July 31, 2014

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High school football: Avon overcomes early stumble, rolls over Toledo St. Francis de Sales in postseason opener

Avon sophomore running back Gerret Choat punches in an early touchdown against St. Francis de Sales High School on Friday night, Nov. 8 during playoffs. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Avon sophomore running back Gerret Choat punches in an early touchdown against St. Francis de Sales High School on Friday night, Nov. 8 during playoffs. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

AVON — It may be a new cast of characters, but it was the same old postseason show for the Avon Eagles on Friday night.

First-year starting quarterback Tommy Glenn threw the ball all over the field, sophomore running back Gerett Choat set up camp in the end zone and the Eagles rolled to a 38-14 victory over visiting Toledo St. Francis de Sales in a Division II, Region 4 quarterfinal.

“What we try to do all season is build towards being a balanced attack and being capable of running the ball or throwing the ball in November,” Avon coach Mike Elder said. “We’ve won games by throwing on every down, and we’ve won games by not throwing a pass in the second half. We’re going to take what defenses give us.”

The Knights defense gave Avon fits early.

On the Eagles’ second play, de Sales cornerback Steven David stepped in front of Glenn’s sideline pass and returned the interception 42 yards for a touchdown.

“We ended up throwing a bubble on a Cover 2, and it was really a miscommunication on a signal,” Elder said. “(The receiver) was supposed to run a different route and he read the signal wrong. Tommy threw it late and it was a big problem, obviously.”

It was a postseason flashback for Glenn, who was forced into the Eagles’ regional championship game last season when starter David Zeh went down, and had a forgettable performance in Avon’s lopsided loss. The Avon senior might have thought the playoff nightmare was continuing after the quick pick-six.

“There was a little bit of that, yeah, but it was just a bad decision,” Glenn said. “I made a mistake and I just moved past that. I focused on the next play, and we ended up converting some plays, making some drives and scoring some touchdowns.”

Glenn was brilliant on the ensuing drive, connecting with Choat, senior Dan Durrin and senior Braeden Friss to move the offense into the red zone, where Choat capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown.

“We thought, ‘Hey, let’s start over. Let’s start fresh,’” Choat said. “(The interception) was a bad play but we rebounded well.”
“I love the way our kids responded,” Elder said. “We talked all week how there’d be adversity in the game, and we had adversity right then and there and they responded with that drive.”

The Avon defense finally got on the field with the score locked at 7, and was slowly pushed back by a methodical de Sales drive.
Senior quarterback David Nees ran the ball to the right, then ran to the left, then passed the ball (a game-high 11 times) to senior Andrew Bonfiglio to pick up first down after first down.

Nees finally took the ball one last time and headed for the end zone, but Avon junior safety Zack Torbert stripped the ball from his hands and senior safety Logan Juhl scooped up the loose ball in the end zone and headed down the sideline for a 70-yard return.

“(Nees) was running and it looked like he was going to come in, I was swooping around and the ball hit the ground and bounced straight up in my hands. It played out perfectly,” Juhl said. “(The player who tackled me) was fast. He caught me. I thought I was gone, so …”

Avon needed just five plays — capped by Choat’s 2-yard touchdown up the middle — to take its first lead of the game, then forced another fumble in de Sales territory before Choat scored from 14 yards out to make it 21-7.

Knights coach Chris Hedden talked about how much the initial fumble changed the landscape of the game.

“David Nees is a great player for us and we put the ball in his hands the whole year,” he said. “That was a big play. If we go in and score to make it 14-7, then it’s a different game with momentum. Obviously they returned the ball 70 yards and capitalized and scored.”

Elder said the score after the fumble was just as important.

“If we go three-and-out there, you might be looking at a different ballgame,” he said. “But that’s playoff football … one or two plays.”

An Eric Sumislawski field goal with no time left in the first half gave Avon a 10-point lead, and a pair of second-half touchdowns — Choat’s fourth rushing score and a Glenn-to-Friss pass — were more than enough to put the No. 2-seeded Eagles into a regional semifinal showdown with Perrysburg next weekend.

“That’s a quality football team,” Hedden said. “You’ve got a 10-0 team on their own turf … it’s a challenge. You have to give them credit. I told Coach Elder before the game, his kids play with his passion. That’s what we’re trying to get to.”

Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or sbennett@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him @ShaunBennettct on Twitter.

Avon 38, St. Francis de Sales 14

St. Francis 7 7 0 0 — 14
Avon 14 10 7 7 — 38

Scoring
SF — Steven David, 42 interception return (Drew Stark kick)
A — Gerett Choat, 10 run (Eric Sumislawski kick)
A — Chaot, 2 run (Sumislawski kick)
A — Choat, 14 run (Sumislawski kick)
SF — Lamar Carswell, 2 run (Stark kick)
A — FG Sumislawski 37
A — Braeden Friss, 5 pass from Tommy Glenn (Sumislawski kick)
A — Choat, 1 run (Sumislawski kick)

Team statistics
SF A
First downs 13 19
— by rushing 2 6
— by passing 9 10
— by penalty 2 3
Yards rushing 82 187
Yards passing 157 147
Total offense 239 334
Passes att./comp. 29/18 24/18
Intercepted by 1 1
Fumbles/lost 2/2 1/1
Penalties/yards 12/91 7/68

Individual statistics
RUSHING — (SF) David Nees 18-45, Lamar Carswell 11-44, Steven David 1-1, Tyler Thebes 1-(-3), Keontae Johnson 2-(-5). (A) Braeden Friss 1-6, Tommy Glenn 2-9, Gerett Choat 19-149, Tyler Vaccarella 3-1, Jake Sopko 1-(-8), Isiah Pinto 5-22, Antonio Orr 1-8.
PASSING — (SF) Nees 18-29-157-0-1. (A) Glenn 16-22-130-1-1, Sopko 2-2-17-0-0, Zack Torbert 0-1-0-0-0.
RECEIVING — (SF) Andrew Bonfiglo 11-102, Thebes 4-41, Keaton Isaacson 3-14. (A) Friss 7-71, Choat 3-13, Dan Durrin 3-30, Michael Stuckart 1-4, Paul Duesler 1-12, Torbert 1-9, Chris Maxwell 2-8.