Berni kicks game-winner to push Fitch past Boardman
BOARDMAN — Old school, gritty, ground attack football.
Run the ball — at least that was the mission objective for Boardman and Austintown Fitch Friday night.
After stumbling through the middle part of their fall campaign, Fitch (5-3) defeated the Spartans (4-4) 17-14 Friday evening on the road, the Falcons second consecutive victory.
It wasn’t glamorous, but when you’re taking the season one week at a time, all that matters is the final statistic; a win.
The biggest key to victory? That particular winner ethos.
With a single second left on the clock, Fitch junior Josiah Berni let actions speak volumes.
From 26-yards out following a timeout, Berni found himself in a situation that every kid has visions of at the varsity level and drilled the game-winning field goal.
“Just right from the kick, I knew that it was going to go in, it just felt good,” Berni said with a wide smile on his face. “I’m just shocked, I said you know what, this is every kicker’s dream, just coming down, having your offense drive down the field, and having your kicker kick the game winning kick against your rival team.”
The game was won on the gridiron, but the success comes from time on the pitch.
“It helps a lot, soccer deals with a lot of mind games, and you just have to have good composure,” said Berni, a defensive mid for the Falcons. “It comes right along with kicking, it just helps you a lot.
“We’ve been through a lot, but I think these minor setbacks were for a greater comeback, I just think that we’ve been able to bounce back through anything and just believe in our coaches and our teammates.”
A 4-yard Tyree Mitchell touchdown run and a 42-yard connection from Devin Sherwood to Donnie Ellis summed up a 14-0 halftime edge held by the Falcons.
Boardman knocked on the door late in the third quarter when Cam Thompson introduced himself by way of a 28-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Spartans then tied the contest following the ensuing Fitch drive, after Sean O’Horo fumbled in the endzone, but Joe Sferra found the ball and the score for the host Spartans.
Outgaining Boardman as a team 371-192 in total net yards, Sherwood was 16-18 passing, for 239 yards and a score. Mitchell and DJ Williams had 54 and 51 rushing yards respectively, Evans hauled in four passes for 75 yards.
Terrance Thomas was 3-8 passing for 26 yards, and 55 yards rushing on nine carries, O’Horo tallied 65 yards on the group on 12 attempts.
It won’t be the week that Falcons coach TJ Parker will soon forget, on top of his team recording their sixth straight victory over Boardman, Parker also welcomed London James “LJ” Parker, his fourth child into the world earlier in the week.
It’s a whirlwind that Parker appreciates with joy.
“It’s been a great week, a great one here in Boardman, I spent most of my time here this week,” Parker said with a laugh. “It’s just special, and I’m just happy for our guys who fought and never quit.
“Stared adversity right in their face and just came back, it’s definitely showing signs of our growth. Right now with our injuries, we’re playing a lot of young guys, so these are moments where it really tests their patience.”
After some miscues earlier in this season and traversing the injury bug, it’s about keeping the eyes on the prize. Seniors like Ellis are key cogs in the wheel with playoffs on the horizon for Austintown.Despite a stagnant third quarter and coughing up the lead, Fitch didn’t go away without swinging.
“That’s all we do is try and rebound, no matter how things go for us, we have to keep fighting and keep fighting, (Parker) talked about growing pains, and I think we grew tonight,” Ellis said. “I think this is a win we needed, it’ll give us some confidence going into Warren, and now we’re a scary team to beat.
“We just have to put the pieces together and get our confidence back, and now it’s on to Warren.”
Following a 4-1 start, Boardman has now fallen to 4-4 in the midst of a three-game skid, first-year coach Seth Antram understands the tough loss, but doesn’t want to dwell on the matter at hand.
“The biggest positive other than execution wise was that we played with emotion, and we played with heart,” Antram said. “That’s what we’re going to need to make a run here in the playoffs.”