All season, Fitch head football coach Phil Annarella has been praising his team's defense for the Falcons' 3-0 record.
The fact that the Falcons "D" has only allowed 16 points so far this season is definitely impressive, but their battle with high-powered Barberton on Sept. 14 would provide that unit's sternest test. Thanks to Fitch's 45-0 beat down of Barberton, it is safe to say the defense was graded once again with all A's.
"It was a pretty consistent effort," said Fitch head coach Phil Annarella following the blowout win. "There were some missed assignments (on defense) that gave (Barberton) some big plays, but we made some stops when they got inside our five yard line. Overall, we were pleased."
Playing ferociously on defense was made possible by the way the Falcons flew out to an early lead on offense. Four first-half touchdowns staked the Falcons a 28-0 lead at intermission and enabled them to quiet the usually boisterous Barberton crowd.
Fitch's first touchdown came on a Matt Futkos to Tyler Grover 15-yard touchdown pass early in the opening quarter. Futkos would also close the half with a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a score. In between Futkos' fabulous forays into the end zone, the Falcons established their running attack. Gone from last week's game due to injury was starting super scat back Tyreese Anderson so coach Annarella called on a pair of worthy runners to take Tyreese's place. The first of that dynamic duo was senior Billy Aaron, who carried the Falcons to victory in week 3 after Anderson's injury. Aaron would do most of his damage on the ground in the first half using his special combination of speed and power. The senior's first quarter score made it 14-0 in favor of the Falcons.
After Aaron needed a rest, in came a more surprising selection at running back. Coach Annarella always says after an injury forces a starter to the sidelines another player "must step up." Well, sophomore Darrin Hall stepped up, around and over the Barberton defense during a second quarter Fitch drive that saw the sophomore tear off runs of 23 and 25 yards. Hall would score on that 23-yarder to give Fitch a 21-0 lead.
"(Hall) did a heck of a job," Annarella announced. "Some other guys could have played running back, but they were starters on defense so we called on Hall. I'm very proud of him. We'll keep rotating (the running backs) to keep them all fresh."
With the 28-0 advantage, Fitch's defense was able to stay fresh and make the Magics' offense disappear. Led by senior Billy Price, the Falcons' defense flew at the Barberton offense on an array of blitzes and pressured quarterback Corey Fox into a myriad of mistakes.
Make no mistake, however, this Fitch team is certainly not a two-trick pony. For the second week in a row Fitch's special teams unit got into the scoring act and again it was Kerrell Johnson who was at the heart of the action. With a little more than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Johnson fielded a Magics punt at his own 40-yard line and raced untouched into the end zone for another punt return. That jog by Johnson made the score 38-0.
All three phases of Fitch's game must be in full concert again this week if it is to continue unbeaten. Up next for the Falcons is a week 5 showdown with the Spartans of Boardman. The 3-1 Spartans are coming off their most impressive win of the season, a 35-28 win at Canton GlenOak last Friday. That win may have shocked some in the area, but not Fitch's wily head coach.
"Some people were surprised by Boardman beating GlenOak, but I watched both teams on tape so I wasn't," said Annarella. "It was a convincing win."
Convincing can also be the word used to describe the way senior quarterback John Babos has played for the Spartans this season. The 225-pound Babos may not look as stealth as some signal callers, but he has erased any doubt in the minds of pundits who didn't believe he could get the job done.
"(Babos) is a tough quarterback to stop," Annarella said sternly. "He is a big, strong runner. Then they bring in a little guy (Turel Thompson) who's their fast guy. Regardless who's in at quarterback, we have to tackle well."
Both Boardman and Fitch have played meaty schedules so far this season so both will be ready to rumble in week 5. It really doesn't matter that this game does not come with a conference affiliated championship attached to it anymore, each school is aware of how important the local bragging rights and potential playoff points are.
"It's a backyard rivalry so it doesn't matter who's supposed to win or what week it's played in," Annarella said sternly. "They'll be ready to play and hopefully so will we."