Fitch's boys basketball team should be in full force once the 2013-2014 season commences.
The Falcons return 95 percent of their core from a season ago, including seven seniors. Only two 12th-graders graduated from last year's solid squad making this senior stacked bunch a favorite to win the All American Conference. Ever since the Falcons fell hard to Green in the Division I tournament last March, they have been chomping at the bit to get back onto the basketball court.
"These guys worked so hard this summer," exclaimed Fitch head coach Brian Beany after a recent scrimmage. "They've been in the weight room since the loss to Green. They put in a lot of time and have gotten bigger and stronger."
One Falcon player who will be counted on more for his quickness than his strength, however, will be senior point guard Jessie Driver. Driver did almost everything for the Falcons last year, unfortunately including leading the team in most minutes missed due to injury. Driver fuels the Falcons both offensively and defensively and if he can stay 100 percent the entire season he should be one of the most dominant players in the conference.
"(Driver) has played really well this summer," bragged Beany. "He runs the show for us."
While Driver may be the showstopper, there are a sextet of other seniors who make up one heck of a rotation. Gabe Chepke, Austin Hogan, Quincy Higgins, Alex DiFrancesco, Mike Butcher and Jacob Capezzuto can all be mixed and matched on the floor and give coach Beany some fabulous flexibility with his lineup.
"These kids have all played two or three years of varsity," said the coach. "We have the opportunity to give our opponents two waves of talented players."
The wave doesn't stop with the seniors either. Juniors Jake Bullen, Nick Pence, Zach Carr and sophomores Bryce Hall and Anthony Fangio may not be needed often to spell the seven seniors, but when called upon, they can create problems for Fitch's foes.
The Falcons first game was scheduled to be played Dec. 3 versus Alliance. Due to the Falcons' recent success on the football field that game will be rescheduled so Beany has enough time to get some of the gridiron stars acclimated to the basketball team. In fact, the coach wouldn't mind if some of the magic of that 12-1 Falcon football group inspired his cagers.
"We absolutely would love to have what those kids did rub off on our team," Beany said.
A huge reason why the football team was able to win its first 12 games this season was because it faced each opponent every week as the most important game of the year. That is a little harder to do in hoops where a team can play multiple games over a seven-day stretch. Instead of opening the year against Alliance, the Falcons will now face conference rival Howland on Dec. 6. That will kick off the new All American format where each school plays one another a couple of times. Fitch's coach thinks that the schedule should have been played that way ever since the league expanded a couple seasons ago.
"Everyone plays twice in the conference," Beany said. "It'll be good for the league."
It will also be good for Beany and his boys if they can escape the injury bug and remain in tact through spring. Another good thing would be if the Falcons continue to put the time in that they started back in the summer so they don't get disappointed again in the tournament.
"We know we have to work hard to get to the next level," Beany insisted. "The guys are anxious to get going."