Elliot set to become interim football coach at Fitch
Annarella’s offensive coordinator will be in charge this season
By Tom Williams
The legacy that Phil Annarella created for 12 seasons as head football coach at Fitch High School will continue with the appointment of Jon Elliot as interim head coach for the 2019 season.
Jim Penk, Austintown’s athletic director, announced Wednesday that Elliot, the Falcons’ offensive coordinator for the past two seasons, will be in charge this season, saying the move is “best for the team.”
Annarella, 70, died on June 8 of natural causes.
“He already has been involved in our current program, knows the player expectations on and off the field and continued to care for the kids after our tragic loss,” Penk said of Elliot. “He has stepped up in a storm over our Austintown football family.”
Elliot said his appointment will become official at the Austintown Board of Education meeting on July 23.
Penk said Elliot, who will begin his 32nd year teaching in Niles, said Elliot’s “32 seasons of coaching experience is also a major plus.”
Many of Elliot’s coaching seasons have been on Annarella’s staff at Fitch and before that at Warren Harding, Hickory and Niles.
Elliot, who will be a head coach for the first time, said keeping the Falcons’ staff intact is most important.
“It’s a good opportunity to carry on Phil’s legacy,” said Elliot, adding that the staff feels the goal is to keep things “as close to normal as possible.
“I’d trade anything for him to be here right now.”
Elliott was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. He will continue in the that role.
“He knows the kids by name and the individual talents they each bring,” Penk said. “We look forward to a great season under his leadership.”
Elliot was on the Fitch staff from 2007-11, then spent five seasons coaching in Howland when his son John played.
Elliot is grateful to the school administration for the support the coaching staff has received over the past three weeks.
“I’d really like to thank the Austintown schools administration for having confidence in me,” Elliot said, adding he’s “never seen support like this — phenomenal.”
Elliot said he’s ready for the challenge.
“I feel and I’ve been told that I’m more than ready to do this,” Elliot said. “I’ve known Coach Annarella for so long that I think that I know what he would want going forward.” Elliot follows Annarella’s philosophy for preparedness.
“He was such an organizer,” said Elliot, adding that his plans for the offense through August were in place before Annarella’s death.