In Phil Annarella's history as Fitch football head coach, it is proven he loves athletic quarterbacks.
Signal callers who possess that trait are the ones who run Annarella's wide-open spread attack with the most success. Well, it may have taken a couple games, but coach Annarella has now found another duel-threat destroyer. Junior Antwan Harris saw a majority of the snaps behind center last Friday at Brunswick and rewarded his coach by scoring all four of Fitch's touchdowns in a 28-14 victory.
The Falcons have started the season 3-0 and are trending upward now that Harris is being heavily used.
"Brunswick did a great job taking (running back Darrin) Hall out of the game so we knew we had to go another way," Annarella announced. "Antwan did a great job."
It was Brunswick who did a great job jumping on the Falcons early in the contest. A long touchdown pass a minute into the battle gave the Blue Devils a 7-0 lead. That score must have shocked the Falcons' system because the local kids answered that touchdown with a methodical 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended when Harris dove in from a yard away. Along that journey, the junior QB went 3-for-3 in the air and had a few nice runs. Harris would score twice more in the second quarter from much longer distances. He started the second stanza by slashing through the middle of the Blue Devil defense for a 51-yard touchdown run that made the score 14-7 in favor of the Falcons. He then did almost the same thing a couple minutes later from 58 yards out to give his team a two-touchdown lead. Senior Gabe Chepke was the starting quarterback for the Falcons at the start of the season, and as was the case last Friday, he shared reps with Harris. It seems as if Harris will be handling the offense a lot more in the coming weeks.
"We let things kind of evolve at quarterback," Annarella said. "Antwan picked up the slack (against Brunswick) and showed us a lot."
Harris wasn't done showing himself off at intermission either. He put a cap on the scoring in the fourth period when it seemed as if neither team would break the goal line again. Harris harassed the home team with a 9-yard run to finish the evening with four touchdowns and a dazzling 262 yards rushing. If you toss in his 75 yards throwing, Antwan answered his coach's call with 337 yards of total offense.
While Harris was being heroic, Fitch's defense was being its normal, steady self. Despite giving up some big plays and chunk yards in the first quarter, Fitch's D slammed the door shut on the Devils the rest of the way. In the second stanza, the Falcons had five sacks and a touchdown-saving interception by Kerrell Johnson at the goal line. In the second half, Fitch beefed up even more against Brunswick by not allowing a single point.
"We had a couple break downs on defense early on," said Annarella, "but we stepped up when (Brunswick) got inside the 10 yard line. They missed a field goal and Johnson's interception was huge. Overall we played very well again on defense."
Coach Annarella is hoping to utter those same sentiments this weekend after his boys battle 3-0 Dover. This will be Dover's second trip into the area in as many weeks. Last Friday, the Tornados blew threw Canfield 53-24 behind quarterback Kyle Abel who threw for 420 yards in his first start of the year.
"(Dover) used a new quarterback against Canfield and moved the old one to wide receiver," said Annarella after watching some film of his next adversary. "They play five wide and heave the ball all over the field. They like to use lots of types of screen plays."
You would think that Dover's offense mirrors Fitch's spread version, but coach Annarella does not believe that is true.
"(Dover) is different from us because they don't count as much on the run game as we do," explained the coach. "They throw the ball well. It'll be a challenge for our defense."
With the job Fitch's defenders have done so far this year against potent passing attacks, the real challenge this Friday in Austintown may be the one facing Dover's new quarterback.