Elder preached to his team all week not to overlook the Sailors, and they listened, roughing up Vermilion on the ground and through the air en route to a 46-7 victory in West Shore Conference play.
The Eagles improved to 5-0 in the WSC, 8-0 overall, and set up next week’s showdown with Midview.
“I’m very proud of our kids. We have a bunch of kids that worked their tail off, and they certainly take every opponent, no matter who it is or what their record is, with a certain level of respect,” Elder said. “We came out tonight ready to play, and I’m very proud of them.”
The Eagles jumped all over the Sailors (1-7, 0-4). Sparked by sophomore Antonio Orr’s 79-yard return of the opening kickoff, the Eagles needed just two plays to score all the points they would need as senior quarterback Justin O’Rourke hit fellow senior Jacob Mullins with a 13-yard scoring strike. Matt Holkenborg punched in the 2-point conversion.
“We came out tonight pretty fired up and ready to go. We weren’t about to overlook them, and I think it showed,” said senior offensive lineman Will Miller, who helped 12 different runners and six receivers with his blocking up front. “Protecting Justin (O’Rourke) is a pride thing for us. He’s our boy and we want to keep him clean. Our whole line is a close-knit group, and when we don’t have success, we take it kind of hard. When we do, that’s when we know we’re doing our job.”
Junior running back Ross Douglas got in on the act, scoring on runs of 44 and 5 yards to push the Avon advantage to 22-0 after the first quarter. That lead increased to 43-0 by the 8:50 mark of the second quarter following touchdown runs by Mark Kvach and Ralph Smith, and a scoring pass from O’Rourke to Matt Eckhardt.
“We got a lot of kids in the ballgame, and we have a lot of kids in our program. That’s a direct reflection of our community and how hard our kids work,” Elder said. “Our coaching staff makes football fun for them, but when you can get them out on the field and give them an opportunity like we did tonight, that’s pretty awesome.”
O’Rourke finished the night with 179 yards through the air on 8-of-13 passing, while Chris Harris led the ground attack with 58 yards on eight carries.
Almost lost in the Avon offensive explosion was the play of Vermilion senior running back/linebacker Jason Bigg. Bigg rushed for a game-high 133 yards on 30 carries and picked off an Eagle pass on the Sailors goal line, returning it 37 yards.
“He’s an outstanding player, and an All-Conference player in my mind,” Elder said of Bigg. “What heart that kid has, and I made sure I congratulated him after the game. He’s definitely a tremendous football player.”
WHAT’S IN A NAME: Even though the Avon Student Council purchased an “up-to-date” Eagle mascot uniform last season, it went without an official name … until Friday night. In honor of Eli Fisher, a 2011 graduate of the school and someone Avon High School administrators consider to be the “biggest fan” of Eagle athletics, the mascot was formally named “Eli the Eagle” in a ceremony prior to kickoff.