Fitch offense comes alive against East
||All-American Conference Gold Tier
||All-American Conference Red Tier
By Greg Gulas
Four games into the season, the Austintown Fitch Falcons struggled to put points on the board, finding scoring at a premium after averaging 31.4 points a year ago.
After their 40-point effort Friday against the East Panthers, the Falcons’ coaching staff might just have witnessed some light at the end of the offensive tunnel.
Nate Fowler rushed for two scores while Randy Smith added 89 yards and a touchdown as the Falcons stopped the Panthers, 40-7 in an All-American Conference, intra-division game at Greenwood Chevrolet Falcons Stadium.
With their defense carrying the majority of the load heading to the midway point of the season, Falcons coach Phil Annarella was pleased with his team’s overall effort on both sides of the ball.
“We have a lot of young kids and early on our defense carried us. Tonight was our most complete game thus far,” Annarella said. “Quarterback Nate Fowler is just a sophomore, getting better each week and we expect a lot out of him. Credit defensive coordinator Wally Hurdley with an excellent game plan. East had two 100-yard rushers last week and his game plan just shut down their running game.”
The Falcons’ (3-2) defense registered the first score of the night when Bryce Warmouth recovered a blocked punt in the end zone with 42 seconds remaining in the opening period.
Defensive end Jalen Fletcher said his team was ready defensively.
“Our defense has worked hard all season and after last week’s loss to Warren Harding, we knew that we had to come out tonight and make a statement,” Fletcher said. “Having that mindset all week and being physical the entire game was the key.”
Fitch then added three scores in the second quarter, two on runs by Fowler from a yard and 15 yards away while Larry Harrington’s recovered fumble in the end zone secured a second defensive score as the Falcons opened a 27-0 halftime lead.
Offensive lineman Jovet Rodriguez added that while their backfield is young, blocking for them and opening holes as they break into the opponent secondary is a fulfilling proposition.
“Tonight we played with a lot of emotion and maintained that focus the entire game,” he said. “Our running game was working and we executed everything in our game plan. Our backs might be young, but they’re gaining valuable experience and getting better each and every week.”
After a scoreless third period, Smith broke free on a 64-yard touchdown run as the Falcons opened a 33-0 advantage just 82 seconds into the final frame.
An Imoni Donadelle 85-yard punt return at 4:25 of the final quarter then helped East (2-3) avoid the shutout.
“We ran into an excellent Fitch defense tonight. They play a brand of defense that was difficult for our kids to understand,” Panthers coach P.J. Mays said. “They come right at you and are very physical. Our schedule only gets tougher.”
Fitch’s Jason Johns rounded out the scoring with an 8-yard reception from Major Lee at the four minute mark of the final period.
The Falcons racked up 233 yards of offense, including 153 yards on the ground while the Fitch defense held the Panthers to 35 total yards on 36 plays, including minus-17 yards on 24 carries.