In the first half, Avon scored on all seven of its possessions to open a commanding 42-point lead.
In the second half, the Eagles let their foot off the gas and the Pirates made things a little too interesting for the Avon faithful. A 28-point fourth quarter — all on touchdown passes from junior Matt Lowry — made the final score 56-41 in favor of the Eagles.
Whereas Avon (8-0, 5-0) outgained Rocky River 427-192 in the first half, the Pirates (3-5, 1-4) took advantage of the Eagle backups and outgained the hosts 359-67 in the second half.
Avon coach Mike Elder was not a happy camper.
“I learned a valuable lesson tonight,” he said. “I pulled my starters way too early against a good football team. They came back on our twos, and our twos got to play better. I thought Rocky River had a great offensive performance in the second half — so good that I would vote for all those kids first-team all-conference.
“The lesson is that I have to let my team play the football game, and I didn’t. I own this right now. I let a team that had players get back in the game because I was trying to be a good sport.”
Rocky River could not stop the Avon starters. In nine offensive possessions, including two during the fourth quarter, the Avon starters scored 56 points on eight touchdowns. The other possession was the last one, in which the Eagles ran out the clock. Avon didn’t punt until the backups went three-and-out with 3½ minutes left in the third quarter.
“We had 49 in the first half and we probably could have scored 100 if I let the starters play the whole game,” Elder said. “I screwed this up for my kids and I allowed their football team to get back in the game, and that was unfortunate.”
Avon senior quarterback Tommy Glenn had his second-biggest night of the season, throwing for 318 yards while completing 17 of 19 passes with four touchdowns. He was 15-for-17 for 298 yards with three touchdowns in the dominating first half and re-entered after Rocky River cut the deficit to 49-20.
Glenn had three 100-yard receivers in seniors Braeden Friss (seven catches for 129 yards and two scores) and Rhys Ratino (seven catches for 120 yards and three scores) and sophomore Gerett Choat (two catches for 102 yards). One of Friss’ TD catches came from sophomore backup Jake Sopko, who threw for 77 yards on a 3-for-7 performance.
“I thought the offense played pretty well,” Glenn said. “I thought our protection was excellent by the offensive line and I thought our receivers made a lot of great plays and it was easy for me.”
The defense forced two quick Rocky River turnovers in the first quarter, which Glenn and Co. turned into scores to give the Eagles a 21-0 lead. From there, it was off to the races … until the fourth quarter.
“Our defense started off playing really well and shut them down, which gave us great field position,” Glenn said. “We were able to put up a lot of points on the board. It was a great start, but a bad finish.”
FLAG FRENZY: The teams combined for 19 penalties for 211 yards, with Avon committing 10 for 106. In fact, Avon’s final possession began with three straight unsportsmanlike conduct penalties — two on Rocky River. It was a bad sign when Rocky River committed fair catch interference on the opening kickoff, and it progressively got worse.