Can't catch this 'moonbeam' Overlea's Fitchette leaves tacklers grasping at air


Now you see him, now you don't. Bernard Fitchette, the phantom in cleats.

He glides and slides, ducks and darts, dips his hip and gives the defense the slip, this Overlea High quarterback with lightning in his feet.

"In three years, I've only seen one person get a good shot at him," said the Falcons offensive coach and athletic director Doyle Yeager. "And that was because Bernard didn't see the guy coming.

"He's so dynamic. Every time he takes the ball, he's a threat to score. He's there, then he's somewhere else. We like to call him a moonbeam."

Coach Terry Ward said, "He'll run 100 yards to get 30."

Fitchette, a junior, is in his third season at Overlea. Since he and his pal, All-Metro running back Tyrese Barmer, have been united at the school, the Falcons have won 30 straight Baltimore County games.

"It seems like Bernard has been here a long time," said Ward. "The other teams keep wondering when he is going to graduate."

Not soon. Fitchette will be the little general of the team's offense for a minimum of 16 more games and almost assuredly some more playoff action. Overlea has made the state tournament six straight years and in eight of the last 10.

He does not lack for confidence.

"I don't try to bowl over people," said Fitchette, who is in charge of a diversified attack that often has him running the option. "But I always want to get that extra yard. My style of play is based on my ability to cut.

"I couldn't do too much my freshman year [he split time on defense and at quarterback and tailback], but last year I think Tyrese and me sent a statement that you have to stop us both.

"Now, teams are trying to make us pass. But Overlea has such good talent that they can't completely shut down the run."

Last season, Fitchette averaged almost 10 yards a carry and scored 14 touchdowns. He threw only 50 passes in 11 games. This year, teams concentrate on him and Barmer.

But Fitchette crossed up Kenwood last week in a 49-28 victory.

"Most people think of him as a runner but he threw one 55 yards in the air for a touchdown," said Yeager.

Fitchette said, "They think I can't throw the ball. Now they know better."

Fitchette, the youngest of four children, was encouraged by his mother, Phyllis, to play football despite his modest stature.

He was only 138 pounds when he came to Overlea but a combination of natural growth and weight work has bulked him up to 164.

"I was around a lot of athletes in my neighborhood," he said. "It seemed like the only thing for me to do."

Through Little League and recreation programs, he was a running back, and he believes that is where his collegiate future lies.

"A lot of other players ask me where I got my talent from," he said. "They want to know if I went to camp. I just smile when they say that. Basically, it was just playing on the street with my friends."

Overlea has an excellent backup quarterback in Shante Dukes, a junior who can keep Fitchette from slipping into bad habits.

"It makes me better, having somebody with the same talent on the team," he said. "That pushes me to another limit."

But Fitchette is still spared from playing a lot of defense, keeping him fresh for those shootouts the Falcons always seem to play.

He had a 99-yard interception return as a freshman, but unless the game is on the line with the other team in possession, Fitchette will be on the bench.

"That's one of the reasons our offense has been able to light it up," said Ward. "There are other kids around who can play. We're just so fortunate."

So, Fitchette is well rested and armed with the decision-making opportunity once play starts.

"You can't coach any of the stuff Bernard does," said Ward. "He plays catcher on the corner. It's tag, one of those deals where you're it, come and catch me. It's a hell of an offense, isn't it?"

With Fitchette at the helm, it certainly is.

"I don't think I'm a dangerous runner [in the punishing sense]," said Fitchette. "In rec ball, they wanted me to stay in the pocket and just throw. But I've gotta move like Randall Cunningham."

In motion, he is a marvel.

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