December 21, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
26°F
test

High school football 2011: Avon Lake set to defend yet another Southwestern Conference title

AVON LAKE — The usual goals are in place for Avon Lake as they seek to defend yet another Southwestern Conference title, which the Shoremen shared with Olmsted Falls last fall.

Win the SWC. Make the playoffs. Win once they get there.

.

.

But the annual checklist has another bullet point as the 2011 season nears: Beat Avon.

The Eagles walked into Avon Lake Memorial Stadium in last season’s opener and dominated the Shoremen, 21-3. The hosts amassed only 167 yards of offense and committed five turnovers while allowing two long Avon touchdown passes.

“It left a bitter taste in our mouths,” said senior Chris Jedlicka, who will move from fullback and backup quarterback to behind center full time in nine days when the two teams match up again. “We’ve been talking about it all offseason.”

You can understand the anticipation surrounding the game: The Eagles beat Avon Lake for the first time in more than 50 years, and spoiled the Shoremen’s unveiling of millions of dollars of upgrades to their stadium.

Veteran coach Dave Dlugosz, entering his 19th season, calls the game the best rivalry on his schedule, and “great for both communities.”

Veteran coach Dave Dlugosz, entering his 19th season, calls the game the best rivalry on his schedule, and “great for both communities.”

And for now, the buildup is fine by Dlugosz, for one reason: Once again, the game will be each team’s season opener. He continues to preach his one-week-at-a-time mantra, which is why he’s not buying in to any perceived negative of the Shoremen’s move from Division II into Division I, Region 2.

“It makes no difference what division or region you’re in. If you’re concerned about that, you’ll never get to (the playoffs),” Dlugosz said. “You have to take care of business each week.”

And, Jedlicka said, the Avon loss served as a wakeup call. The Shoremen won seven straight before losing at Brecksville in Week 9, and eventually ended up the second seed in last year’s Region 6 playoffs, where they lost to No. 7 seed Maumee. (The Shoremen dominated the Panthers in the playoffs the year before, winning on the road, 56-35.)

Avon Lake, though, lost 17 starters from last year’s team, including defensive lineman Brian Mihalik, who had 11 sacks last year and is headed to Boston College; 6-foot-5 offensive lineman Andrew Bohan, who will play at Akron; wide receiver Ronnie Willoughby, who caught 18 touchdowns combined in his last two seasons and is off to Buffalo; and quarterback Trent Toy, who threw those touchdowns and will continue at Walsh University in North Canton.

But for the Shoremen, that’s simply how it works — experienced seniors play, and a new group steps in the next season. Dlugosz said seniors who haven’t yet lettered often end up on All-SWC teams.

“(The younger players) get a real good imprint on how to succeed from people that played ahead of them over the years,” Dlugosz said. “Kids are willing to wait their turn. We still have 100 kids on our roster, and they’re really interested in football. They understand it.”

Avon Lake also is blessed, as it seems to be on an annual basis, with a deep backfield for its run-heavy offense. Only late in 2009 and last season, when Toy and Willoughby added a deep-play threat, have the Shoremen recently strayed from their ball-control ground attack.

Senior Dontez Smith returns after running for 800 yards in an injury-shortened season, and he’ll be spelled by senior Mickey Steiner and junior Laurendai Ellis. Dlugosz said Jedlicka is capable at quarterback, having received plenty of practice reps last year.

“I hope he lets me throw it,” Jedlicka said with a laugh. “We have enough weapons on offense where our offense will still be diverse.

“Every team in our conference is tough, and every game will be hard fought. It is (this year’s seniors’) turn. We’re really looking forward to it.”

Read more high school football previews:

Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.