It’s hard to say what was more improbable: quarterback Curtis Fitch scoring a Senior Day touchdown in his final home game, or Appalachian State running a play from its spread offense without using a shotgun snap.
As teammates lifted Fitch above the crowd in a triumphant locker room, head coach Scott Satterfield joyously declared, “We haven’t been under center in 20 years!”
Appalachian State (8-4 over-all, 7-1 conference) clinched a share of its second straight Sun Belt title with a 63-14 romp past Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, and Fitch capped the scoring with a 2-yard sneak after he took a close-range snap from center Tobias Edge-Campbell. Pushed into the end zone by H-backs Bill Cecil and Collin Reed, Fitch drew an inconsequential penalty flag for spiking the ball.
Members of the offense mobbed him at the back of the end zone. Before long, almost the entire team had left the bench area to celebrate Fitch’s accomplishment.
“It was unbelievable — how about that?” Fitch said. “It was awesome and really special. It shows the culture of this program and the kind of team we have, the kind of coaches we have.”
Nineteen players were making their final game day appearance in Kidd Brewer Stadium, including senior quarterback Taylor Lamb, who played his 50th career game. Fitch, his close friend, had entered one game before Saturday — he handed off three times and took one knee in a 2015 shutout of Old Dominion.
A fourth-year junior who is set to graduate this month, the 6-foot tall, 195-pound Fitch joined Appalachian State’s program as a walk-on instead of accepting a small-college offer because he aspires to become a coach. Fitch’s father, Todd, works as the offensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech, and Fitch is most recognizable for signaling plays in to Lamb from the sideline while wearing a red vest, blue cap and headset.
Appalachian State’s sideline erupted when Satterfield, after conferring with quarterbacks coach Frank Ponce, told Fitch to get ready to go into the game. Jacob Huesman had just completed a fourth-down pass to move the Mountaineers inside Louisiana’s 10-yard line, and Fitch had to scurry away from the action in order to remove all of his play-calling accessories.
He entered the lineup to cheers one play later, took a shotgun snap from the 7, faked a handoff to his right and rolled left on a naked bootleg. There was plenty of open space, but Louisiana-Lafayette’s Tracy Walker chased Fitch down and tackled him 3 yards short of the front-left pylon.
An excited Fitch, a Lutz, FL native, exchanged a few words with Walker before limping back to the huddle.
“I rolled up my ankle a little bit,” he said with a chuckle.
True freshman running back Daetrich Harrington casually gained 1 yard on the next play, setting up a fourth-and-goal scenario from the 2, and Fitch approached the line of scrimmage with Edge-Campbell, left guard Cole Garrison, left tackle Nate Haskins, right guard Chandler Greer and right tackle Brock Macaulay in front of him.
Similar to 2015, when the coaches called a play that resulted in a 2-yard touchdown catch for seldom-used tight end Michael Moll on Senior Day, they wanted to reward Fitch for all his hard work.
“He’s been in the quarterback room his whole tenure here, and he’s never missed a workout in the summer, spring, winter,” said Satterfield, who became emotional talking about Fitch. “He practices every day, and the players love him. They have great respect for him for what he’s been able to do.
“We do a survey with our seniors and all our players, and it talks about playing time. It had three different categories you could list as the amount of plays that you get, and he didn’t even know what to put down because he only had like three plays. Seldom, a lot or whatever — he was like, ‘Three plays.’ ”
The reaction to Fitch’s touchdown marked the second straight season with a Senior Day spike and field storming.
Last year, Marcus Cox became the school’s career rushing leader when he scored a 25-yard touchdown late in the home finale against ULM. Offensive lineman Parker Collins spiked the ball that day, and the celebration at the other end of Kidd Brewer Stadium drew a worthwhile penalty flag.
The outcome of each game was no longer in doubt, but both victories ended in memorable fashion.
Lamb, who also wants to follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming a college football coach, has developed an extremely close bond with Fitch. Lamb said he had tears in his eyes when he began sprinting onto the field to celebrate Fitch’s touchdown.
“We’ve won a lot of big games and thrown a lot of touchdowns,” Lamb said. “But that was probably the most special moment I’ve ever had (during my career) at Appalachian State.”
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