MASSILLON — It wasn’t for a lack of heart.
It wasn’t a lack of desire or a lack of chances or a lack of luck.
It wasn’t the lack of anything, but rather a whole lot of Trotwood-Madison’s Isreal Green that led to Avon’s 42-28 loss Friday night in the Division II state football finals before 6,699 fans at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
Green, a 5-foot-9, 200-pound junior, had 326 yards and scored six touchdowns as Trotwood-Madison shook off the ghosts of championship games past to win its first title.
“He’s a great player,” Avon coach Mike Elder said of Green. “He’s running behind a 296-pound offensive line and a 257-pound fullback.”
“Whew,” said Trotwood coach Maurice Douglass when shown the yardage Green accumulated. “It gives him 2,000 for the year.”
The Rams had lost two previous chances to claim the title, including blowing a big lead in falling to Maple Heights just a year ago. When Avon drew within 35-28 following some gutsy calls by Elder and great execution by his players, you could almost hear the Rams take a collective breath hoping things weren’t about to cave in on them again.
After falling behind 35-14, the Eagles made their move — scoring two touchdowns — the first coming on a great heads-up play by Matt Eckhardt when he kept a tipped ball alive to grab it just inside the goal line.
The second came after Avon pulled off its second hook-and-ladder when Justin O’Rourke threw to Smith for about 20 yards with Smith flipping the ball to Ross Douglas to set up Jacob Mullins’ 15-yard TD grab from O’Rourke.
“We had great chemistry,” O’Rourke said of his receivers. “They played great. Both teams played great. They just had a better game.”
“Avon is a very difficult team to prepare for,” Douglass said. “They have so many different sets and formations. They have a great team.”
O’Rourke hit seven different receivers — finding Mullins 11 times for 135 yards and Eckhardt nine times for 102, but the Rams, with Green hitting on all cylinders, was on a mission to finally bring the title back to Trotwood. It simply couldn’t be stopped behind its huge and agile line.
“We relayed on our heart,” Avon senior linebacker Tyler Lance said. “There wasn’t much we could do in terms of pure size. (Green) was a good back. He definitely could make plays.”
Avon certainly had its chances. Junior Ralph Smith made a great play on Trotwood’s first possession to give the Eagles the early lead and momentum.
Smith, who had made big plays all through the playoff run, tipped a Mike Simpson pass away from Dalin Byrd then picked it off in the air. By the time he stopped running from his own 35-yard line, the Eagles had a 7-0 lead following Brad Young’s point-after.
When Cory Furness popped the ball loose from Green on Trotwood’s next set of downs and Matt Holkenborg recovered to give Avon the ball at the Rams 30-yard line, it appeared the Eagles were on their way to pulling off an upset of the top-ranked team in the state.
“They’re a good team,” Furness said. “We couldn’t capitalize on the turnover we made. We came up short.”
“You can’t help but stare at the scoreboard right now,” Elder said. “We lost by 14 and we left 10 points hanging out there. We fumbled there down on the goal line and missed a field goal. Does that mean we would have won the game? Don’t know, but we certainly needed that.”
No, those 10 points wouldn’t have won the game, but they may have punctured the already waning physique of the Rams. Trotwood nearly blew a huge lead in the state semifinals to Columbus Marion-Franklin just the week before and, of course, had to be thinking about the way Maple Heights beat them last year.
But after the turnover, Trotwood, with Green on the bench to ponder his last carry, began to use its huge offensive line to punch holes in Avon’s run defense. Ashton Jackson spelled Green just long enough for him to catch his breath and regain his confidence on hanging onto the football.
Jackson had runs of 11, 7, 2, 4 and 6 on consecutive carries when Green came back in to twist and turn his way through a number of would-be tacklers for 54 yards to Avon’s 1-yard line. He dove in a play later to close the gap to 7-6.
Unfortunately for Avon, that was just the beginning of Green’s one-man highlight reel.
On the Rams’ next possession, it appeared Green was stopped for a short gain but he managed to spin his way out of a tackle, stay inbounds, regain his balance, shake off another set of tacklers and score on a 74-yard run to put Trotwood in front 12-7 — a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“I just run hard,” said the soft-spoken Green. “I just run behind my bigs. We just wanted the state championship.”
“At halftime, Bam (senior Bam Bradley) said, ‘We ain’t losing this game,’” Douglass said. “He said we’re not losing this game. (Avon) had the momentum but our defense got some stops. We just couldn’t get where we had control. That team (Avon) kept scratching all the way through.”
Trotwood finished with 436 yards on the ground on 60 rushes to Avon’s net of just a single yard on just eight attempts. O’Rourke threw the ball 50 times, completing 27 for 325 yards and three touchdowns. The Rams had only 56 passing yards but because of their running success, didn’t need to throw the ball.
“Our plan was to be more balanced,” Elder said. “Unfortunately, we fell behind and when we tried to run the ball, we didn’t have tremendous success. I probably, as a coach, got pass-happy. Maybe we should have run it more.
“We were going to pull out all the stops to try and win this football game. At the end of the day, we needed to do that. The play right before the half on the hook-and-ladder was a huge play. It gave us hope at halftime. Kids executed some things we practice. It was a tremendous effort by them.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trotwood-Madison 42, Avon 28
Trotwood-Madison 12 16 7 7 — 42
Avon 7 7 14 0 — 28
A—Smith 65 interception return (Young kick) 8:45.
TM—Green 1 run (kick failed) 4:23.
TM—Green 74 run (kick failed) 2:17.
TM—Green 1 run (McCray pass from Simpson) 8:10.
TM—Green 4 run (Jackson run) :31.
A—Mullins 17 pass from O’Rourke (Young kick) :11.
TM—Green 38 run (Cospy kick) 6:22.
A—Eckhardt 6 pass from O’Rourke (Young kick) 2:46.
A—Mullins 15 pass from O’Rourke (Young kick) 1:47.
TM—Green 1 run (Cospy kick) 6:35.
First downs 27 19
Total Net Yards 492 326
Rushes-yards 60-436 8-1
Passing 56 326
Punt Returns 3-17 0-0
Kickoff Returns 2-24 7-114
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 1-65
Comp-Att-Int 6-9-1 27-50-0
Punts 1-62.0 4-39.2
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 8-85 10-69
Time of Possession 32:1 15:49
RUSHING—Trotwood-Madison, Green 35-326, Jackson 16-81, Simpson 4-35, Heath 2-6, Team 3-(-3). Avon, Douglas 2-11, Bevins 3-3, Kvach 3-(-4), Karnavas 1-(-9).
PASSING—Trotwood-Madison, Simpson 6-9-56-0. Avon, O’Rourke 27-50-325-3.
RECEIVING—Trotwood-Madison, Mobley 3-13, McCray 2-34, Bradley 1-9. Avon_Mullins 11-135, Eckhardt 9-102, Smith 3-36, Douglas 1-24, Bevins 1-16, Lance 1-14, Kvach 1-(-2).