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The Cowboys' win spoiled Fitch's fourth-quarter comeback.



Published: Sat, August 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Cowboys' win spoiled Fitch's fourth-quarter comeback.

By TOM WILLIAMS

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

AUSTINTOWN -- Outnumbered, outmuscled, outgained and outgunned, the Chaney Cowboys appeared to be out of bullets in their wild West Side high school football showdown against the Fitch Falcons.

But junior running back Ed McElroy had one last round in his chamber, firing the final shot in Chaney's stunning 20-14 overtime victory at Falcons Stadium.

After the Cowboys slammed shut the Falcons' offense in overtime, McElroy broke free down the right side for a 20-yard touchdown that ended their season-opening game.

"What a way to start a season after ending the season in overtime last year," said Chaney coach Ron Berdis, referring to the Cowboys' one-point loss to Niles in the 2000 playoffs, the only defeat Chaney suffered last year.

"What I told them after we got done praying is that this is a season maker," Berdis said. "You talk about 11 kids pulling together and making plays, and it was just a great team effort."

Comeback: Chaney's overtime victory spoiled Fitch's brilliant fourth-quarter comeback capped by quarterback Steve Burnich's 5-yard touchdown run with 19 seconds to play in regulation.

On second-and-goal from the Chaney 5 and with no timeouts, Burnich went back to pass, saw no one open, broke hard to his right to avoid the surging Cowboys and ran about 30 yards to elude defenders before bulldozing his way into the end zone to cut Chaney's lead to 14-12.

"Avoiding the sack, he made a great play on the touchdown," Falcons coach Carl Pelini said.

For the conversion, Burnich scrambled again then hit wide receiver Ross Watson in the corner of the end zone for the overtime-forcing points.

But the Falcons' offensive magic that had them outgain Chaney 310 yards to 115 in regulation dissolved in overtime as the Falcons ran four plays that lost 10 yards.

Into the hero's role stepped McElroy.

"It's a great win for us," said McElroy, who finished with 79 yards on 15 carries.

About his game-ending burst, McElroy said, "That was all my line. I've got the best line in the area. If you run behind them, you are guaranteed to get into the end zone."

Assessed by many to be a team reloading, Chaney's defense, featuring many players playing both ways, proved tough enough to frustrate the Falcons.

"We outgained them three-to-one during the game," Pelini said. "Again, we don't know how to win yet. We've got to learn how to win, as a coaching staff and a team."

Early lead: After the Cowboys grabbed a 7-0 lead with 3:28 to go in the first quarter, the Falcons did everything but take over the scoreboard.

Chaney's lead was set up when defensive back Juan Serrano picked off a lame-duck pass by Burnich on the Falcons' first series.

Chaney marched 59 yards on 10 plays. Setting up the score were two third-down passes from Serrano to Josh Terlicki and Justin Hood.

Marquis Trevathan ran the ball in from the 5 for the score. Charles Jaminet's extra-point kick put Chaney ahead, 7-0.

After a fumble ended Fitch's second series at midfield, the Falcons put together a 12-play scoring drive capped by Ray Betts' 2-yard touchdown run halfway through the second quarter.

Shea Stewart's extra-point kick was wide left, keeping the Cowboys ahead, 7-6.

Defense stiffens: In the third quarter, the Falcons' defense limited the Cowboys to 11 yards on five plays. Meanwhile, the Fitch offense ran off 18 plays, gained 87 yards but scored nothing.

After a Fitch drive stalled at the Chaney 29 with 6:45 to play, the Cowboys were penalized 5 yards, then scored on two plays.

First, McElroy broke free down the right side for a 31-yard pickup into Falcons territory. On the next play, Serrano kept the ball and zipped 45 yards down the left side for Chaney's second touchdown.

"We came into the game knowing that our offensive line was going to be key because [we have] a lot of experience up front," Serrano said.

"People are thinking that we don't have any skill, but we showed that our tailback can run the ball and our skill is pretty good, just like our offensive line."

Berdis said the Cowboys were surprised by how well the Falcons' lines played.

"We thought that they centered their team around their skill [players], and they just shut the door on us," he said. "We struggled moving the football."

Betts led all rushers with 112 yards on 24 carries. Burnich completed eight of 16 passes for 97 yards. Watson caught three of them for 58 yards.

Acknowledging the huge difference in offensive numbers, Berdis called the win unbelievable because Fitch "is a great football team and they are going to win a lot of games.

"To come into someone's house and beat a Division I opponent with 75 kids, that's just a great, great win."

williams@vindy.com




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