NORTH OLMSTED — Jimmy Hessel caught six passes from David Winkel in the first half of Avon Lake’s game Friday night against North Olmsted.
His biggest reception of the night was his only catch of the second half, and it wasn’t of a pass from Winkel. Hessel intercepted North Olmsted’s Brad Novak with 6:12 to play, a minute after Avon Lake had scored the go-ahead touchdown in what was eventually a 33-13 Southwestern Conference victory.
And what a catch it was. The ball had been tipped by North Olmsted’s Mike Starcovic and wobbled in the air. Hessel dived for the ball and got a hand on it just before it hit the ground. He cradled the ball in one hand until he could pin it against his body. It remained pinned as Hessel fell on his back.
“I expected him (Starcovic) to catch it,” Hessel said. “He has the best hands on the team. So when I saw it in the air I knew I had to go up.”
As for the catch itself, Hessel had no comment on the degree of difficulty.
“I was just hoping for it.”
“He’s a tremendous athlete,” Avon Lake coach Dave Dlugosz said. “He made some terrfic catches in the first half, and then you saw what he did on that interception. He is a tremendous athlete on both sides of the ball.”
The Shoremen scored five plays later to all but seal the victory. Avon Lake, which was behind 13-7 at hafltime, added another touchdown with 36 seconds to go to put an exclamation point on second-half dominance.
Hessel’s interception was the one play that would make an Avon Lake highlight reel. The remainder of the Avon Lake effort in the second half was grind-it-out offense combined with a defense that let North Olmsted (3-1, 0-1 SWC) have only 6 yards rushing after intermission.
“They really didn’t move the ball on us, except for the one long play,” said Dlugosz, referring to an 85-yard run by Starcovic on North Olmsted’s first play from scrimmage. Other than that run, which tied the score at 7, the Eagles had only 31 yards rushing.
“They never really stopped us, either,” Dlugosz said. “Penalties were what did it to us. That was the big thing. We couldn’t finish drives. We’re not the kind of team that can handle first-down-and-15 or second-and-20. Penalties, fumbles and interceptions will get you every time, and we had a bunch of each in the first half.”
The Shoremen’s offense committed seven penalties for 55 yards in the first half. As for turnovers, an interception and 20-yard return by Dylan Maxwell had North Olmsted at the Avon Lake 7-yard line in the second quarter. Three plays later the Eagles scored to give them their only lead.
The Shoremen had just one offensive penalty (it was declined) and one penalty each on defense and special teams in the second half. Dlugosz said that was a key, as the Shoremen’s offensive line could establish itself without having the team go backward.
“We prevailed because the offensive line did a great job in the second half,” Dlugosz said. “I said at halftime, ‘You’re a better offensive line than they are a defensive line.’ They proved that in the second half.”
As proof, Wyatt Ohm gained 134 yards on a dozen carries in the second half after managing just 24 yards in the first half.
IT REALLY DID EVEN OUT: Avon Lake was bedeviled by penalties for the first half, while North Olmsted was plagued in the second half. The Shoremen were called seven times in the first half and the Eagles seven times in the second half. Each team was charged for nine penalties, with the Shoremen assessed 70 yards and North Olmsted 68 yards.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or email@example.com.