Updated: Aug 18
An old school smash mouth football game was on display on Friday night at Rayen Stadium in Youngstown, Ohio. The Chaney Cowboys versus the Warren G. Harding Raiders -- what more could you ask for? The Raiders came into the matchup with a 2-6 record and Chaney was looking to continue their successful 2022 campaign after their 7-1 start.
The Raiders scored the first touchdown on the night in the second quarter with a 17-yard Dalys Jett touchdown run. With only 19-seconds left until halftime, with the score sitting at 7-0 Raiders, Chaney quarterback Matt Jones threw an impressive 52-yard touchdown pass into double coverage to #6 D.J. Waller. The catch was over two defenders in bracket coverage, an impressive way to enter the locker room at halftime for the Cowboys.
Chaney continued their momentum with a 15-yard Jason Amill-Austin touchdown run, putting the Cowboys up 13-7 with 7 minutes to go in the third quarter. Dalys Jett and the offense picked up in the fourth with an 8-yard touchdown run and a critical extra point that gave the Raiders a 14-13 lead with 11:53 left in the fourth. It was not enough as the Cowboys scored a late touchdown and won 21-14, dropping the Raiders to 2-7 on the season.
This week, the Raiders will give it everything they have to try and play another week. It is week 10, but with a win on Friday night against an impressive Austintown Fitch football team, the Raiders can make the playoffs due to the strength of schedule. Austintown Fitch just got off a dominant 42-20 victory over the Boardman Spartans, but did lose their junior quarterback Deshawn Vaughn Jr to an injury late in the game. Vaughn Jr has been lighting up the scoreboard, and if he is a no go this week, it will be a big loss for the Falcons.
Offensively, Harding will look to establish a running game that produced 164 yards on 36 attempts, a 4.6 yards per carry average versus Chaney. Fitch has athletes who are extremely dominant on defense, several whom are heading to the collegiate level at big named schools. If the Raiders can establish the run game early, and mix in the short passing attack, it will keep the Falcons' defense on its heels. While this is common sense, it is something that is a key to this victory this week. It all starts with the Harding offensive line and running backs, if they can get the job done, then the time of possession will factor in and help the Raiders keep the explosive Falcons offense off the field.
T.J Parker was named the head coach at Austintown Fitch in December of 2019. In his first stint as head coach, Parker established his 'Feed the Nest' culture which includes Growth, Family, Flight, and Prosperity.
After putting the culture in place early on, the wins began to come. Belief in the program was on the rise after tragedy struck the Falcons in June of 2019 when long-time valley and former Warren football coach Phil Annarella passed away unexpectedly. Interim Jon Elliot, now the LaBrae Vikings head coach, was placed into action and went 5-5, just trying to keep the team afloat. Now after three seasons, Parker has established himself as a premiere coach in the valley with a 22-6 record over the last few seasons, winning multiple playoff games in the process.
Here is a look at the Falcons' offense.
Falcons' Offensive Outlook:
It all starts up front. The offensive line for the Falcons have been exceptional this year for the running back by committee backfield. Last week against the Boardman Spartans, the Falcons' offense accumulated 523 yards. What is more impressive is that they rushed for 322 yards on the ground and it all starts with running back D.J. Williams, who set the single game rushing record last Friday. Williams had 301 yards on 25 attempts and three touchdowns.
D.J. Williams will need to be contained if the Raiders want to have a chance on Friday night. Junior quarterback Deshawn Vaughn Jr went 11-17 for 167 yards and two touchdowns versus Boardman but went out in the fourth quarter with an injury; his status for Friday's game is unknown. Senior Cam Smith, a D1 athlete, will be heading to Iowa next fall. Smith played quarterback when Vaughn went out and expect him to be the signal-caller if the junior Vaughn cannot suit up.
Senior #1 Cam Smith is an electric athlete who will need to be slowed down. Whether he is playing quarterback this week or his normal position as wide receiver, he will be the subject of the game plan. Another explosive athlete offensively is junior receiver Dominic Perry who last week had 3 receptions for 69 yards and two touchdowns.
