It has been no secret how beset by injuries the Fitch football team has been this year.
Falcon players have been dropping like flies since the start of this season so the Fitch team was really in need of a gift from the football gods. The Falcons received that gift last Friday night at Massillon Perry. If one team has battled the injury bug almost as much as Fitch has it is the 2-5 Panthers. Fitch got better play from their backups than the home team did as the Falcons pummeled the Panthers, 38-7 to improve to 5-3. Sure, a lot of Perry’s players were in pain last Friday, but Fitch head coach Phil Annarella still thought that winning a game so far from home was a major accomplishment for his outfit.
“Anytime you win on the road its good,” said Annarella from his home. “If you win by one point its good and if you win by more its better.”
Annarella’s team won by 31 points at Perry thanks to a quick start that had the Falcons ahead 17-0 at halftime. Running back Billy Aaron started the scoring for the local kids with a 3-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Matt Futkos followed Aaron’s score when he beautifully threw the first of his three touchdown passes 67 yards to Chris Davis. Kicker Ken Kilpatrick connected on an 18-yard field goal to end Fitch’s first half scoring.
Futkos would then come out of the locker room after halftime on fire as he found Tyler Grover for two third quarter touchdown tosses covering a combined 63 yards. Tyreese Anderson would finish the scoring for Fitch with a 23-yard rushing score. The combination of Futkos’ in the air and Aaron and Anderson on the ground was too much for the Panthers to play against all night.
“We mixed it up on offense and that was important for us to do,” Annarella said. “We had a good balance of runs and passes.”
Fitch also did well on defense as it had a shutout going until late in the third quarter. By the time Perry put its first points on the scoreboard it was already 38-0 in favor of Fitch, so that garbage time score did not hurt Annarella’s enthusiasm for his defenders.
“We played very well on defense again,” Annarella shouted.
Although the Falcons have been fabulous on “D” since the start of this season, this is after all the season of serious injuries in Austintown and now the defensive line will be weakened with the loss of senior Mike Stiffler.
“Stiffler is out for the year,” Annarella announced somberly. “We weren’t very deep on the line as it is.”
Making the loss of Stiffler even more impactful is that one of his line mates, senior Chris Penson, is not playing a lot either because he too is hurt.
“Penson is courageously trying to play,” said Annarella, “but we are only getting about one quarter out of him. It is getting tough to figure out where to move kids.”
Maybe senior running back Will Mahone can move back into the starting lineup this Friday as his injury is almost healed. Aaron and Anderson have done a nice job in his place, as has Futkos in place of starting quarterback Demitrious Davis, but even Anderson is bothered by a few bumps. That is why coach Annarella is so amazed at how well all of these super subs have done spelling their more heralded teammates.
“So many kids have stepped up for us,” the coach said with passion. “So many kids have been forced into the mix that shouldn’t be out there yet. I am proud of them and I hope it will continue.”
Fitch’s coach also hopes his group’s modest two game win streak continues this Friday when Uniontown Lake comes to Austintown. Lake is reeling after losing two games in a row and six of eight this season. Yet, coach Annarella explained that a couple of those losses could have easily have gone the other way.
“(Lake) was tied with GlenOak late so they could have beaten them,” said Annarella. “They lost to Jackson on a late field goal so those are two tough games to lose. They are well coached and will come here looking to salvage their season.”
Improving their win streak to three against the Blue Streaks will go a long way in salvaging the Falcons season too. With the playoffs almost impossible for Fitch, it has just two more games to send the seniors out on a high note. Of course, that final game will be against archrival Boardman who just clinched at least a share of the Federal League championship with a win over GlenOak last Friday. Staying focused on the Blue Streaks may not be easy for Annarella’s crew with the Spartans just a week away, but the veteran coach is not too worried.
“I think we’ll be OK with that,” said Annarella about his team focusing more on Boardman than Lake. “We can’t look ahead (to Boardman). We have to go out (Friday night) and play Falcon football.”