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Fitch gets it done

November 10, 2013
By MIKE McLAIN - Tribune Chronicle (mmclain@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

AUSTINTOWN - Something obviously had Phil Annarella bothered after the Fitch Falcons held on for a 31-21 win over the Marysville Monarchs.

The best guess was that the Fitch coach wasn't pleased with the way the Falcons finished a game in which they led by 25 points in the third quarter. Annarella was probably thinking that a similar finish next week might mean the end to what has been a perfect season.

"It wasn't the prettiest, but it was a victory, and that's all that matters," Annarella said after the Division I, Region 1 first-round game Friday at Falcon Stadium.

Article Photos

Austintown Fitch’s Darrin Hall (24) rushes to the outside as Marysville’s Billy Kidd, right, tries to rip the ball out of Hall’s arm during the tackle attempt.

The Falcons (11-0) will play Westerville Central Saturday in the Region 1 semifinals. The Monarchs finished with a 7-4 record.

Fitch was in complete control when quarterback Antwan Harris ran 8 yards for a touchdown at the 6:07 mark of the third quarter. The extra-point kick by Nick Sheely gave the Falcons a commanding 31-6 advantage.

The Monarchs apparently didn't want to make their three-hour trip a complete waste of time. Not giving in, Marysville scored 15 unanswered points and was in position for another score late in the fourth period after recovering a fumble by Harris at its 38. The Monarchs advanced to the Fitch 31 on a 17-yard pass from Matt Mulholland to Desmond Johnson, but Johnson fumbled and Damien Gray recovered for the Falcons.

A relieved Annarella knows that the tournament trail won't get any easier. He's probably back to drawing board this morning looking for ways to improve things.

"Everything," Annarella replied when asked what problems bothered him.

"We did what we had to do to win, but we have to improve considerably our level of play if we want to compete next week."

The Falcons played more than one half without star running back Darrin Hall, who had seven carries for 30 yards before being injured. Annarella doesn't think the injury is serious.

Without Harris, who opened the scoring with a 29-yard touchdown run, the Falcons relied on junior Tyler Hewlett and put an even larger load on Harris. Hewlett had 34 rushing yards, including an 18-yard touchdown run, and Harris logged 26 carries for 191 yards and an 8-yard touchdown run.

"A lot of it was on my shoulders because Tyler doesn't play much running back," Harris said. "I just had to put the team on my back."

The Monarchs' answer to Hall's touchdown at the 8:27 mark of the opening quarter was a 19-yard field goal by Nick Mazza. Sheely kicked a 33-yard field goal early in the second period to extend the Falcons' lead to 10-3. Mazza kicked a 30-yard field goal to make it 10-6.

Hewlett gave Fitch a little breathing room at halftime with his touchdown run at the 2:21 mark of the second quarter.

"I felt like I had to step up a lot because I knew him (Hall) going down, I was going to have to play both sides of the field," Hewlett said.

Joey Harrington ran around the right side on a 15-yard touchdown run in the third period for the Falcons. Fitch made it 31-6 on Harris' scoring run on its next possession.

The Monarchs began their ill-fated rally with a 14-yard touchdown run by Mulholland. In the fourth quarter Mulholland threw a 14-yard scoring pass to Kyler Cline on a weird play in which the ball bounced off Cline's hands and the hands of a defender before somehow landing back in Kline's grasp. Mulholland's pass to Jimmy Applegate tacked on two extra points.

The Monarchs' strong finish could serve the Falcons well in the future.

"That honestly gives us more motivation to keep going and keep pushing," linebacker Sam Ortz said. "Teams will keep scoring on us because of our self-injured wounds."