While the Fitch Falcons' goal is to run the football down the teeth of your defense, they still have the ability to spread the ball vertically down the football field. Depending on who the quarterback is this week, the game plan will change accordingly for the Falcons. If they have Vaughn Jr at the helm, look for a few deep shots on a secondary of the Raiders who are thin, and have struggled at times. There have been a lot of Bubbles and Go's from Fitch on film. They also like the following concepts - Counter, Inside/ Outside Zone, Lead Sweep, Play-Action Crossers, Flood Concept, Slants, Mesh, and more.
It will be imperative for the Raiders to do one thing this week -- stop the run and make the Falcons throw the football. Once that occurs, it will be up to the Raiders offense to sustain drives and keep the Falcons off the football field.
Falcons' Defensive Outlook:
The Falcons run a 3-3 defensive front and run a lot of man-to-man coverages. They run cover 0, 1 and cover 2 man. They believe in their athletes and have shown on film that they can cover opposing team's wide receivers. Similar to what Cardinal Mooney did to the Raiders a few weeks ago, it will be up for the Raiders' wide receivers to be able to get off of the press man-to-man coverage and make plays. If this occurs, especially if the Falcons are in cover 0 (no safety help), then plays will happen from the offense.
There are a lot of outstanding defensive athletes on this football team. Sophomore J'Allen Underwood has been playing solid football and last week led the team with 10 tackles. Junior Devin Phillips recorded 7 tackles and a half-sack. Cam Smith is heading to Iowa as a defensive back and plays safety for the Falcons. He is a leader of the defense in the secondary and if they did not have athletes, they would not be playing cover 0 and playing press man-to-man. Fitch will continue to play man and apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks, nothing will change this week as the Raiders will look to make plays in the passing game. This is an area that struggled last week as quarterback Dalys Jett went 3 for 16 for 74 yards and an interception.
Matchup to Watch: Harding's D-Line & Linebackers versus Falcons' Running Backs
Preventing the Austintown Fitch Falcons running backs from rushing for over 100 yards will be a tall task. In their last game, #42 D.J. Williams had 301 yards himself when he carried the pigskin. The Raiders' defensive line needs to apply pressure and fit within their gaps, and the linebackers must wrap up and be physical. Chaney had a very good running back in Jawan Freeman, but he was held to just one carry for five yards. The main rusher last week was #3 Jason Amill-Austin who had 14 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown. Holding any of the Fitch running backs to under 100 yards will be a win for the Raiders -- and it all starts with the defensive line and the linebackers making big plays.
With the Falcons having a top flight program in the area, it is up to the Harding Raiders to play their best football one last time in this week 10 contest. If that occurs, the Raiders will sneak into the playoffs, where anything can happen regardless of the regular season record. The Falcons will be the last test for the Raiders and these senior athletes who have played their hearts out all season; time will tell what the outcome will be but one thing is for certain -- the Raiders will come out and give it everything they have on Friday night at Greenwood Chevrolet Stadium.
At a Glance:
Warren Harding Raiders
Head Coach: Steven Arnold
Record: 64-52 (Includes 2-7 this Season)
Years as HC: 11
Record Last Year: 5-6
Defense: 3-4, 4-3
Aug. 19 at Medina - Loss - 10-33
Aug. 26 vs Buchtel - Won - 14-7
Sept. 2 vs Hudson - Loss - 7-21
Sept. 9 at Massillon - Loss - 12-41
Sept. 16 vs Ursuline - Loss - 14-28
Sept. 23 at St. Vincent-St. Mary - Loss - 12-27
Sept. 30 at Boardman - Win - 24-21
Oct. 7 vs Mooney - Loss - 17-26
Oct. 14 at Chaney - Loss - 14-21
Oct. 21 at Fitch
Austintown Fitch Falcons
Head Coach: T.J Parker
Record: 22-6 (8-1 this year)
Years as HC: 3
Record Last Year: 7-4
Defense: 3-3, 3-4
Aug. 19 vs Foothill (NV) - Win - 42-10
Aug. 26 vs Canton McKinley - Win - 38-14
Sept. 2 vs GlenOak - Win - 48-18
Sept. 9 at Ursuline - Win - 42-34
Sept. 16 vs Bennett (co-op) (NY) - Win - 42-20
Sept. 23 at Massillon Washington - Loss - 28-49
Sept. 30 at Strongsville - Win - 35-3
Oct. 7 at Wadsworth - Win - 42-35 (4 OT)
Oct. 14 vs Boardman - Win - 42-20
Oct. 21 vs Warren G. Harding