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Falcons falling to Div. II

June 19, 2019
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

It seems as if the Fitch football team has been participating as a Division I school since Freddy the Falcon was a chick.

In 2019, however, the football Falcons will become an endangered species in the Division I ranks. It was announced last week that the Falcons will fall into Division II for the upcoming campaign. This drop will end the Fitch team's longtime competitiveness amongst Division I powers. This assignment by the OHSAA was made due to the decrease in boys enrollment at the Austintown institution. Fitch has been the only Division I team in the area since Boardman and Warren Harding dropped down a few seasons ago.

According to a recent study by the local census bureau, population in the Youngstown and suburban area has steadily declined since 2015. Amazingly, those deductions have affected larger schools like Fitch recently and Boardman in the past. The OHSAA also moved East Palestine, LaBrae and McDonald down a division for 2019 so the Falcons shouldn't feel alone. With Fitch's departure from Division I, there are no schools left in the All American Conference's Gold Tier representing that highest level of state athletics. Ashtabula Lakeside is the other Division II squad in the Gold Tier. AAC Red Tier teams and Fitch rivals such as Canfield, Howland and Youngstown East all participate in Division III. The Panthers were just moved up from Division IV on the same day the Falcons dropped.

If the 2019 Falcons, who were 8-2 a season ago, are fortunate enough to make the playoffs in November capturing a state crown will be difficult. The first powerhouse they'll need to contend with is undefeated defending state champion Akron Hoban. Mighty Massillon Washington is the state runner up and will also create a huge hurdle for Fitch to leap if it makes it into the postseason tournament. The Tigers and Falcons have built an outstanding regular season rivalry over the past few seasons so any spill over into the playoffs should be intriguing. In Region 5 where the Falcons will most likely preside, Mayfield, Garfield Heights, Maple Heights, Painesville Riverside and Macedonia Nordonia were the other 2018 playoff participants along with Hoban, Harding and Boardman.

Overall, a total of 47 Ohio schools were moved down in ranks by OHSAA last week. Fifty-five teams were moved up. Seven schools moved up due to competitive balance while 14 moved down for the same reason.

The first day coaching can begin in Ohio is August 1. That will be the same day that practices will be at full force and contact is allowed. The regular season begins four weeks later.



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