December 19, 2014

Elyria
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High school football: Avon’s Kevin Maloney blocks two punts as Eagles roll over Elyria Catholic, remain unbeaten

Avon wide receiver MIchael Nose slips through an Elyria Catholic tackle Friday night at Avon Stadium. ANNA NORRIS/CHRONICLE

Avon wide receiver MIchael Nose slips through an Elyria Catholic tackle Friday night at Avon Stadium. ANNA NORRIS/CHRONICLE

AVON — Elyria Catholic coach Mike Polevacik is going to be hearing double-thuds in his sleep.

Every football coach, when his team is punting, dreads the double-thud — the sound of foot hitting leather immediately followed by the sound of leather hitting hand.

Polevacik heard it twice as Avon senior Kevin Maloney blocked a pair of Casey Izzo punts, recovering one for a touchdown, and Avon used its dominance on special teams to easily handle the Panthers 38-7 in West Shore Conference play Friday night.

Maloney’s first block set up the Eagles (6-0, 3-0), who were already up 7-0, at the Elyria Catholic 1-yard line.

It took them three plays to find the end zone when, after sophomore quarterback Jake Sopko was sacked on first down, he was able to connect with Rhys Ratino from 5 yards out to give Avon a 14-0 lead.

His second block, early in the third quarter, put the game out of reach. Maloney crashed through the line, blocked the kick at the EC 5 and fell on the ball in the end zone.

The touchdown gave Avon a 35-7 with 10:09 remaining in the period, and meant Maloney will eat well this week.

“I really wanted (a touchdown) because our coaches promise a steak dinner for any defensive score,” Maloney said. “Finally, after blocking a few, I finally got mine, so I’m part of the dinner club.”

Maloney got great jumps on both blocks, and there was a good reason.

“Their snapper gave away a few things and we knew when he was going to snap it and were able to get a good jump,” he said. “I was able to shed a block real fast and it worked out real well.”

Early in the game it looked like the Panthers (3-3, 1-1) were going to give Avon a fight. After falling behind 14-0, senior quarterback Jeremy Holley engineered a 15-play, 64-yard drive that used up 5:33 of the second-quarter clock. He hit Connor Riddell with a 7-yard touchdown pass that pulled the

Panthers within one score with 5:24 to go in the half.

But another special-teams breakdown cost Elyria Catholic dearly.

Antonio Orr fielded the kickoff at the 15 and took off around the left end. He returned the kick all the way to the EC 25. Three plays later, Ratino caught his second touchdown pass from Sopko to eliminate any momentum the Panthers had.

“We had one kid that didn’t maintain his lane, and they’re so disciplined that their kid hit it exactly where our kid wasn’t,” Polevacik said. “It was 14-7 and we were right there with them. It was close to the half and we were talking about pinning them deep and getting the ball back in the second half, but we got beat in that aspect of the game again.”

The Avon defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage all night. Elyria Catholic finished with just 12 rushing yards on 20 carries, and just 124 total yards.

“Our defense played very well against an exceptional back and an exceptional quarterback,” Avon coach Mike Elder said. “And a great wide receiver. I was very concerned about EC’s offense coming in, and outside of the one drive I thought our guys did a great job of winning at the line of scrimmage.

“It started with those three guys up front, and we have good enough linebackers where if the D-linemen aren’t getting pushed into their faces they can make plays. They did that.”

LOTS TO CHEER ABOUT AND PLENTY TO CHEER: How big is Avon’s roster compared to Elyria Catholic’s? It was homecoming and Avon had all of its cheerleading squads on the sidelines for the first half. The Eagles had more cheerleaders (48) than the Panthers had players (39).

Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or macsportstalk@gmail.com.