“It was not our best effort for sure,” said a sour-sounding Fitch head coach Phil Annarella about the final loss but he could have also been talking about the whole season as well. “You can attribute a lot of that to Boardman. They worked hard and played like a team that needed a win to make the playoffs.”
Boardman did indeed clinch a playoff berth with the win and will now play perennial playoff participant Cleveland St. Ignatius in round one. As for Annarella’s kids, well a season that was full of promise in August disintegrated thanks mostly to the bite of the injury bug. Not only did the Falcons play without senior superstar signal caller Demitrious Davis for half of the season, but at one point this season Fitch reached double digits in the number of regulars to miss time.
“As I have said before the injuries are part of the game,” Annarella announced. “Unfortunately with our schedule, it’s not easy to overcome.”
The Falcons could also not overcome a deficit of 240 yards in total rushing yardage last Friday night. Most of Boardman’s rushing yards belonged to versatile Devin Campbell who finished the game with 138 yards on the ground. Heading into last week’s showdown Annarella was afraid of the expertise of the Spartans’ speedy back, but it wasn’t what Campbell contributed on offense that hurt the Falcons the most. Just before halftime, Fitch’s own outstanding runner Will Mahone was off to the races on what looked to be a 60-yard touchdown run. Campbell had another idea, however, as he caught Mahone from behind inside the Boardman five yard line. Fitch was unable to punch the ball in remaining scoreless at halftime. The only other time the rest of the evening Fitch even got inside Boardman’s red zone was in the third quarter when it turned the ball over on downs near the Spartans’ 10 yard line.
“Campbell tackling Mahone before the half may have been the play of the game,” said Annarella.
The play of the season for Fitch was the lack of play by its big stars because of various maladies. The one bright spot that came from all of those illnesses was that a lot of younger Falcons got their feet wet during varsity action. Junior quarterback Matt Futkos saw considerably more time on the field than one could have imagined before the season started and he now has a greater knowledge of Annarella’s spread offense heading into the offseason. There is no reason to believe that Futkos will not be behind center when practice begins next summer. Junior running backs Billy Aaron and Tyreese Anderson carried a lot of the load out of the backfield this year as Mahone nursed injuries during the second half of the season. There were also a slew of Fitch sophomores who stepped up and played pivotal roles on both sides of the ball.
“The play of the underclassmen was a highlight,” Annarella said happily. “They gained so much varsity experience. I’m really pleased with the way they played. These were positive experiences for them and hopefully they will become better because of it.”
Still, it will be tough to replace the 19 seniors such as the Davis twins (Demitrious and his brother Chris), Mahone, Lucas Haupt, Justin Fooks, Chris Penson, Mike Stiffler and Kyle Betts to name a few.
“We had to replace a lot of them in season,” Annarella said trying to laugh. “They were a great senior class.”
Although it may be hard to bounce back in 2012 from such an underachieving 2011, class may also be the word to use with how Annarella handles this upcoming rebuilding project.
Austintown’s Lucas Haupt tackles Boardman's Alan Starkey for a loss early in the rival game on Oct. 28.