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First time encounter with Erie no problem for Falcons

September 5, 2018
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Last Friday night in Austintown, the Fitch football team hosted a city school from Erie for the first time.

There was very little known about this Erie outfit except that it was made up of kids from three schools, making it the ninth largest school in Pennsylvania. With all of that talent to choose from, the Royals went 9-3 in their first campaign a year ago so the odds were stacked against the local boys. One thing in Fitch's favor was that it has been beating the odds for a long time. That trend continued in Week 2 as the Falcons sent the Royals back across the state boarder with a 15-8 loss. The win gave the Falcons their first 2-0 start in quite a while.

"I'm pleased with the effort," said Fitch head coach Phil Annarella on Sunday night. "Our (2-0) start is better than last year when we were 0-2. We have done a good job fighting through adversity."

The adversity Annarella's team faced last Friday started along Erie's interior lines. A couple of the Royals' linemen eclipsed the 300-pound mark, which made the Fitch guys seem child-like in size. The volume of players that Erie could choose from also forced Fitch's longtime coach to get crafty in his play calling.

"We were outsized on the line," Annarella said. "They had a lot of kids to play against so we had to pull out all of the stops."

The Falcons would start the scoring in the first quarter thanks to an 18-yard touchdown run by senior Dom Montalbano. A two-point conversion would stake the home team to an 8-0 lead. It would stay that way until the third quarter when the Royals knotted the score with a touchdown and their own successful two-point try. Fitch would take the lead for good in the fourth quarter when senior quarterback Bobby Cavalier connected with speedy senior receiver Ralph Fitzgerald on a 54-yard scoring strike to make it 15-8. Cavalier completed nine of 13 passes for 110 yards and the one touchdown. Montalbano would manage 58 yards on the ground while teammate Noah James ran for 48. Fitzgerald caught three balls for 71 yards and the eventual game-winning touchdown.

Capturing this victory didn't come without some drama for the Falcons. There were some mental and physical errors on the field that derailed some drives. A few of the Falcons also got dinged up leaving Coach Annarella no choice but to call on some other kids who otherwise weren't in the gameplan.

"We made some mistakes in execution," Annarella admitted. "We also had to pull some kids off the bench to match up. We kept battling. It was a total team effort."

In an effort to fill out a 10-game schedule in 2018, Annarella's bunch had to sign off on playing at Shaker Heights this weekend. The road trip isn't the unusual part. The problem is the game will be played on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m., causing the coach and his players to fall out of their comfort zone.

"We can't worry about it," said Annarella about the odd starting day and time. "We'll try to keep everything the same as possible."

Like the Falcons, Shaker Heights has started this year unbeaten and all Annarella has to do is look at the film of one game to know his gang is potentially in trouble this Saturday.

"(Shaker Heights) beat (Cleveland) Benedictine and Benedictine beat Ursuline 35-0, so they'll be tough to beat," said the coach.

The quirky scheduling will only add to the difficulty, but Coach Annarella is confident that his club will be ready.

"The kids will adapt," he said. "They've been doing a good job handling adversity so far this year."



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