AVON LAKE — The weather certainly seemed to affect the game between Avon Lake and Midpark on Friday night.
Two extra points and a field goal were missed, passes slipped through receivers’ fingers and the biggest play of the game may have been influenced by the rain — whether it caused the ball to come out of Meteors receiver Branson Repasy’s hands or it fell into the eyes of the officials who didn’t signal a touchdown.
Avon Lake’s Jimmy Hessel scooped up the fumble in the end zone and sprinted to the Midpark 18-yard line — the Shoremen scored four plays later — to spark Avon Lake’s 39-28 victory over the Meteors.
“What is that?” Midpark coach Dave McFarland said. “That was a 14-point swing, but we can’t control the calls. All I can tell you is that I’m proud of the way the guys kept their heads up and kept playing hard after that play.”
McFarland — the former coach of Elyria Catholic and Oberlin — showed that chances had to be taken if the Meteors (4-1, 1-1 Southwestern Conference) were going to knock off the Shoremen.
Midpark went for it on fourth-and-3 on its 27 on the opening drive — quarterback Doug Verbofsky ran for 11 yards — and again on fourth-and 10 from the Avon Lake 37. This time Verbofsky hit Alex Ciccarello in the end zone for a touchdown. Verbofsky ran in the 2-point conversion to give Midpark an 8-0 lead.
“They are the champions of the conference,” McFarland said of Avon Lake. “We knew we had to come in here and play physical.”
That’s when Avon Lake (4-1, 2-0) decided to give the Meteors a lesson in physical.
Junior Collin Lucas — a 6-foot-1, 226-pound running back — began blasting holes into the Midpark line, picking up chunks of yards and lots of points. Over the next three quarters, Lucas ran the ball 16 times for 102 yards and four touchdowns.
“He’s the workhorse,” senior receiver Joe Pappas said. “Defenses can’t stop him. He’s definitely going to be a big-time college player.”
Pappas also did some damage, hauling in three passes for a team-high 69 yards and a pair of touchdowns — “The second was more fun because it was right in front of the student section,” he said — from junior quarterback David Winkel. It was Pappas’ first career multitouchdown game.
The Meteors finished with a flurry — and three fourth-quarter touchdowns. Verbofsky hit Jerry Hopkins for a 50-yard touchdown pass and ran in a 7-yard score, and Dan Proffitt blocked an Avon Lake punt and returned it 5 yards for a score.
The surge turned the spotlight on the third-quarter play that helped the Shoremen grab control of the game.
Midpark moved the ball the length of the field on 12 plays, and Verbofsky hit Repasy on a screen pass to the left side. Repasy made several moves to weave between Shoremen defenders and dived for the end zone with his arms outstretched. The ball came loose as he hit the ground and Hessel hauled it in.
“I just saw the ball come out and I grabbed it,” Hessel said. “I didn’t know if it was a touchdown or a fumble, so I just grabbed it and started running.”
A Midpark touchdown would have made the score 20-15. After Pappas hauled in a 17-yard touchdown pass following the fumble return, the Shoremen led 26-8.
Hessel said the defense changed up its scheme because the Shoremen knew Midpark had a formidable passing attack. Verbofsky completed 27 of 45 passes for 348 yards, but his last pass of the game was intercepted by Matt Morissette on the Avon Lake 4.
“We had six DBs in instead of four like normal,” Hessel said. “The coaches told us all week that they’d throw 45-50 times in the game. So we were ready for that.”
Avon Lake wanted to slow down the Meteors, and Shoremen coach Dave Dlugosz used an out-of-the-box approach to get the job done.
“We wanted to come in and play defense with our offense,” he said. “Not many teams stop our running game (the Shormen ran for 264 yards), and we want to keep other teams’ offenses off the field for a while.
“The (assistant) coaches came up with a good game plan. You don’t stop that type of offense, but our defenders did the things they were supposed to do out there.”
• RARITIES: A couple of uncommon sights occurred during the game. Midpark got hit for a 5-yard penalty because of a second sideline warning, and the kickers’ jersey numbers added up to 184 — Avon Lake’s Alex Voloshen wears No. 99 and Midpark’s Proffitt No. 85.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fan him on Facebook
and follow him at @shaunbennettct on Twitter.