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Rhode Island power LaSalle spoils Panucci's debut at Fitch

Providence - No doubt Jordan Panucci will have better nights in his coaching career at Fitch High School.

Still, Panucci, who made his debut as head coach after five years as an assistant at Fitch, came away encouraged with the team's effort despite suffering a 62-26 thumping at the hands of Rhode Island football power LaSalle Academy.

The difference between the two teams wasn't as great as the deficit, according to Panucci.

"It was the little things," Panucci said. "It wasn't athleticism. It wasn't talent. It was the little things. We have a lot of young guys who need to grow up quickly and get better at the little things now and not wait until the end of the year."

LaSalle would likely disagree with Panucci's point of view.

The Rams rolled up big play after big play while cruising to victory. They had a clear advantage in the speed department. Senior Keon Wilson simply ran away from defenders, returning two kickoffs for touchdowns - one for 77 yards and the other for 74 - and also caught a touchdown pass. LaSalle had long touchdown runs of 57, 39 and 44 yards.

There were some bright spots for Fitch.

The Falcons sustained some drives with a reliable rushing attack. Senior Robert Johnston had 20 carries for 115 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown run, while junior Terrel Shoelly piled up 103 yards on 12 carries.

The game also marked the debut of sophomore Robert Duncan at quarterback. Duncan had a pair of touchdown passes for the Falcons, going 8 and 32 yards to senior Devante Anderson, last year's starting quarterback. But he also threw two interceptions.

Panucci believes the Duncan-to-Anderson combination can be a productive one. He explained the reasoning behind the quarterback change. Anderson also picked off two passes on defense.

"Devante will be a huge asset as a receiver," Panucci said. "He's a phenomenal athlete and has phenomenal size. We knew he could get it done and he was going to be a force. Duncan runs the offense well. He's an athlete himself. He shows more maturity than your average sophomore."

As far as little mistakes, Panucci can point to one that happened in the second quarter. Fitch cut the lead to 21-12 after completing a 13-play, 80-yard drive. Duncan found Anderson in the corner of the end zone from 8 yards out.

Anderson's interception gave the Falcons the ball again, but their drive stalled.

In punt formation on fourth down from their own 21-yard-line, Anderson faked the punt and threw an incomplete pass.

Panucci never called for a fake.

"It was a miscue," Panucci said. "Our punter thought he heard something else that wasn't said. That's one of those little things, communication during a game, that we need to fix."

The schedule doesn't get any easier next week, as Fitch plays Stonington.

g.keefe@theday.com

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