BRUNSWICK — If he had known beforehand that his team would shut down four-star recruit Darrin Hall, Brunswick football coach Luke Beal probably would chalk up Friday night’s game against Austintown Fitch as a victory.
While the Blue Devils completely took Hall out of the picture, Antwan Harris made a pair of big plays that ultimately did them in during a 28-14 non-league loss at Judy Kirsch Stadium.
With all eyes on Hall, who’s being recruited by a host of BCS programs and is ranked nationally by ESPN and scout.com, Harris accounted for almost 300 yards total offense and four touchdowns, including two on back-breaking plays of more than 50 yards in the second quarter.
“I thought we did a great job on (Harris), but the quarterback really hurt us,” Beal said. “Especially in the first half, when the quarterback pulled the ball, he was just getting big yards in big chunks. We had practiced against that and they were just running their offense, and that was kind of the frustrating thing.”
Harris, who shares duties with Gabe Chepke, didn’t see the field until Fitch (3-0) was down 7-0 early in the first quarter, but made the most of his time.
The 5-foot-10, 195-pound junior took shotgun off-tackle runs and made other defenders miss en route to picking up 274 yards on 23 carries. Harris also added 75 yards passing on just three completions.
His touchdown sprints of 51 and 58 yards on back-to-back drives that used a combined three plays kept the momentum with the Falcons.
“We didn’t tackle well in the first half, and one thing we knew we couldn’t do against this team was give up big plays,” said Beal, whose team held Harris to 10 yards on 21 carries. “We couldn’t give up quick scores and wanted to make sure they had to work for everything they got, and we didn’t do that.
“He was just making plays. There were times where we were spying him and our two inside linebackers do a good job of reading their keys, but the kid just made plays and we didn’t. That was the tale of the night.”
While Harris was making plays, the Blue Devils (2-1) struggled to get much of anything going on the offensive end.
Outside of two big touchdowns passes from junior quarterback Steven Ficyk (9-for-24, 201 yards) to Zach Parker — one from 40 yards and the other from 55 — Brunswick’s offense finished with just 53 yards on the ground, with much of it coming from running back Richie Norman (19 carries, 85 yards; 68 in the second half).
“We had trouble getting into sync at any point,” Beal said. “We couldn’t run the football, but we had opportunities in the red zone. I think we were there three, four times and we came away with nothing.
“They made plays when they needed them, and when we needed plays, it seemed like we had penalties and miscues. You can’t do that against a good football team.”
When they did move the ball, the Blue Devils had three key red zone possessions — two coming in the second half — and came away with nothing. A pair of missed field goals by Kyle Hotz and an interception by Ficyk ended those drives.
Brunswick scored on the second play of the game when Ficyk tossed a play-action bomb to Parker. The two connected again after a pair of Harris rushing scores, this time on a well-executed flea flicker to bring the Devils within 21-14 at halftime.
But those missed chances late proved costly.
“It seemed like every time we got in the red zone, we had a penalty or a sack. We just couldn’t convert,” Beal said. “That’s a great defense, and you don’t get a lot of red-zone opportunities. That was the biggest thing that really hurt us. If we convert on one or two of those, we’re right in the ballgame.”
|Gazette contributing writer Brian Dulik was given a cake in the press box at halftime in celebration of his birthday. Dulik serves as the color analyst on Blue Devils games broadcast on Brunswick Area Television.|
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.
Fitch 28, Brunswick 14
FITCH 7 14 0 7 — 28
BRUNSWICK 7 7 0 0 — 14
B — Zach Parker 40 pass from Steve Ficyk (Kyle Hotz kick), 11:05.
F — Antwan Harris 1 run (Nick Sheely kick), 1:54.
F — Harris 51 run (Sheely kick), 8:56.
F — Harris 58 run (Sheely kick), 7:10.
B — Parker 55 pass from Ficyk (Hotz kick), 4:27.
F — Harris 5 run (Sheely kick), 3:06.