There is no doubt that all good things must come to an end.
Included in that old proverb is the undefeated streak of the Fitch football team. The Falcons were a perfect 6-0 as they strutted into Massillon to meet up with one-loss and legendary Washington High School. Any team that makes its way to Massillon and thinks it is going to have an easy time with the Tigers is sadly mistaken. The Tigers had little trouble sending the Falcons back to Austintown with their first loss clipped to their feathers, 34-14.
"Give (Massillon) all the credit," said a dejected Fitch head coach Phil Annarella. "We got everything from them we saw on film, but we didn't execute and they did. It's a tribute to the way they played."
Perhaps it was the aura of playing on Paul Brown Field, but the Falcons looked overmatched from the start of the contest. The Tigers were faster and more physical than the Falcons, who enjoyed those same advantages over all of their six other opponents this season. It only took three possessions for the Tigers to score their first touchdown of the night. Massillon went on to score 28 points in the first half behind a prolific passing game to take a commanding 28-7 lead into halftime
"(Massillon) threw the hell out of the ball," Annarella said admiringly. "We didn't stop them very well."
After the Tigers' first tally, Fitch impressively came back with a matching score. Quarterback Matt Futkos found Tyler Grover on a beautiful 41-yard pass down the sideline to set the Falcons up inside Tigers' territory. Two plays later, Futkos finished off the drive with a short touchdown run to tie the game.
"Matt threw a nice ball then we were able to march it in from the 10 yard line," explained Annarella.
That would be the only glimmer of hope the Austintown kids would have the rest of the evening. Futkos was not able to use his fabulous rushing skills in the first half then was sent out of the game with an injury. Futkos was replaced by junior Gabe Chepke who was not up to the task of taking on the Tigers on their home turf.
"Chepke never played varsity quarterback before," said Annarella sounding upset. "He was moved to quarterback just last year. He did a decent enough job considering the atmosphere down there."
Unfortunately, Fitch's inexperienced signal caller may be needed to gain some experience quickly because it seems as if Futkos' injury is season threatening.
Also injured last Friday was wideout/defensive back Kerrell Johnson who may be lost the rest of the year as well. Once Johnson went down, the Tigers terrorized his replacements.
"(Massillon) did a good job attacking our backup corners," Annarella noted. "With the season-ending injury to Tyreese (Anderson) and now the injuries to Matt and Kerrell we won't have an easy task the rest of our schedule. It doesn't look like (injured linebacker) C.J. Martini will be back anytime soon either. I'm more concerned for those kids than losing a game. It's unbelievable."
Coach Annarella may not want to believe it, but the cold reality is the Falcons will be severely undermanned the next three games. Even with their current 6-1 record, the Falcons will need to win a couple of their final three to garner enough votes for the Division I playoffs. By the way, the last two games on the docket are against defending Division III champion Cardinal Mooney and Federal League force Uniontown Lake. The good news in Austintown is that Fitch's next match is with 3-4 Marion Harding High School. The Presidents haven't received nearly enough electoral votes to be considered a playoff contender. The main reason the men from Marion are under .500 is because they are very inexperienced.
"(Marion Harding) is struggling because they play a lot of young kids," Annarella said. "They are trying to rebuild and find an identity."
With a new quarterback and some other younger Falcons taking the field this week, Annarella's club may be trying to find a new identity as well.
"I'm not sure how much we can do," said the coach somberly. "We will have to work on some things in practice this week and see what happens."