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Fitch able to beat rival Boardman despite inconsistent offense

September 28, 2013
By LOU CALI JR. - Tribune Chronicle ( , Underthelights

BOARDMAN - For four weeks Austintown Fitch's offense had rolled through opponents, averaging 36 points and over 350 yards per game.

Most felt that would continue against winless archrival Boardman Friday night.

That was not exactly the case. At halftime the Falcons had just four first downs and 90 total yards.

They also had a 13-0 lead.

On a night when Fitch's offense was held in check (for the most part) its other unit shined as the Falcons improved to 5-0 with a 27-0 victory.

"Our defense played tremendously," Fitch coach Phil Annarella said. "Our offense did not play well at all. We had a lot of self-inflicted wounds. We looked like we'd never played before, at least on offense."

The Falcon defense was indeed tremendous. It limited the Spartans (0-5) to 68 yards on 36 rushes and just seven yards through the air. Boardman was limited to five first downs on the night, just one in the second half. The Spartans had zero success despite Coach Joe Ignazio's array of formations and variety of players lining up as quarterback.

Fitch - which is ranked fourth in Division I - forced six fumbles, recovered three and had an interception. Four different players had a sack of quarterback Marcus Smith, including senior linebacker Sam Ortz, who also had a tackle for a loss and recovered two fumbles. The Falcons have given up 33 points on the season despite losing a large chunk of last year's starters.

"We have good team chemistry and the kids play well together," Annarella said. "It's a good thing because we really needed it tonight."

Boardman played its share of good defense throughout the first half but could get little help from its offense as the Spartans had four first-half turnovers on their side of the field. The Falcons managed to turn half of them into points as quarterback Antwan Harris had touchdown runs of 7 yards in the opening quarter and 19 in the second.

"Don't ask me," Annarella said when questioned about his team's lack of offense. "Every week you just don't know, especially in high school football. That's a tribute to Boardman and (its) coaching staff. They played hard."

The score remained 13-0 until Fitch's first possession of the final quarter when the Falcons had their lone sustained drive of the game. Fitch marched 60 yards on eight plays before Harris scored from two yards out. Harris had 150 yards rushing the previous week and tailback Darrin Hall rushed 29 times for 245 yards against Dover, which was the third-ranked team in Division III.

Thanks to decent success in the second half, Hall finished with 98 yards on 18 carries while Harris had 85 on 13 attempts.

"They were a lot tougher than we thought," said Harris, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound junior. "I'm very thankful our defense executed very well."

Harris' third score not only iced the contest but totally discombobulated the Spartans. On the next five plays Boardman was flagged for a penalty, the last three for illegal procedure. The Falcons closed out the scoring with 18-yard TD pass from Gabe Chepke to Joey Harrington.