Stormy start to the season
Chaney took a 19-7 lead over Fitch before play was halted due to lightning.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
AUSTINTOWN -- The Chaney High football team ran full steam into the 2002 season. But Mother Nature made the biggest block of the night.
Friday's game between the Cowboys and Austintown Fitch was suspended with 8 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter due to lightning. It will resume today at 11 a.m. at Falcon Stadium with Chaney leading 19-7.
In his 16th season as Chaney head coach, Ron Berdis said he has never been involved in a situation such as Friday's.
"It did happen at Canfield a few years ago, but we finished it," said Berdis, seeking his 100th career victory.
Officials waited as long as possible to resume the game , but at 11 p.m. there were still flashes of lightning seen in the area. The Ohio High School Athletic Association says that an event can't resume until 30 minutes after lightning is seen.
"There's nothing else to do. You can't put the kids in harm's way," Berdis said. "It's still lightning, and you have to wait 30 minutes from the last bolt.
"I'm sure the kids wanted to finish it, on both sides," Berdis said. "But you've got to do what you've got to do."
Before storms moved into the area, Chaney struck with senior running back Ed McElroy and junior quarterback Justin Hood.
The two Cowboys ran over Fitch in a first-half performance that put Chaney in control. McElroy totaled 115 rushing yards and two touchdowns and Hood added 98 and another score as Chaney took a 19-0 halftime lead.
"We're really happy with how the kids have played thus far, but we've got to finish it," said Berdis, whose team had two touchdowns called back. "There's no sense coming this far and not finishing."
Chaney's speed was too much for Fitch early. McElroy scored on runs of 46 and 29 yards, while Hood sprinted 68 yards to the end zone.
"They're really two great athletes," Berdis said.
While Chaney's ground attack highlighted the offense, its defense may have provided the momentum at the start.
Senior linebacker Mike Deniro intercepted Fitch senior quarterback Jason Aikens on the third play of the game. Although the Cowboys didn't score on their ensuing possession, the interception symbolized how the game -- at least to the point of stoppage -- would unfold.
In addition to his interception, Deniro provided a hard-hitting block on Fitch senior Davanzo Tate during Hood's touchdown run to start the second quarter.
Trying to rally
Fitch's comeback attempt to begin the second half was spoiled when it fumbled on consecutive possessions. The first turnover came following Tate's 31-yard run to Chaney's 33.
The Falcons closed their gap with 8:09 remaining when Aikens sprinted 8 yards into the right corner of the end zone. Their momentum, however, was halted by the weather.
Minutes after senior Shea Stewart's extra-point kick made it 19-7, lightning forced officials to stop the game and send players to the locker room.
Fans emptied the stadium quickly, with most driving home. By the time the game was suspended, Falcon Stadium was completely empty.
Fitch coach Carl Pelini declined comment, saying, "The game's not over."