Well, on a cold night in Canton that seemed more like late October than mid-September, Canton McKinley's football team got its revenge from the Fitch Falcons. Fitch busted the Bulldogs 24-21 in a week four matchup last season after falling behind by two touchdowns. Last Friday night, McKinley got redemption in its own come-from-behind fashion, 24-16. The win by the Bulldogs actually snapped a mini two-game slide versus the boys from Austintown.
"(McKinley) played better overall," quipped Fitch head coach Phil Annarella last weekend. "They wanted it badly. They didn't turn the ball over like they did in the previous losses to us. I give them credit."
A lot of that credit deserved to go to McKinley running back Sa'Veon Holloway who had an incredible night carrying the ball 37 times for 213 yards and to quarterback Tyler Foster who battled an injury all evening yet still managed to score the game-tying and game-winning touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons had injury problems of their own at quarterback as they played the entire game without superstar senior Demitrious Davis. Davis has a quad injury and will be re-evaluated before this Friday's game with Canton GlenOak.
"We are not sure when (Demitrious) will come back," said Annarella on Sunday. "We will know more later in the week."
Starting in Davis' place was junior signal caller Matt Futkos. Futkos has seen time behind center this season and actually started Fitch's playoff loss to Solon in 2010. He completed eight of 10 passes against the Bulldogs with a touchdown to Will Harrington and, more importantly, without an interception. According to his coach, the junior did enough good things to keep the Falcons in the ballgame.
"(Futkos) managed the game well," Annarella announced. "He made no mistakes. Not counting the Solon game it was his first real start. He did great."
It looked as if Fitch's offense would do great the entire night when it scored rather easily on its opening possession. Will Mahone was running the ball brilliantly finishing with 100 yards on 23 carries. After halftime, however, the Bulldogs bit down on the speedy Falcons and were able to hold the visitors under 140 yards of total offense. Coach Annarella theorized that that uncharacteristically low second half number had more to do with the McKinley defense than the absence of his stud QB.
"(McKinley) did well on defense," he said. "We are not going to change our offense because a starter goes down. Schemes have already been put in. We've been working on it since summer so someone else has to step up."
Fitch's defense has been stepping up since the start of this season and despite some lapses against Holloway it did a fine job once more.
"The defense did great," Annarella said contently. "(McKinley) had a fluke play at the end of the first half (a Hail Mary pass completion) that gave them some momentum. Other than that (our defense) did well again."
Annarella also got helped out by his special teams unit which blocked a Bulldog punt setting up Futkos' 34-yard touchdown heave to Harrington.
Regardless if Futkos is the starting quarterback this Friday or if Davis returns the Falcons will have a tall order when they host unbeaten Canton GlenOak. The Eagles jacked up Massillon Jackson last week 33-14 to improve to 4-0. Stopping the Eagles means only one thing; stopping running back Bri'onte Dunn. The six-foot, two-inch, 215-pound Ohio State recruit is zeroing in on being named Mr. Football in the state of Ohio. His combination of power and speed are unparalleled in the Federal League. Dunn is a big factor in Annarella's game plan for week five.
"We are going to try to run more (to keep the GlenOak offense off the field)," Annarella said. "We are going to try to keep (GlenOak) off balance, but we can't change our offensive approach too much."
In fact, Annarella probably does not want to change a thing considering his kids put up 43 points in a huge victory over the Eagles in 2010. Unfortunately for the Falcons, one does not have to look further than the game against Canton McKinley to see how well a team can play when it has revenge on its mind.
Photos by Ryan McMasters, Town Crier correspondent
Will Harrington stops a McKinley ball carrier in his tracks during the Sept. 16 game.