The chances of Fitch’s football team making the upcoming Division I playoffs are certainly on the slim side.
The only thing the Falcons can do at this late point of the season is to win their games and hope for a lot of help from outside sources. Step one of that plan is happening quite nicely. Beset by injuries and coming off a three-game losing streak, the Falcons have rallied to win three games in a row to keep all week 11 football hopes alive. The latest in that string of successful games was a 34-7 lambasting of Uniontown Lake Oct. 21 in Austintown.
“The kids have picked it up (since the three-game losing streak),” said Fitch head coach Phil Annarella over the weekend. “We have regrouped. We could have gone one way or the other and thankfully we went the right way.”
Substitute starting quarterback Matt Futkos went the right way all night last Friday for Fitch. The junior ran for 105 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 185 yards and another score giving coach Annarella something positive to speak about after the game.
“I have said before (Futkos) is a terrific kid,” Annarella said. =“We threw him into the fire, but nothing is a better teacher than experience. He’s improved every week he’s been in there.”
Futkos’ only touchdown pass was a beautiful 59-yard toss to Lucas Haupt that really set the tone of the night last Friday. The signal caller’s first two touchdown totes shortly followed staking the Falcons to a 20-0 lead after one period. Playing from ahead allowed Fitch’s defense the luxury of pinning their ears back and lassoing the Lake offense all night. The Blue Streaks bottomed out with just nine first downs and barely more than 200 yards of total offense.
“We had a great defensive game and I give all the credit to our defensive coaching staff,” Annarella said proudly. “We shut (Lake) down.”
Now Fitch will shut down the season at 6-3 Boardman. Of course, this week’s showdown with the Spartans may also act as a tune up for the post season. For that slender possibility to become reality, Fitch will need to bounce Boardman and pray some other teams lose. There was some thought that the Spartans’ 41-20 loss last week at Canton McKinley may have hurt Fitch’s chances at a playoff berth, but those reports may have been premature. Coach Annarella isn’t exactly overly concerned with talk about week 11 until week 10’s game is complete.
“We can’t control all the ifs, ands and buts,” said the coach with a chuckle. “We don’t need any extra motivation (to play Boardman) and Boardman needs this game (to make the playoffs) so they will be motivated too.”
Boardman was very motivated when it beat Canton GlenOak a couple weeks ago to snag a share of the Federal League championship. The Spartans are something to watch offensively because they have the skill players necessary to score from any part of the gridiron.
“(Boardman) big plays you,” Annarella explained about the Spartans’ offense. “You have to eliminate the big plays and I think we have done that well this season.”
A lot of Boardman’s big plays come from the rifle right arm of quarterback Ryan Pollifrone and the electrifying legs of running back Devin Campbell (who had three touchdowns in Canton).
“Campbell is a versatile back who lines up at a lot of different spots on offense,” Annarella said. “Pollifrone is throwing the ball well. He is a very good quarterback.”
Futkos has proven he can be a good quarterback too since taking over the starting role in the place of the injured Demitrious Davis. He has one year left in his Fitch life, but there are a bevy of seniors who hope to not play their last high school game this Friday. A seventh win of the season with a win over the Spartans will go a long way towards keeping their Fitch careers alive.
“We would like to give our seniors a chance,” said Annarella. “We hope to end the year on a high note. No matter what we are going to lineup and have fun Friday night.”