikings had of making a miraculous comeback were zapped soon thereafter. Davis danced his way to his third touchdown on that 46-yard run to make it 28-6. Davis then decided to contribute through the air hitting Cam Patterson on a 29-yard scoring strike to push the lead to 35-6. Annarella admitted a week ago that he was a little disappointed in the way his Falcons worked offensively against Jackson, but he had no such worries versus Hoover.
“We got better (on offense),” Annarella said. “Our execution was sharp. We worked on it a lot last week.”
The Falcons would actually exceed 40 points thanks to their defense when Antoine Cox scooped up a Vikings fumble and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown. That fumble recovery was one of two made by the Falcons last Friday and continued a nice trend started by the defense in week one.
“We have won the turnover battle all but one week,” said Annarella happily. “The only time we didn’t win was when we tied last week at Jackson. Forcing turnovers makes things easier on our offense. Not turning the ball over (on offense) and getting turnovers (on defense) is a major plus for us.”
Another plus for Fitch’s defense was the way it handled hot-throwing Hoover quarterback Austin Appleby. The strong-armed signal caller only completed nine of 20 passes for 125 yards and threw two picks. The Vikings also only accumulated 10 first downs all ballgame making Fitch’s defense the unsung hero for the second week in a row.
“Stopping their passing game was impressive,” Annarella bragged. “We took advantage of a lot of little things (Hoover) did wrong on offense.”
Annarella’s defensive bunch gets another chance to prove itself this Friday when 5-2 Massillon Perry pays a visit to Austintown. The Panthers lost last week 35-21 to Canton McKinley so they will have that defeat on its mind when they come to town. On Fitch’s minds will be the loss at the hands of the Panthers in 2009.
“(Perry) beat us last year with a team that is not as good as this year’s team is,” said Annarella succinctly. “They will be coming to Fitch Stadium knowing how big a game this is. A win (by Perry) would enhance their chance of winning the Federal League and making the playoffs.”
If Perry does indeed pull the upset Friday night it will probably be due to the excellent play of running back Jon Miller who has been the Panthers’ most dynamic offensive threat all season. Miller has made Perry a force on offense which signals a change from years past.
“It has been a big turnaround from last year (for Perry’s offense),” Annarella said while watching his opponent on film. “They have an explosive offense. They are more of a running team than Hoover is because of the Miller kid. They run a lot of I-formation using Miller at tailback then try to hit lots of big plays with play action pass out of that formation.”
Of course, the Falcons have been hitting on a lot of big plays all year too. Odds are the Panthers will not be able to stop those homeruns Friday night. It is doubtful that the Massillon kids will be able to stop Fitch from improving to 8-0 either.