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Falcons end Mooney’s season with a 24-14 win

October 31, 2018
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Fitch's football team didn't need a win in Week 10 to clinch a playoff spot, but it still wanted an impressive performance versus a top tier school like Cardinal Mooney.

The Falcons did just that in a matter of minutes last Friday night. Two touchdowns by quarterback Dom Montalbano in 1:15 of game time stretched a 7-0 Fitch lead to 21-0 at halftime. That's all the points the Falcons would need to keep the Cardinals out of the playoffs in a 24-14 win. Fitch finished the regular season with an 8-2 record and will now move on to Week 11 to challenge Euclid on the road.

"We wanted to have some steam and not limp into the playoffs," said Fitch head coach Phil Annarella. "We feel very good because it was Mooney that we beat. They are still a good team no matter what their record is."

The Cardinals may be deceptively good, but the Falcons were better at exposing their shortcomings. After a scoreless first period, Montalbano ran 11 yards for a touchdown less than a minute into the second frame. Neither team got anything else going over the next eight minutes. That's when chaos ensued.

Fitch junior special teamer A.J. Winterburn blocked a Mooney punt to set up his team deep inside Cardinal territory. Two plays later, Montalbano would score from 20 yards away to give the Falcons a 14-0 lead. Montalbano wasn't done causing havoc before halftime. The senior quarterback, who moonlights as a linebacker, recovered a Mooney fumble on the very next possession. He would then call his own number again and punch the ball in from one yard out to make it an insurmountable 21-0 Falcon lead at intermission.

"We got some big breaks," said Annarella. "We forced some turnovers and fortunately was able to capitalize on them."

The visitors would finally get on the scoreboard early in the fourth period to cut Fitch's advantage down to 21-7, but a Carlo Walters 25-yard field goal seven minutes later would stretch Fitch's lead back out to three possessions. Walters was also perfect on all three of his extra point tries.

The only two blemishes on Fitch's ledger this season were losses to state playoff qualifiers Warren Harding and Massillon Washington. Those two teams combined to finish the regular season 18-2. When speaking to Coach Annarella about his club this preseason there was a sense of uncertainness in his voice. The way his kids handle adversity all year has him feeling much more confidant heading into the first week of the playoffs.

"Our whole staff is proud of how (the team) responded," Annarella said. "We had just 10 returning letters and a only a few starters. Our motto this year was "hustle and heart sets us apart" and nothing could be truer about this team."

The Falcons will need hustle, heart and a little luck this weekend when they start the playoffs in Euclid. Like Fitch, the Panthers finished 2018 with an 8-2 record, but that's kind of where the comparisons stop. Euclid is everything a Division I school in Ohio should be. Its only two defeats were to state powers Cleveland St. Ignatius and Mentor, while its highlight win was a 21-0 shutout of Solon in Week 7. These Panthers are powerfully built in the trenches and have amazing speed. They also have three Division I college recruits. Coach Annarella certainly knows his team will be the underdog on Friday night and he doesn't mind that one bit.

"We have our hands full," Annarella said, "but we'll go up there and play our hearts out. We told the kids this is a bonus week for us. We want to have fun, but we want to win too."



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