Longtime area high school football coach Phil Annarella has passed away.

Annarella coached in the Valley for over 40 years, making stops at East Liverpool, Rayen, Warren Western Reserve, Warren Harding, Hickory, and Niles McKinley before taking over as Austintown Fitch head coach in 2007.

Throughout those years, he inspired hundreds of young men to play their best and be better people off the field as well.

Warren G. Harding football coach Steve Arnold said, "Today is a tough day. Coach Annarella started me in coaching."

"Taught me a lot of things I implement now as a head coach," said Arnold. "He was old school, that's what allowed him to last and have success over the number of years that he coached. he stayed true to his principles."

Coach Annarella won nearly 250 games during his career.

Annarella was the current head coach of Austintown Fitch and made numerous playoff appearances.

Grief counselors are being brought in to help football players through the situation according to a coach on the Fitch staff.

A personal friend and former high school coach Bill Bohren said Annarella was "what a coach should be."

Bohren said, "His teams were disciplined and tough but always showed great character. He was a warm friend."

"He was a vicious competitor, but after the game was over, he's your best friend," said Bohren. "All the young kids in the program who have been under Phil have certainly benefited. I had a son playing football, I'd want him to play for Phil Annarella."

Austintown School Board President Don Sherwood called Annarella "a great leader of young men. He put together a great staff and left the program better than when he was hired."

Former Fitch standout and current Cincinnati Bengals player Billy Price said the following on Twitter Saturday:

Fitch Football tweeted this statement on Annarella's passing:

"His passion for the guys versus the athletics, that's what pulls you in, that's why he's the legent that he is, and it's incumbent on us to make sure we continue that legacy," said Michael Engram of Game Changers.