FREMONT — Home, sweet away from home?
That may be what Avon fans are thinking after watching their Eagles pound out another Division II, Region 6 postseason victory at Harmon Field at Don Paul Stadium on Friday night.
The opportunistic Eagles took advantage of four Tiffin Columbian turnovers to knock out the top-seeded and previously unscathed Tornadoes to set up next week’s regional final against once-beaten Toledo Central Catholic … probably right back at Don Paul Stadium.
Last year, Avon beat Toledo Central Catholic and Tiffin Columbian — in reverse order — at Don Paul Stadium, using pretty much the same methods. The Eagles never caved on defense and made just enough plays on offense to advance.
“We do (play well here),” Avon coach Mike Elder said. “It’s been great to us so far. I complain all the time that we had to drive farther than Tiffin did. It doesn’t seem very logical and fair to me, but the OHSAA is who they are. They’re going to do what they want to do. It’s a beautiful facility and we’ll probably be back here next week.”
It should be a welcome sight for the Eagles. Avon will be after its fourth straight win in Fremont, but Elder knows you have to have things go your way with two evenly matched teams.
“You have to be lucky and good,” Elder said. “(Columbian was) 11-0 for a reason. For us to stop them and keep them at 14 points, especially when we went three-and-out a bunch of times on offense, was big. We struggled for awhile.”
Three of the turnovers were courtesy of junior linebacker Kevin Maloney — an interception and two fumble recoveries — the last of which he stole out of the hands of Tiffin Columbian’s Jordan Dye as Dye was heading to the end zone with what could have been a huge score. Avon led just 17-7 at the time and the Tornadoes had seized the momentum with 7:48 remaining in the game.
Antonio Orr had the other fumble recovery for Avon.
“I told everybody I talked to this week that turnovers would be the key to the game,” Tiffin Columbian coach Brian Colatruglio said. “We were two evenly matched teams and we were going to hammer at each other for four quarters. The team that made some plays and the team that turned it over was going to be the difference.”
“Those balls wouldn’t have got on the ground if it wasn’t for Cory Ohradzanski and Mitch Tomlin causing them,” said Maloney. “This was one of my better (games).”
After Maloney’s steal, tight end Chris Maxwell’s catch and run down the Avon sideline put the nail in the coffin as the Eagles were able to follow the 76-yard play with a game-clinching score midway through the fourth quarter.
“I was trying pretty hard to stay inbounds,” Maxwell said. “It felt pretty good. Big props to our defense — they made big plays. We needed that.”
Avon took advantage of Tiffin Columbian’s errors all night.
Avon stopped Tiffin Columbian on the game’s first series, then took a 3-0 lead on a 27-yard field goal by Eric Sumislawski.
Maloney seemed to find a way to be in the right spot at the right time. His interception gave Avon the ball at the Tornadoes’ 35-yard line to set up David Zeh’s 6-yard touchdown run, then grabbed a fumble on the ensuing kickoff to set up an 8-yard touchdown run by Ross Douglas to give the Eagles a 17-0 lead.
“He’s a special player,” Elder said of Maloney. “He played his tail off. Great kid, works extremely hard and is always in the right place.”
A year ago, Tiffin Columbian’s Jack Jacoby and Douglas challenged each other on a windy night on the same field.
Douglas scored four times and rushed for 157 yards as Avon derailed the Tornadoes 35-21 in the regional final. Jacoby had three touchdowns and 187 yards on 39 tries.
That wasn’t the case Friday. Douglas left the game with an injury in the fourth quarter after picking up 42 yards on 14 carries. Avon held Jacoby to just 19 yards in the first half and 90 for the game.
Tiffin Columbian earned more first downs and total yards, but it’s the Eagles advancing to next week’s regional final.
“We know we’ll have our hands full,” Elder said. “Everybody’s been talking about Toledo Central Catholic winning a state title, but we have a chance because we’re playing in the game.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.