Falcons’ big strike too much for Golden Bears
By Tom Williams
After surrendering 49 points last week at home in a loss to Warren Harding, the Austintown Fitch high school football team needed a turnaround.
In East High School’s biggest game in nine seasons, the Golden Bears could not afford mistakes.
Major penalties by the Golden Bears plus one big-strike play by the Falcons combined to lead Fitch to a 13-0 victory on Friday at Rayen Stadium.
“We knew this was going to be a huge game for them,” Fitch (4-1) head coach Phil Annarella said.
East entered the game 3-1 for the first time this decade.
“We have some former players playing over here, these kids know each other pretty well,” Annarella said. “So we knew it was going to be a big game.”
Falcons quarterback Bobby Cavalier connected with wide receiver Ralph Fitzgerald for a 62-yard bomb in the first quarter.
After each team had punted once, the Falcons took over at their 38. Fitzgerald zipped into the Golden Bears secondary and Cavalier hit him on the fly at just past the 30. Fitzgerald hauled in the pass and raced to the end zone.
Cavalier admitted his eyes “opened wide” when the play was called.
“Especially when I’ve got a good line keeping defenders away from me,” Cavalier said. “His speed is insane — he‘s a track star so we try to take advantage of that as much as we can.”
Cavalier said he felt confident when released the ball.
“I thought I put it right on the money for him,” Cavalier said. “It turns out I did.”
Little went right for the Golden Bears in the second quarter when they were assessed five penalties of at least 11 yards each.
On the night, East was penalized 11 times for 112 yards. Fitch had eight penalties for 50 yards.
“Very frustrating,” East head coach Brian Marrow said. “Things didn’t seem to go our way. We’ve got to be able to overcome [bad breaks], play above it.
“We weren’t able to.”
The Falcons’ other scoring drive began at the Fitch 34. Before the drive ended with Cavalier finding Cory Vernon for a 4-yard scoring toss, the Golden Bears were penalized for unsportmanlike conduct, a horse collar tackle and roughing the passer.
Vernon’s score gave the Falcons a 13-0 lead. The extra point snap was bobbled, resulting in a failed conversion pass.
The Golden Bears remained within striking distance. They started strong in the third quarter when quarterback Zane Cylar scrambled for a 33-yard gain to the Fitch 34. But the game was stopped for nearly 15 minutes as umpire Don Sabo, a 30-year veteran, was knocked down during the play.
Fortunately, paramedics were able to get the injured official to his feet before he rode off the field on a stretcher.
When play resumed, the Falcons stopped the Golden Bears on the next four plays.
“We were right there, but couldn’t get a big play when we needed it,” Marrow said. “We couldn’t get a big stop on defense or get into rhythm on offense.”
In the fourth quarterback, Dom Montalbano, Fitch’s other quarterback, ran 10 times for 43 yards, eating valuable seconds off the clock.
“We still throw with Dom and we still run with Bobby,” Annarella said of his two-headed quarterback system. “It’s something [opponents have to figure out] to defend.”