The Falcons, coming off a fairy tale year that ended years of frustration and losing, ran into a buzz saw against the playoff-seasoned Tigers, twice state runners-up and playing on their fast and friendly home turf.
“It was a great year,” Firelands coach Mike Passerrello said. “At least we were in this position to compete in an 11th week. It’s not what we wanted but it gave the seniors one more chance to play football.”
What a senior class it is. Firelands hadn’t had a winning season since 1997 but this year’s team resolved to put an end to all that.
The Falcons were unbeaten in the regular season — the first time since 1973.
For a moment Friday, it appeared Firelands would have a chance to keep the good times rolling when the Falcons roared back from a 17-0 deficit with two quick scores.
But Chagrin Falls has been here before and it showed.
The Tigers scored and scored and scored some more — putting 35 points on the board in the second quarter and 21 more in the third to put an end to Firelands’ dream.
“Field position really hurt us,” Passerrello said. “The thing we wanted to do was make them drive the field. The short field caused us some problems. But no matter what, they’ll take this season with them the rest of their lives.”
“They’re a good team,” Chagrin Falls coach Mark Iammarino of the Falcons. “Hats off to coach (Passerrello) and the season they’ve had this year going 10-0. It’s no mystery why they were able to do that. No. 5 (Kyle Smith) is a very good quarterback — very elusive — a tough, gritty competitor. I have great respect for him.
“We told our kids, ‘this is the playoffs, everyone is going to make a run. You have to be able to answer that.’”
Answer they did with five interceptions and great special teams play that kept the ball in Firelands territory all night long. The Tigers never let up until the game was well in hand.
“When you have a team that’s won 10 games, that’s a lot of momentum,” Iammarino said. “You can’t let them hang around. That’s why in that second quarter we went fast a lot. We felt like we had momentum. We had them on their heels. I just figured let’s try to get this game decided before we get in the locker room.”
Even with the huge loss, Passerrello was proud of the season. He took over the task of keeping the football team together a year ago when he was thrust into the head coaching job unexpectedly and his senior class made the Firelands community proud.
“It’s a great senior class,” Passerrello said. “You hate to not be able to coach them again. They’re a special class. There will be a lot missed from them.
“They did a great job of making a commitment. They wanted to change this (losing) culture and change the football program. We were all in it together.
They were willing to sacrifice a lot of things starting from day one in December (last year). It paid off for them. They’ve made some history. No one can take that away from them.”