Falcons fly high after week of rest
Instead of playing, the undefeated Falcons had an unusual midseason bye, something more akin to what a professional or collegiate team would encounter.
Friday night marked the beginning of Week 8, and Austintown came out a bit slow against Twinsburg in the second round of the Division II Region V playoffs, but the Falcons erupted offensively in the second quarter to rout the Tigers, 35-0, at Austintown Falcon Stadium.
“There’s a mix of emotions,” Fitch coach TJ Parker said. “We had some guys down. We’re banged up, so there was a lot of moving parts. Operation didn’t go like I wanted it to today, but we’re in the tournament now, so it’s that win and advance mentality, and we did that tonight.”
Fitch drew first blood when junior Tyee Mitchell battled through a pile of Twinsburg (1-5) defenders and worked into the end zone on a 9-yard touchdown early in the second quarter
Midway through the second, junior QB Devin Sherwood found fellow junior Tyler Evans in the corner of the endzone on a 4-yard pass to make it 14-0 in favor of the home team.
After gashing the Tigers defense on the ground throughout the first half, sophomore Jamell James took a 15-yard dump pass from Sherwood for a score right before halftime.
“I think the run was working because of our pullers,” James of pulling offensive linemen. “I think our tight ends got some great blocks on the linebackers, which opened the holes for me.”
It didn’t take the Falcons long to score again after the intermission. Sherwood found senior Jaden Murray for 21 yards and a touchdown to make it 28-0 early in the third quarter. Senior Todd Simons sustained a minor injury during the bye and didn’t play out of precaution, but he is expected to return next week in a rematch with Warren G. Harding, which Fitch beat, 25-21, in Week 5.
Sherwood distributed the ball well, despite the star receiver being out.
“Todd being out this week definitely changes things for me as a quarterback — he’s a really good receiver” Sherwood said. “We got guys that can step up like sophomore Jayden Eley, who played a really good game.”
“(Junior) Donnie Ellis played a really good game, and Jaden Murray made a nice touchdown catch to kinda put us through and seal the victory for us.”
Fitch struck again midway through the fourth on a 17-yard pass from Sherwood to James to put them up 35-0 after the successful point-after attempt to begin the running clock with 8:19 to go. It makred the Falcons’ first playoff win since beating Wadsworth at home in 2014.
James had 114 yards on 18 rushes, along with 32 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns, Parker describes him as the “young bull” of the Falcons.
“He’s our young guy, he’s our young bull,” Parker said. “I don’t think the game or the magnitude, it doesn’t phase him. He just plays football. He’s got a lot of growing to do, but the kid’s future is bright as can be.”
After such a big win, James was quick to credit his teammates.
“I can only thank my O-Line for my success and Sherwood for letting me have the ball,” he said.
Sherwood was efficient passing the ball, by going 14-18 with 194 yards and four touchdowns. Mitchell had 46 yards on the ground on six attempts. Ellis had 81 yards on five receptions.
Overall, Fitch (7-0) put up 400 yards on offense compared to Twinsburg’s 175. It was the first shutout of the season for Austintown.
For Sherwood, it’s good vibes all round.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “We haven’t won a playoff game in like six years, so it’s a really good feeling. I’m proud of everybody on this team. I’m proud of the coaching staff. Coach Parker is doing an awesome job. Coach Britt is doing an awesome job too, and I’m just really happy to see what this team can do.”
Now is the rematch with Harding (5-3).
It’s never easy beating a team twice, but Parker is looking forward to challenge.
“The message to our guys is that I think this is what Warren Harding wanted,” he said. “When you look at our bracket, I think they wanted to see us at this point and they’re a team that definitely believes they left things out on the table last time they played us, but we feel the same way. There’s somethings we feel like we left out the last time we played them.
“We’re excited for the rematch back at our place, I’m sure both teams will be ready and it’ll be a good Mahoning Valley, Trumbull-Mahoning County game.”