Fitch opens new season with Elliot as coach


Fitch has 13 returning lettermen on their roster

Fitch hasn’t had a losing season since 2007

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – On June 8, the area was stunned to learn of the untimely death of coach Phil Annarella – who for 38 years – served as the head football coach of such area teams as Warren Western Reserve, Harding, Hickory, Niles and Fitch. The veteran coach compiled 246 wins during his career and made a difference in countless lives. Fitch appointed Jon Elliot as the team’s interim coach shortly afterwards. Elliot brings 32 years of coaching experience with the past two being on the Falcon staff.

Fitch must replace 7 First-Team All-League performers last year. The Falcons have not had a losing season since 2007. The season gets underway this fall with a trip to Erie to take on the Royals on August 30.

Fitch Falcons
Interim Head Coach: Jon Elliot, 1st season
2018 record (AAC Gold): 8-3 (2-1), 2nd place
Five Key Points
1.Participating this fall in an independent classification, Fitch advanced to week 11 in 2012, 2013 and 2014 (the last 3 years before joining the AAC).
2.With their 20-9 win over Hudson last year in their opener, the Falcons snapped a 3-game losing streak on opening day.
3.Fitch has been without a 1,000-yard rusher since 2014 (Antwan Harris ran for 1446 yards).
4.Over the last 7 years, Fitch has had a multiple game losing streak within a single season just once (to begin 2017).
5.Since 2004 (15 years), the Falcon defense has held their opponents to an average scoring of under 20-points 11 times.

Returning Starters: 4
Scoring Offense: 21.2 (31st in Area)
Rushing Offense: 192.2
Passing Offense: 105.0
Total Offense: 297.2
…This season, Fitch must replace their starting QB (Bobby Cavalier), top 4 rushers, top 2 receivers and two All-League linemen. Cavalier threw for 913 yards on 55 of 98 passing (56.1%) while throwing 9 scores and running in another 2 during the regular season. Roddell Bebbs and Dom Montalbano ran for 531 (7 TDs) and 435 yards (9 TDs). Cory Vernon led the Falcons in receptions with 25 (255 yards). Ralph Fitzgerald was named to the First-Team All-AAC as he hauled in 21 passes for a team-best 21 yards per catch (441 yards).

Tommy Leskovec and Collin Smith are both gone from last year’s team after anchoring the offensive front to allow Fitch to average 297 yards per game during the regular season. Despite the loss of the two standouts across the line, coach Elliot believes the strength will be the line play. “We have a great group of seniors who will have to step up. Justin Stainfield is the lone returning starter at center. Ryan Connors and Kyle Moore played a lot as well. We’re hoping Payton Short and Brian Long also fill in the rest of the line.”

Running back CJ Woodberry returns in the backfield. Fitch may go with a tandem at quarterback with junior Nate Leskovac and sophomore Devin Sherwood each taking reps.

Returning Starters: 5
Scoring Defense: 19.2 (20th in Area)
Total Defense: 300.3
…The defense will be without such standouts as Maleek Cheatham at linebacker and Cory Vernon and DeOndre’ McKeever (3 INTs) in the secondary. Fitch must also replace the team’s punter Bobby Cavalier – who averaged 37.1 yards per boot while pinning the opposition inside the 20, 13 times.

Fitch returns such seniors as defensive linemen Christian Armstrong (2-year starter), Joe Perez and Tom Rader along with linebackers Nate Leskovac and A.J. Winterburn. The secondary just one letterman from last year in junior Todd Simons. “We’re counting of our defense to be fast and furious,” comments coach Elliot.

The Falcon defensive unit has held 20 of their last 42 opponents to score 10-points or less. That’s a percentage of 47.6% of the games they’ve played over the last 4 years.

Aug. 30 – at Erie
Sept. 6 – Ursuline
Sept. 13 – at GlenOak
Sept. 20 – at Harding
Sept. 27 – Benedictine
Oct. 4 – Massillon
Oct. 11 – Bishop Hartley
Oct. 18 – McDowell
Oct. 25 – at Boardman
Nov. 1 – at Cardinal Mooney

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