Annarella reflects on changes, coaching

By Greg Gulas


During his five decades as football coach on the scholastic level, Phil Annarella believes that he has seen a little bit of everything.

Dealing with change and how it affects his program can be very challenging.

While acknowledging that change does happen, the Austintown Fitch head coach told the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly luncheon meeting at Luciano’s Restaurant that what hasn’t changed are the basics.

“Blocking and tackling are the two main reasons why games are eventually won,” said Annarella, who guided the Falcons to a 12-1 season. “When you coach for over 40 years you are blessed and also fortunate to be affiliated with so many great athletes, coaches and administrators.

“There have been some significant changes from when I first started yet at the same time, other things have stayed the same.”

Annarella received Division I co-coach of the year honors and All-Inland District coach of the year laurels. He has a 212-127-3 overall mark and is 49-27 with the Falcons.

“When I first started coaching there was the Power-I or I offensively, the quarterback handed the ball off to the running back with an occasional pass being thrown,” Annarella said. “It was the old three yards and a cloud of dust Woody Hayes mentality.

“Now, the only one in the backfield is the quarterback with everyone else a receiver waiting for his pass.”

Things have also changed defensively for Annarella and his staff.

“If anyone had told me back then that I would be running a 3-5 defense with three down linemen, I would have said they were crazy,” Annarella said. “Yet to compensate for the highly sophisticated offenses that teams are running today, that is exactly what we are running at Austintown Fitch.”

Annarella acknowledged that parents are more active in their sons and daughters’ high school careers nowadays, adding that schooling athletes in regards to social media is a necessity.

“Sometimes parents or agents of parents seek guaranteed playing time and that just won’t happen,” Annarella said. “We’ve done things a certain way and will continue to do so.

“Kids must also realize that it is a lot tougher growing up due to social media,” Annarella said. “If you are doing something wrong, you can bet someone has a cellphone and will use their camera to capture the moment.”

Annarella said his 2013 Falcons team was a great group of overachievers that had team and staff chemistry.

“Everyone was on the same page and our team came together which made the entire season a lot of fun,” Annarella said. “Staff stability has also been important. We’re doing things for the kids.

“Kids and parents know when you are doing things the right way.”

Two signs in their workout room, adjacent to the countdown clock for next year’s season opener against the Warren Harding Raiders, refer to character and handling adversity.

“One says character is what you do when no one else is watching while the other states how you handle adversity defines your personality,” Annarella said. “We adhere to those core values.”

The ability to monitor players’ grades has also made a big difference.

“We monitor our players’ grades daily and if they are lacking, then they aren’t permitted to work out with the team,” the Falcons coach said. “We just submitted our top-22 lettermen’s list to the OHSAA and that overall grade point average was 3.67.

“Last year it was 3.68 so those are numbers of which we are most proud.”

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