The Falcons toppled Akron Buchtel 15-0 with a strong defensive effort.
By ERIC HAMILTON
AUSTINTOWN -- Fitch High's Brett Gabrick spent so much time in the Akron Buchtel backfield Thursday night it was almost like he was invited.
With the Falcons' offense struggling to put points on the scoreboard, Gambrick knew the defense needed to make something happen.
Big defensive play
So with about nine minutes remaining in the third quarter and the Buchtel offense at its 30, the senior defensive end delivered a big play. Gabrick chased down quarterback Glen Campbell, tackled him with one arm and knocked the ball free with the other. He finished the play by pouncing on the loose ball at the Griffins' 22.
That effort proved to be the jump-start the Falcons needed. The offense took advantage of the prime field position, breaking the scoreless tie on a 2-yard run by Keane Boyd on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
After Buchtel jumped offside on the conversion kick, Boyd instead barreled into the end zone to give Fitch an 8-0.
That was all the Falcons (2-0) needed, as the defense shut down the Griffins' big-play threats and Fitch ground out a 15-0 victory over Buchtel (0-2), a team that advanced to the Division III state semifinals last season.
"I knew if our defense just stayed strong and swarmed to the ball, good things would happen," said Gabrick, who finished with three sacks and a fumble recovery. "They weren't as physical as I thought they would be and we knew they wouldn't play four quarters.
"On that play, I saw him scramble, so I just took the angle on him and with my outside hand knocked the ball out. I saw it on the ground and it was just my reaction to jump on it."
"We did the same thing last week [convert a third quarter turnover]," said Fitch coach Neal Kopp. "That's a good Buchtel team over there and our defense kept them from making big plays. We got that big turnover and once again the offense scored when it had the ball in the red zone.
"We just need to get better each week. We don't play any cupcakes, so we'll have to keep playing physical every week. If we just keep doing what we do best -- running the ball and playing sound defense -- we'll do OK."
Pankewicz leads offense
Offensively, Fitch didn't roll up huge numbers, but it didn't need to. J.J. Pankewicz pounded his way for 102 yards on 19 attempts, including a 27-yard touchdown with 2:35 left in the game.
Boyd added 53 yards, one TD and a two-point conversion on 13 carries.