It's nine down and one more to go for the Fitch football team.
Thanks to relatively easy 41-20 win at Uniontown Lake on Oct. 25, the Falcons have started the season 9-0 and are a victory away from a perfect regular season. Achieving that perfection will not come easy, however, because the Falcons must face menacing Cardinal Mooney on the road this Friday. With the playoffs now a certainty for Fitch, the only thing left on the team's checklist is this 10th consecutive victory.
"It'll be nice if we can do it," said Fitch head coach Phil Annarella after chalking up win number nine, "but we are already approaching this game like we are playing Mooney."
The Falcons must have approached last week's game at Lake the same way because they took nothing for granted against the 5-3 Blue Streaks. Fitch headed down to Uniontown with lunch pales in hands and had a workmanlike effort against the overmatched hosts.
"We looked at this as a business trip and that's what we told our kids it was," Annarella said. "We were pleased with the mentality of our kids and their approach to this game."
Coach Annarella was also pleased when his club scored 10 points in each of the first two quarters to build an insurmountable 20-0 halftime lead. Automatic kicker Nick Sheely spanked field goals to start the first and second quarter. Sandwiched around those Sheely connections were identical 5-yard touchdown runs by tailback Darrin Hall. Hall would add an 8-yard rushing score later in the game and finish the contest with a team high 148 yards on the ground. The Falcons also received running touchdowns by Joey Harrington from 30-yards out and Gabe Chepke on a 1-yard quarterback sneak. Fitch outgained Lake 268-7 on the ground showing that its once maligned offensive line has really been in charge in recent weeks.
"(The offensive line) has been more consistent and that is what we have been looking for," Annarella noted. "When they want to do it they do a good job. We also saw a lot of different looks from (Lake's) defense and they handled that well."
It was far easier for Fitch's front and the rest of the team to relax in the road environment since it built such a strong lead. That 20-0 advantage allowed the Falcons to play the type of game they are used to playing.
"It was a good start," Annarella said. "It gave us a better chance to play looser."
It will be helpful to the Falcons if they remain loose this week in practice and try not to press with an unbeaten season in the offing. Strangely, playing Mooney this Friday may actually help the Falcons' in their quest for 10-0.
"You know (Mooney) will be looking for payback from last year (Fitch embarrassed the Cardinals in week 10 a year ago 49-7)," explained Annarella. "This will also be a huge win for them because they can probably get a home playoff game if they beat us. There will be no need to motivate our kids."
The Cardinals essentially clinched a playoff spot in week 9 when they upset archrival Ursuline 29-14. Mooney eclipsed the 300-yard mark in rushing in that game as it tried to keep the Irish's high-powered offense off the field. No doubt, Mooney's game plan against equally offensively adept Fitch will be the same. Coach Annarella wouldn't want anything less from the legendary Cardinals.
"We expect the best from them," said the coach about the Cards.
Fitch's coach also expects the best from his bunch this Friday at Stambaugh Stadium. Another outstanding effort means Annarella's kids would finish the season 10-0 giving them perfect momentum into the post season.