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Sunday, Oct 22, 2017
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Fivay ready for season to begin

HUDSON - On paper, it looked like Fivay took a thumping in its 57-14 loss to Sunlake in a Kickoff Classic. But Falcons coach Chris Taylor felt is was a perfect learning experience for his program, which begins its first full varsity season tonight against River Ridge. "We took a lot of positives from the game," said Taylor, whose team went 1-4 last year playing a varsity-junior varsity schedule. "We had the eight-minute drive in the first quarter where I felt like we matched up physically, which was something we wanted to see if we could do. But we have to finish those drives." With the varsity starters playing the first two quarters, the Falcons trailed 22-7 at halftime.
"Our defense only gave up 13 points because we botched that kickoff return," Taylor said. "We gave up 13 because we gave them short fields. Our defense played well — a lot better than what we saw in the spring game." After Sunlake's second touchdown, the Falcons fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Seahawks returned it for a touchdown. "We competed and we feel we're a better football team than we were in the spring," Taylor said. "The kids left (Sunlake) a little excited because we were using it as a measuring stick to find out where we were." Fivay also left Sunlake with a starting quarterback. Junior Tyler Degen and sophomore Eric Vitale have been battling for the starting job since spring practice. On Monday, Taylor announced Degen would lead the Falcons. "Tyler has been doing a really good job," Taylor said. "I think we probably let it draw out a little bit too long. I think it put a lot of pressure on both of them. But I wanted to make sure we got a good look at both of them." Taylor has specific things in mind when determining who would lead the offense. "Part of it was leadership skills and the other part was completing the easy plays," he said. "It's the routine stuff that's going to make your offense go. It looked to us that Tyler was a little bit ahead of Eric in that situation." But unlike what the Indianapolis Colts are going through with the possibility of replacing the injured Peyton Manning, the competition during the spring and summer will have Vitale ready when the opportunity occurs. "We feel Tyler has earned the right to be the starting quarterback," Taylor said. "Eric took the backup reps and he's ready to go, too. I still feel we have two varsity starting-caliber quarterbacks." Degen's first opponent as starter will be a familiar one. The two teams met in the spring game, with Fivay winning 41-34. But the Royal Knights have a new coach in Ryan Benjamin, who replaced Gary Allen, who had to resign for health reasons following the game. "They do some different things now," Taylor said. "They are big and pretty athletic. They believe in what they are doing. It's all going to come down to whether we can tackle the big guy and not let him get started. The "big guy" is River Ridge running back Austin Schwarz, who rushed for five touchdowns in the spring game. "We feel we have addressed some of the issues we had in the spring," Taylor said. "Our defense is looking forward to the challenge."

rharmon@tampatrib.com (813) 731-8135
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