AUSTINTOWN Special teams key Fitch victory
Davanzo Tate and Chad Lewis returned punts for touchdowns for the Falcons.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
AUSTINTOWN -- Speed of the ball carriers, especially on special teams, was the key factor in Austintown Fitch's 37-14 romp past Mansfield Senior High Friday night at Falcon Stadium.
Speedsters Davanzo Tate and Chad Lewis both scored touchdowns on punt returns of 72 and 65 yards, respectively, in the first half to ignite Fitch to a 24-10 lead, and the Falcons added two short-yardage scores from Lewis and Mark Matzye from the 2- and 1-yard lines, respectively, in the last quarter to complete the runaway win.
"It's obvious our skilled people made some big plays for us. Speed was a factor. We spend a lot of time on our special-teams. We had two great punt returns," said Fitch (2-1) coach Carl Pelini.
Coach Stan Jefferson of Mansfield (2-1) conceded Fitch's speed was a factor in his team's setback, but also said the Falcons had much more experience than his team.
"They had 10 seniors starting on defense. Their experience was a factor. We had 13 new starters and a lot of sophomores and juniors," said Jefferson.
But he also blamed his special teams.
"We did not have good coverage on our special teams. We gave up close to 20 points on special teams, including two punts. And turnovers hurt us."
Quarterback Jason Aikens scored Fitch's first TD of the game on a 23-yard dash to cap a six-play, 55-yard drive in the first quarter.
And after Tate scored later in the first period, Shea Stewart added a 29-yard field goal in the second quarter set up by Conor Dockry's fumble recovery at the Mansfield 38.
Stewart also kicked four extra points.
David Phillips scored both of Mansfield's TDs on runs of 34 and 10 yards, while Hollister Histed booted both placements.
Phillips' first TD came on the first play after Mansfield recovered a fumble at the Fitch 34, while his second tally in the third quarter climaxed a 10-play, 80-yard march.
Matzye top rusher
Matzye was a workhorse for Fitch by grinding out 106 yards in 25 carries, while Aikens added 56 yards in nine runs and Tate 51 yards in eight tries. Aikens also was 3-for-3 passing for 43 yards.
Phillips led Mansfield with 121 yards rushing in 14 carries, while substitute quarterback Doente Weatherspoon contributed 60 yards in seven runs. Starting QB Andrew Molyet hit on 6-for-14 passing for 47 yards.
Fitch's line delivers
Pelini said Fitch's offensive line was opening the holes.
"Our offensive line is really coming along. Mansfield had 11 guys on the defensive line at times and we still got yards," said Pelini.
The coach said he has fast backs who can move through those holes.
"Tate, Lewis and [Miles] Williams all are dangerous runners with speed," said Pelini.
Jefferson acknowledged Fitch was fast.
"They had good speed in certain areas, guys who can turn the corners," said Jefferson.