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Falcons send Golden Bears into hibernation

September 26, 2018
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

In most seasons, a showdown with Youngstown East on the football field meant your school was in for a relaxing evening.

That isn't the case in 2018 as the upstart Golden Bears have shot out to a 3-1 start and has enough talent on the roster to worry any opponent's coaching staff. East's worthiness certainly had the attention of Fitch head coach Phil Annarella ahead of his team's battle with the Bears last Friday night in Youngstown.

Coach Annarella saw a sensational 3-0 start to the season fizzle when his kids allowed Warren Harding to score 49 points in a Week 4 setback. He was preparing his men in practice as if they were playing the same type of opponent on Friday. All of that readiness paid off. The Falcons flew into Rayen Stadium and forced the hosts into a plethora of mistakes. Fitch's defense was downright dominant in a 13-0 shutout.

"We were ready to play and we played hard," said Annarella last weekend. "All week in practice we stressed denying the big play and we were fortunate to do that."

While his defense was working on preventing the big play, Annarella wasn't against his offense hitting on one. That happened about four minutes into the game. Quarterback Bobby Cavalier found speedy playmaker Ralph Fitzgerald streaking down the field on a 62-yard touchdown pass at the 8:24 mark of the first period. That lightning quick score gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead. It was an advantage the Falcons would hold on to because of some shoddy play by the Bears in the second stanza.

East was assessed five penalties for 55 yards in the second frame short circuiting any momentum it was trying to build. Meanwhile, Cavalier was back at it before halftime for the Falcons. He engineered a scoring drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown toss to senior Cory Vernon. A botched extra point had Fitch in front 13-0. That score would standup over the final 33 minutes of the contest.

The victory stretched Fitch's record to 4-1 this season and was an impressive way to shake off that horrible loss to Harding. Still, Coach Annarella admitted his club's fourth triumph didn't come without some warts.

"We made some mistakes," said Annarella, "but we played well enough (to win)."

The Falcons will have to do more than play "well enough" this Friday if they are to knock off mighty Massillon Washington on the road. The Tigers are unbeaten and have outscored their foes by a combined 226-35. Included in that amazing ledger is a 51-21 blowout of Warren Harding in Week 3. That's the same Raider outfit that laid 49 on the Falcons a couple games ago.

"If you go by those scores then (Massillon) should beat us by about 65 points," Annarella said. "It's the best team they've had in years. We'll need to play our best game."

Annarella's defense will also need a second consecutive strong effort. In the win over East, the Falcons held the Bears to 158 yards on the ground. Unfortunately, Massillon's marvelous senior Jamir Thomas has the ability to rack up that many yards in one half. The 6 foot 1, 215 pound Division I prospect had 149 yards at halftime versus Harding and finished that amazing night with 262 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns.

"He's a talented young man," said Annarella. "We certainly need to stop their running game."

This Tiger troop has pitched a pair of shutouts as well this year and has looked frightening doing it. Despite winning four out of five, Fitch's offense hasn't exactly broken any scoreboards. The local kids would love to run the ball effectively and control the clock. They will assuredly need to improve overall offensively if they have any chance of escaping Paul Brown Stadium with an upset.

"(Massillon) plays great defense," said Annarella. "We need to figure out how to move the ball. We'll go back to the drawing board. We'll have our hands full for sure."



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