Both were 11-1, state-ranked and seasoned postseason teams.
But when Avon quarterback David Zeh went out with a head injury after a hit from Central Catholic’s senior outside linebacker Ian Butler early in the second quarter, it pretty much put a damper on Avon’s chances for a second straight trip to the Division II state semifinals.
Toledo Central Catholic turned a close game into a 42-14 victory thanks in part to a three-and-a-half-minute spurt shortly after Zeh’s departure late in the first half. The Irish scored three touchdowns in the final 3:33 of the first half to pretty much put the game away.
“When you practice all week and work up a game plan with your quarterback and he gets injured, you gotta expect your young guy (junior Tommy Glenn) to come in and I called different plays,” Avon coach Mike Elder said. “I wanted him to settle in but when we did that, (Central Catholic) kind of took over control of the game.
“(Zeh) came up to me and said he didn’t remember what the score was or what the touchdown was. There’s no game in the world more important than a kid’s health and well-being. I told him to see our trainer right now.”
Avon had answered Central Catholic’s first touchdown with a nice drive of its own. It looked like it would be anybody’s game at that point entering the second quarter.
“Anytime you see the second quarterback come in … he made some throws and kept some things alive but it’s still a disadvantage,” Central Catholic coach Greg Dempsey said. “You know he didn’t get all the practice reps all week. When it was an obvious passing situation, he’s going to face a heavy blitz that he hasn’t seen all year.”
Elder admitted his gamble on a fourth-down punting situation was on him.
“My fake punt at the end of the half didn’t help us any,” he said.
That led to Central’s third score of the final 3:33 — a 20-yard touchdown pass from DeShone Kizer to Louisville recruit Keith Towbridge, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound brute who made several big catches for the Irish.
Even with Avon getting the ball to start the second half, Central Catholic had control of the game at 28-7.
“David went out of the game, we stalled offensively,” Elder said. “That wasn’t (Glenn’s) fault. I called different plays. I’m going to own that. You prepare your backup … and Tommy Glenn’s going to be a great quarterback, no question about that … but he came in and we lost our rhythm because we tried to do different things.
“We tried to run the ball more. We knew that would be tough sledding so we let David go and throw the football and he was doing it well until he left the football game.”
“Coach always tells us when someone goes out, ‘next man up,’” senior tailback Ross Douglas said. “Tommy had to step in but, unfortunately, we just couldn’t get it done.”
“No one wants the starting quarterback to go down,” senior wideout Ralph Smith said. “Tom came in and did a great job. He did the best he could. We did the best we could.”
It just wasn’t good enough against a fast and talented Toledo Central Catholic team that moves into next week’s state semifinal against Aurora.