Nobody was really sure how the Fitch football team would react in its game last Saturday night at Marion Harding.
One week after losing their first game of the season at Massillon Washington, the Falcons had to board the bus for a long road trip without many of their starting players. Fitch made its way to Marion minus its starting quarterback, starting running back, starting wide receiver/cornerback and one of its starting linebackers. The performance put forth by the Falcons last weekend was nothing short of spectacular. Fitch manhandled the Marion kids 68-7 using a basic formula that usually leads to success; the bigger and faster Falcons ran the ball down their hosts' throats.
"I guess you can say that," answered Fitch head coach Phil Annarella when asked if that game plan was the top one all week for the Falcons. "We were definitely able to run the ball well. We got through (that game) now its time to move on."
Before Annarella and his kids were able to move on, they had to move the ball efficiently against the overmatched Marion boys. Fitch did that and wasted little time in the process. The Falcons scored five touchdowns of more than 25 yards in the first half as they put the Presidents into a 56-7 hole. Billy Aaron scored on an 80-yard touchdown run to start the party against the Presidents. Then Darrin Hall hit Harding for touchdown runs of 25 and four yards. Each Falcon would reach the end zone again later in the game, Aaron from nine yards away and Hall from 53 yards out. That dynamic Fitch rushing duo almost combined to reach 300 yards rushing on the night.
Other rushing touchdowns for the Falcons came from Tyler Hewlett who scored on a four-yard scamper, Luke Peterson who took it to the house from 27 yards away and quarterback Gabe Chepke who sneaked in from the one yard line. Chepke, playing in place of injured starter Matt Futkos, did OK in his first varsity start, but with Futkos most likely unable to play this week, the verdict on Chepke's ability may still have yet come in.
"It was hard to tell (how well Chepke played) due to the game conditions," said Annarella. "They ran a continuous clock (in the second half) and we took a few knees inside their territory. "
As has been the case in almost every Fitch win this year, the defense and special teams made its mark last Saturday night in Marion as well. Down 28-0, the Presidents were further impeached when they fumbled the ball away and watched Fitch's Tony Behanna scoop up the loose pigskin and prance 37 yards into the end zone. Later in the blowout, Keith Lawrence lassoed a kickoff and took the ball back 73 yards for a score.
No doubt the Falcons made things look easy against the 3-5 Presidents and that was due to their ability to take care of their own business.
"The big thing for us was to focus on us," stated Annarella. "We wanted to do some things to improve from our loss (at Massillon). We played well enough to make up for two weeks ago. Now we have the playoffs in front of us and we have to keep winning."
What Coach Annarella meant by the last statement was that he and his kids are aware that this 7-1 start to the season will be worthless unless they win their final two contests. Certainly, there are no Marion Harding's left on the schedule either. This week the Falcons host old friend Uniontown Lake then in week 10 they battle an even older friend in Cardinal Mooney.
"We have already started preparing for these last two weeks," said Annarella honestly. "We started on the bus ride home (from Marion). We have no room for error."
Although the Blue Streaks stride into Austintown winners of just two games, they are potent on offense and very familiar with how to slow down the Falcons since the two schools spent the past few years playing each other as members of the Federal League.
"We know them," stated Annarella, "but that works both ways. They may have some tricks up their sleeve. They are good at moving the football. We do not have a cakewalk this week."
Fitch may have no cake, but will they eat humble pie? The Falcons must remain focused on the task of taking out Lake and not look ahead to next week's showdown with the defending Division III state champs.
"You never know with high school kids," said Annarella about the possibility of a letdown. "Our job as coaches is not to let that happen."