Leading by a touchdown in overtime of its first round playoff game with Willoughby South at Falcon Stadium on Nov. 6, Fitch’s Kenny Walter recovered the ball that was fumbled on the exchange between South’s center and quarterback. With Walter securing the ball, the (10-1) Falcons secured a 42-35 victory that sent them flying into the second round of the playoffs. Walter’s pick up also sent the Rebels packing for their trip back to Willoughby although they played nearly a perfect game.
“That (fumble) was one of the few mistakes they made all night,” marveled Fitch head coach Phil Annarella after the win.
Coach Annarella was also amazed how a game that looked more like an Arena League contest in terms of the relative ease each offense had moving the football was won on defense.
“It was very much ironic (how the game ended),” Annarella said. Alas, all the revelry of the win over the Rebels was short lived when it was revealed that Fitch starting quarterback Demitrious Davis suffered a season-ending knee injury. Davis’ father confirmed Tuesday that a ligament sprain will keep the QB out of action this week. Annarella would not elaborate, but by the tone of his voice, it was obvious that he was game-planning for Fitch’s second round game against Solon without his junior leader. Fitch’s coach then went on to explain how the injury happened and why he initially inserted senior Shane Stevens at quarterback then changed to sophomore Matt Futkos.
“(Demitrious was injured because of) the way he landed,” Annarella said. “We put Shane in on that drive then went with Futkos the rest of the game because the game indicated we had to pass. Futkos is a good passer. He throws the ball well."
As it turned out, Fitch did not need to have Futkos throw all that much because junior running back Will Mahone made things miserable the whole night for the Rebels. Mahone started the game with a 28-yard touchdown reception from Davis to put Fitch ahead 7-0. After South tied the game, Mahone put the Falcons back on top with a 45-yard touchdown run. South held a 21-14 lead when Davis dashed in from nine yards away to tie the score. Davis would end the game with 111 yards rushing and two total touchdowns before exiting with the injury. The Rebels reclaimed the lead 28-21 before the end of the third quarter, but with points piling up like an old-time pinball machine, Mahone tilted the game back to Fitch’s favor in the fourth quarter. Three minutes into the final period, Mahone marched into the end zone from 36 yards away to tie the game at 28. Trailing once again with a minute and a half left in the game, the junior tailback tied the score one more time with a 13-yard touchdown trot. Mahone then saved his best for last when he took the opening handoff on the Falcons’ first possession of overtime and sauntered 20 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Fitch’s defense then sealed the deal with the fumble recovery, but it was the Falcons fans that needed to do the most recovering after watching the exhausting yet exhilarating play of Mahone who finished the game with 167 yards rushing and five total touchdowns.
“(Mahone) had an incredible game,” said Annarella excitedly. “He and Demitrious are very close. When Demitrious went down (Mahone) knew he had to step it up and he did.”
Now the Falcons will have to step it up as a team to beat undefeated and top-seeded Solon this Saturday night at Warren’s Mollenkopf Stadium. The 11-0 Comets will rocket into Warren fresh off their 31-7 blasting of Broadview Heights in round one. When it comes to defending the Comets, coach Annarella conceded it will be very difficult to do.
“(Solon) had no flaws,” Annarella said incredulously while taking a break from watching film of the Comets. “They are very sound offensively and defensively and their special teams may be the one of the best we have seen this year.”
Annarella was also aware of how huge Solon’s interior lines are.
“They are big and physical,” he mentioned. “One of their linemen is 290 pounds. Our little offensive line has its work cut out for them.”
Fitch’s offense will also be in for a lot of work trying to keep the points coming with Davis most likely on the sidelines. Annarella would not announce who he would start at quarterback in that situation, but conceded he may have to use both Stevens and Futkos.
“The game will dictate which quarterback we will use,” said the coach. “We have to take what they give us. With Davis we have been almost exclusively running out of a Wildcat formation. Now we may have to be more conventional. We will have to keep fighting. It will be a challenge.”
At least the coach knows that if this game becomes a shootout like the one against Willoughby South did, he has the defense that is capable of making that one big play to win the ballgame.
Photos by Emmett King, Town Crier correspondent
Quarterback Demitrious Davis uses a stiff arm to get by a Willoughby South defender to pick up extra yardage.