CLYDE — It had all the makings of a state championship game, which it may have been since many pundits believed the winner of Friday night’s game between Avon and Toledo Central Catholic might be the favorite to win it all.
The teams traded defensive stops, then traded touchdowns and it looked like the heavyweight match everyone expected was under way.
Then Eagles starting quarterback David Zeh was knocked out of the game, the Fighting Irish had a small offensive explosion and Toledo Central Catholic used shutdown defense to finish off a 42-14 victory at Robert Bishop Jr. Stadium on Friday night.
Each team landed a blow in the first quarter, with Irish running back Amir Edwards, who finished with 134 yards on 19 carries, putting Toledo Central Catholic on the scoreboard with an 11-yard touchdown run, and Zeh running a zigzag route through the Irish defense for a 15-yard score.
Then Zeh was injured early in the second and the Eagles’ offense began to sputter.
“I think we had momentum and things were going pretty good,” Eagles coach Mike Elder said. “I changed my play calling (when backup Tommy Glenn came in). That wasn’t necessarily the quarterback’s fault. I called different plays.”
While Avon was trying to get back on track offensively, the Irish put together a long scoring drive — capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Edwards — with 3:33 left in the first half.
Avon went three-and-out on the next drive, and Edwards scored on one play — a 39-yard run — to make it 21-7.
Desperate to regain momentum, Elder tried a fake punt on fourth-and-4 from the Avon 36-yard line, but Cory Ohradzansky was stopped short, and the Irish made the Eagles pay when DeShone Kizer hit tight end Keith Towbridge for a 20-yard touchdown with one second left in the half.
“That was the turning point of the game,” Irish coach Greg Dempsey said. “You had a 95-yard drive, then another score and then a turnover and another score … those are plays that make the difference in games like this. Those were the biggest momentum-shifting minutes of the game and we were able to take advantage of them.”
It was a tough scenario for the Eagles, who went from being tied with just under four minutes left in the first half to being down three touchdowns.
“Last year we were in the same situation in the state final — down 28-7 in the locker room,” Avon running back Ross Douglas said. “We came in here and said we weren’t going to give up, that we were going to fight to the end. That’s what we did, but unfortunately we didn’t come out on top.”
Douglas, who also plays cornerback — the position he will play at Michigan next year — and the Eagles defense were lights out in the second half. But the Irish defense one-upped them with a pair of pick-sixes on back-to-back drives in the third quarter.
Free safety Jayme Thompson — an Ohio State recruit — hauled in a tipped Glenn pass and zipped 24 yards the other way for a touchdown, then linebacker Ian Butler jumped a route and sprinted down the right sideline for another score.
“That was a backbreaker for sure,” Douglas said. “Toledo Central Catholic, you have to give them credit. They made the plays on defense and were able to put us away.”
“The defense was the offense in the second half,” Dempsey said. “That’s a tough offense to face with a lot of explosiveness … and our guys did an outstanding job tonight.”
Douglas scored the game’s final touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a nice 21-yard run through traffic, but the game was decided at that point.
“It’s not about the wins, it’s about the relationships that I’ve built with these young men,” Elder said. “The thing that hurts the most about this is not the loss, it’s the fact that we don’t get to get together on Monday.
“I’m not measuring our success by wins and losses, I’m measuring it by the process. By that thinking, we were very successful this year.”
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Toledo Central Catholic 42, Avon 14
TCC 7 21 14 0 — 42
Avon 7 0 0 7 — 14
TCC — Amir Edwards 11 run (Jacob Suder kick)
A — David Zeh 15 run (Eric Sumislawski kick)
TCC — Edwards 3 run (Suder kick)
TCC — Edwards 39 run (Suder kick)
TCC — Keith Towbridge 20 pass from DeShone Kizer (Suder kick)
TCC — Jayme Thompson 24 interception return (Suder kick)
TCC — Ian Butler 24 interception return (Suder kick)
A — Ross Douglas 21 run (Sumislawski kick)
First downs 19 7
— by rushing 10 3
— by passing 7 4
— by penalty 2 0
Yards rushing 279 69
Yards passing 108 129
Total offense 387 198
Passes att./comp. 16/9 24/10
Intercepted by 3 0
Fumbles/lost 0/0 2/1
Penalties/yards 5/40 6/20
RUSHING — (TCC) Amir Edwards 19-134, DeShone Kizer 9-77, Stephon Campbell 6-34, Jared Fann 4-17, Cedric Grey 4-6, Paul Moses 3-5, Derich Weiland 2-1, Sean Sullivan 1-5. (A) Ross Douglas 14-69, David Zeh 4-1, Joe Travagliante 2-9, Cory Ohradzansky 1-2, Antonio Orr 1-(-4), Tommy Glenn 1-(-8).
PASSING — (TCC) Kizer 9-16-108-1-0. (A) Zeh 6-8-92-0-0, Glenn 4-16-37-0-3.
RECEIVING — (TCC) Keith Towbridge 4-64, Weiland 3-40, Moses 1-6, Edwards 1-(-2). (A) Ralph Smith 4-47, Braeden Friss 3-43, Douglas 2-26, Rhys Ratino 1-13.