Gray's interception preserves Fitch's win over Mooney
By Tom Williams
Hoping to build momentum for next weekend’s playoffs, members of the Austintown Fitch High School football team took turns making big plays.
Linebacker Damien Gray’s was a thriller. Late in the fourth quarter, Gray intercepted Mooney quarterback Jon Saadey at the Fitch 31-yard line to help the Falcons preserve an 18-15 victory Friday night.
“We made history tonight,” said Gray, explaining that the victory produced Fitch’s first three-game winning streak against the Cardinals.
More importantly, it secures a home game for the Falcons (7-2) in the first round of the Division I, Region 1 playoffs.
“The thing we didn’t want to do was limp into the playoffs,” Fitch head coach Phil Annarella said. “To make the playoffs is nice, but if you go into the playoffs with two straight losses, that’s really kind of demoralizing.
“So this was a huge win. We were going on the road if we lost this one.”
In Division I, the top eight teams get home games. The website joeeitel.com projects Fitch will be a sixth seed and face Brunswick again. In Week 3, Brunswick defeated Fitch, 41-27.
“I have no idea,” said Mooney head coach P.J. Fecko of where he thinks his team will be seeded. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Joeeitel.com projects the Cardinals (5-4) will be a fifth seed in Division IV, Region 11 where the top four teams get home games. The OHSAA playoff pairings will be released Sunday afternoon.
Trailing since the first drive of the game, the Cardinals threw a major scare into the Falcons late in the game. Ray Anderson’s 12-yard touchdown run with 3:53 remaining and Jordan Jones’ conversion run sliced Fitch’s lead to 18-15.
Zak Kennedy’s onside kick was recovered by Roosevelt Cooper at the Fitch 47, giving the Cardinals hope.
“He kicked it well and our guy was there to make the play,” Fecko said.
Gray sealed the win when he intercepted Saadey on a third-and-11 play.
“We lost contain on [Saadey] and I saw a receiver open so I just ran and got the ball,” said Gray who estimated he was about three yards from the sideline when he pulled the pick in. “It felt awesome.”
Falcons receiver Joey Harrington stunned the Cardinals on the first offensive play when he broke loose for a 46-yard run to the Mooney 30. Six plays later, Tyler Hewlett scored from the 2 for a 7-0 lead.
Late in the first quarter, a Saadey pitchout missed its target and the Falcons’ Lawrence Harrington recovered at the Mooney 28. That set up Anthony Mortaro’s 20-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
Late in the third quarter, the game tightened to 10-7 when Anderson scored his first touchdown on a 3-yard run.
For three quarters, the Cardinals contained Falcons quarterback Antwan Harris. But with eight minutes remaining, Harris escaped for an 84-yard run to the Mooney 3, setting up his 1-yard touchdown for an 18-7 lead.
“I felt we needed [a big play] and I was looking for a crease,” Harris said.
After Jack Reider returned Mortaro’s kickoff to the 46, the Cardinals needed just eight plays to go 54 yards and cut the Falcons lead to 18-15.
“Our offensive line did a much better job of controlling the line of scrimmage,” Fecko said.
Harris led the Falcons’ rushing attack with 111 yards on 20 carries. Tyler Hewlett gained 88 yards on 14 carries and Joey Harrington 76 on five.
For the Cardinals, Saadey passed for 74 yards and rushed for 62.