AVON LAKE — Westlake senior Kent Axcell did something Friday night that no Demons quarterback had done since 1984: Lead his team to a win over Avon Lake.
Axcell rushed for 115 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner with 1:25 to play in the fourth to propel Westlake to a 28-21 Southwestern Conference and homecoming-spoiling night at a soggy Avon Lake Memorial Stadium.
Axcell’s third rushing touchdown capped off a 12-play, 54-yard drive that actually started at the Shoremen 35 but was twice interrupted by Westlake penalties.
After Westlake (6-1, 3-1 SWC) called its final timeout, the offense lined up on a third-and-goal from the Avon Lake 3 and Axcell ran a delayed quarterback sneak to break the 21-21 tie.
“Coach (Mark) Campo called the perfect play during the timeout,” said Axcell, who also threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Alex Massaad in the third quarter. “This is the greatest feeling. It’s been so long since a Westlake team did this. Tonight is like the best night of my life.”
The Demons seemingly moved the ball at will in the second half, another 15-play drive ending early in the fourth quarter when they turned over the ball on downs inside the Avon Lake 30.
Avon Lake (5-2, 3-1) scored first just 3:47 into the game when sophomore Anthony Thielman broke free on an off-tackle run and sprinted 8 yards into the end zone. Alex Voloshen’s extra-point made the score 7-0.
The Shoremen then took a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter as quarterback David Winkel ran approximately 100 yards for a 26-yard touchdown run. Winkel was originally rolling out to his right on a pass play before being forced to spin around and run to the left sideline where he eluded a pair of Westlake tacklers before cutting back across the field and outrunning the rest of the Demons defense to the right corner of the end zone.
In the second half, a pair of turnovers — a fumble and an interception — and the inability of the defense to make a big stop doomed the Shoremen.
“Give Westlake all the credit tonight, they deserved to win,” Avon Lake coach Dave Dlugosz said. “When you force turnovers and run for 220 yards you’re going to win games and that’s exactly what they did tonight.”
Avon Lake entered the game No. 1 in computer points in Division I, Region 2, while the Demons were ninth in Division II, Region 6. Friday’s win and the computer points that come along with it have the Demons thinking their first trip to the playoffs since 1989 might be a real possibility.
“There is no doubt this is the biggest win for our program,” Campo said. “We just beat a team that was No. 1in Division I in their region. I would say that’s a pretty darn big win. Our team was focused, we had a good week of practice and we showed we have a defense that doesn’t back down from anybody.”
Axcell wasn’t the only Demon to rush for over 100 yards in the game. Senior tailback Logan Paul ran for 109 yards on 25 carries.
After the first Avon Lake drive of the second half ended when Danny Strodbeck intercepted a Winkel pass, the Shoremen turned away from their passing game, only completing one pass until the final 50 seconds of the game.
• WALKING WOUNDED: Both teams lost one of their best players to first-quarter injuries. Avon Lake junior running back/linebacker Collin Lucas left the game with a right ankle injury and was seen on the sideline on crutches in the second half. Westlake lost standout wide receiver/defensive back Shawn Turk to a first quarter knee injury, the severity of his injury was unknown immediately after the game.
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.