By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
AUSTINTOWN -- With the unbeaten Ursuline High football team nursing a 12-7 lead early in the fourth quarter and Fitch surging, the Irish needed a big play on fourth-and-1 at the Falcons 35.
Illegal procedure wasn't what they had in mind.
Backed up another 5 yards, there was little doubt who would handle the ball on the next play. And even though everyone in Falcons Stadium on Friday knew Ursuline senior Matt Yarab would get the ball, it didn't seem to matter.
Yarab broke free for a 20-yard gain. Two plays later, Irish quarterback Dan Turner hit Nick DeMario with a 19-yard touchdown pass to help the Irish defeat the Falcons, 20-14.
Ursuline (3-0) coach Dan Reardon said the 6-foot Yarab "is an unusual athlete because of his size. He can do a lot of things for being 225 pounds. He runs fast, he's thick and strong. I haven't been around too many kids who can do all those things."
Fitch scored with 3:56 to go as junior quarterback Jon Stockman found tight end Brett Gabrick for a 21-yard score and Brad Hrinko's extra-point kick reduced the Irish's lead to six points.
The Falcons had another shot but Darrell Mason's interception in Irish territory returned to the Fitch 10 sealed the victory.
"We were upset that we took a dumb penalty," said Yarab of the procedure call, one of 11 penalties that Ursuline committed. "But we knew what we had to do -- we had to go get it, no excuses."
Was the first down the highlight for Yarab?
"No, the pick was the best," Yarab said, referring to Mason's clincher.
"This win is big, especially on the road in this atmosphere," said Yarab who rushed 19 times for 143 yards. "It's only one game -- we can't get too caught up in this because we have a great opponent next week to prepare for."
Friday, Ursuline will play defending Division III state champion Steubenville at Stambaugh Stadium. Fitch will begin Federal League play at Canton Glen Oak.
Yarab might have had a lot more yards but a 77-yard touchdown was called back for holding.
Reardon said he had no choice but to try for first down on the fourth-and-6 play.
"They had momentum, they came out and did a nice job in the second half, drove down the field and took us out of our game," Reardon said. "I felt to get the momentum [back] that we needed to get [that first down.]"
After being limited to 14 offensive plays in the first half, the Falcons came out of the locker room steaming, marching 79 yards on eight plays (and boosted by a personal foul against the Irish).
Keane Boyd took a pitchout from Stockman and raced 22 yards for a touchdown with 7:52 to go in the third quarter.
That quarter was a stark contrast from the first half when penalties kept the Ursuline from posting a rout.
On the Irish's second possession, Yarab scored a 15-yard touchdown for a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter. The margin doubled early in the second quarter when Justin Brown caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Turner.
"We blew a couple of coverages and they have the talent to make you pay for it," Fitch (2-1) coach Neal Kopp said. "We were fortunate to only be down 12-0 at the half.
"We challenged our kids and I was proud of our kids' effort in the second half," Kopp said of the turnaround. "We took the momentum from them but [then] lost our poise a little bit."
Reardon said Yarab "is a tough, hard-nosed football player. He runs the ball effectively and he's good in pressure situations."
Yarab said he thrives on the pressure of being the player opponents key on.
"If it's on me, I feel we'll get it done," Yarab said. "I wouldn't want the ball in anyone else's hands."