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Falcons defense dominant again

October 2, 2013
By Nik Zirounis , Town Crier correspondent

The rudimentary dictionary definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again.

As far as the Fitch Falcon defense is concerned, insanity is a very good thing. Once again last week, the Falcons' "D" overmatched an opposing offense, causing it to indeed go insane. Fitch forced six turnovers in a 27-0 whitewash over crosstown rival Boardman. It may have been Boardman Athletic Hall of Fame night last Friday, but it was the Fitch defenders who looked like the ones who should have been getting inducted.

"I'm really proud (of the defense)," bragged Fitch head coach Phil Annarella last weekend. "They saved our bacon again last Friday night."

Article Photos

Photo by Jeffrey A. Wilson, Town Crier
Austintown Fitch quarterback Antwan Harris (18) steps his way to a touchdown in the second quarter as Boardman's Matt Filipovich (14) and Mario Graziani (25) try to bring him down.

Fitch's defense sizzled like that above-mentioned breakfast meat from the outset of last week's contest. Boardman was never really able to get any momentum on offense as it was held to 2.8 yards on the ground and just 11 total yards passing. The Spartans fumbled the ball over to the Falcons five times and Fitch recorded one interception. Those totals do not even include how many times Spartan signal caller Marcus Smith was harassed by the Fitch pass rush.

"We stress winning the turnover battle every week," Annarella announced. "Due to the size of our defensive line, we need to fly to the ball and attack and force turnovers. Sometimes it forces the other team into mistakes."

Meanwhile, the miscues on the Falcon side were few and far between. Fitch did have two turnovers on offense, but those could be overlooked because, for the second week in a row, quarterback Antwan Harris dominated his opposing defense. Harris ran the ball a dozen times for 62 yards and accounted for all four Fitch touchdowns. His first three scores came on the ground starting with a 9-yard run early in the first quarter. That touchdown set an example to the amped up Spartan crowd that they would be in for a long night. In the second quarter, Harris took the ball in from 19-yards away giving his team a 13-0 lead. After a silent third period, Harris humiliated the home team in the fourth with a 2-yard touchdown plunge and a 27-yard scoring strike to Joey Harrington. Although Harris hit on four-of-six pass attempts for 44 yards and that one score, his coach still thinks a better effort could be made in the passing attack.

"We need to get better passing the ball," Annarella said assuredly. "We need to throw the ball better so we don't have to run it every play. That will keep teams off balance."

One way to improve the passing facet of the offense is by getting Fitch's unproven offensive line to step up a bit. With only one starter returning from last year, coach Annarella knew his offensive front five would be a work in progress. Now with half the season gone by, it is time for a few other big kids to do big things.

"The offensive line needs to do a better job," said the coach sternly. "We don't have a lot of depth there so these kids have to play better."

Fitch's line and the rest of the starters will get a chance to move to 6-0 this Friday when Youngstown East comes to town. The Panthers have not played well starting the year 1-4. East has gone south the past two games allowing a total of 106 points. In fact, the Falcons should be licking their beaks because East has given up an average of 33 points per game this season. Regardless, coach Annarella is still concerned with beating East's defense.

"(East) brings people from all over the field," said Annarella after viewing the Panthers on film. "They will line it up and force us to throw."

That sounds like the same thing Fitch's defense has been doing to its foes all season. The one difference is that the Falcons have been a turnover-making machine. That is one thing that the veteran coach would like to see continue throughout the second half of the season.

"We need to keep forcing turnovers like we have been doing and keep our turnovers to a minimum," Annarella explained. "If we don't we can be in trouble."



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