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Falcons earn 21-20 win over rival Boardman

October 24, 2018
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

There was certainly a playoff atmosphere in Austintown last Friday night when the 6-2 Fitch Falcons hosted the 5-3 Boardman Spartans on the gridiron.

The winner would clinch a trip to the playoffs. The loser would be fighting for its playoff lives in Week 10. Much to the joy of the mostly Fitch faithful who weathered a steady drizzle and falling temperatures, it was their beloved Falcons who won this seesaw affair.

Fitch scored first, then answered each time the Spartans scored to hold a one-point lead with a couple seconds remaining in the game. The Falcons then had to hold their collective breath as Boardman kicker Tommy Fryda missed a 33-yard field goal at the buzzer. That errant kick booted the Falcons into the postseason with a 21-20 win.

Article Photos

Photos by Jim McCreary, Town Crier

Fitch senior Ralph Fitzgerald drags Boardman's Che Trevena before he finally breaks free to score the touchdown.

"It was a little stressful," said Fitch head coach Phil Annarella.

Fitch quarterback Bobby Cavalier attempted to alleviate all of the stress Annarella was feeling when he orchestrated a pair of touchdown drives in the opening quarter. He connected with Ralph Fitzgerald for a 21-yard touchdown pass roughly four minutes into the game to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead. Boardman bounced back to tie the game five minutes later, but on Fitch's first play of its ensuing possession, Cavalier took off and scrambled 65-yards to deep inside Spartan territory. The senior called his own number again on a 5-yard touchdown run giving the home team a 14-7 lead after one quarter.

Boardman's quarterback Mike O'Horo matched his counterpart with a 5-yard scoring run for the only points of the second stanza. With the score knotted at 14 apiece midway into the third quarter, Fitch's marvelous running back Roddell Bebbs broke free for a sizzling 81-yard touchdown run to forge the Falcons ahead once again. Another touchdown plunge by O'Horo made it 21-20 in favor of the Falcons. The Spartans missed the point after touchdown allowing the Falcons to keep their slim lead. It wouldn't be the last missed kick for the visitors on the night.

A long pass from O'Horo to running back Joe Ieraci enabled Boardman to get close to the Red Zone with seconds remaining. When the Spartans elected to win the game by attempting the medium-sized field goal, Fitch's crafty coach decided to let the kicker think about it.

"We called timeout to freeze (Fryda)," said Annarella. "I'm not sure if that did anything. It was a tough situation for any kicker let alone a high school kid. The rain was falling, it was windy, there was a lot of pressure."

Not only did Fryda feel the pressure internally, he also felt it from the Fitch front line. A strong force up front helped the Falcons block the ball away at the line of scrimmage making prophets out of Annarella and his coaching staff.

"We got the kids in the huddle and told them we had to block (the kick)," said Annarella. "We got good pressure up front and came from everywhere. The kids did what they were supposed to do and executed well."

Annarella's boys will need that same kind of execution if they want to finish off the regular season on a four game winning streak. Flying into Austintown this Friday will be Cardinal Mooney, which should make for a difficult matchup.

Mooney hasn't been as menacing this season as it has been in recent playoff seasons however. The 4-5 Cardinals need to upend the Falcons on the road and then pray for some other schools to lose if they want to once again enter the postseason party. A 47-14 demolition of archrival Ursuline certainly helped the Cardinals' cause, but it didn't give them the amount of playoff points a win over Division I playoff qualifier Fitch would.

"(Mooney's) has had a disappointing season by their standards for sure," Annarella said. "They've had some hard fought games like us except we won some of ours and they didn't."

Still, the coach who has butted heads with the Cardinals numerous times over his illustrious career knows that any game against the parochial power is going to be grueling.

"(Mooney) has three Division I prospects so that worries me," Annarella said. "They're still Mooney so that means they'll play hard and with pride. We'll need to play our best game to beat them."



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