BRUNSWICK — Time ran out on Avon’s bid to make the Division II final four Friday night as the Eagles fell 24-21 to Highland at Brunswick Auto Mart Stadium.
“I’m disappointed in the outcome but I’m not disappointed with my kids and their effort,” Avon coach Mike Elder said. “Our kids played their hearts out. They have all year. They’re a resilient bunch.”
Avon’s season ended 40 yards away from a possible win as the Eagles frantically tried to score in the final 40 seconds after the defense stopped Highland’s attempt to run out the clock inside the 30-yard line.
It was Highland’s ability to control the ball and the clock that spelled doom for Avon. The Hornets set the tone with an opening eight-play, 60-yard drive to go ahead 7-0 with 9:02 left in the first quarter.
Highland, 13-0 and the region’s top seed, had two other long, methodical and effective drives but it was the quick strike right before halftime that really hurt the Eagles and put them down 14-7.
Second-seeded Avon (12-1) had tied the game when Gerett Choat slid past Highland’s defense for a 5-yard score with 1:53 left in the half. The Eagles took 10 plays and went 89 yards to score. Eric Sumislawski’s kick had tied it.
Avon got possession to start the second half but the Hornets had other ideas. Bruce Kinsey, whose deft ballhandling and quarterback keepers kept the Eagles defense on their heels all night, lofted a pass down the sideline to Cory Moncal for a 44-yard touchdown with 1:02 left.
“The big play was that fade down the sidelines,” Highland coach Tom Lombardo said. “(Kinsey) checked off to that. It was a big play. He’s a very intelligent player and decision maker.”
Try as they might, the Eagles never could wrest the lead away from the Hornets in spite of two touchdown passes by sophomore Jake Sopko in the second half.
Sopko and senior Tommy Glenn have shared the QB duties all year, but it was Sopko who came in to ignite Avon’s offense. He hit on six straight passes to key the drive capped by Choat’s run and he threw TD passes to Zack Torbert and Braeden Friss that tied the
game at 21 with 1:36 left in the third quarter.
“He did a nice job,” Elder said of Sopko. “He came in and made some plays. He had a good game.”
However, the Hornets scored on drives of 17 and 16 plays — the last one setting up a 20-yard field goal by Luke Allen that spelled the difference. Highland converted 10 of 15 third-down plays and both of its fourth-and-short situations.
“(Avon) executes very well and they gave us some problems,” Lombardo said. “We had that first drive and that 17-play drive that were really, really good drives for us.”
“Coach says we need to win money downs,” senior tackle Myles Houska said. “Every time we face a third down, we know we need to run.”
“We need to be able to trust our linemen in those situations,” Kinsey said. “I trust them wholeheartedly.”
Highland stopped Avon on a fourth-and-4 play from Avon’s 29-yard line with 1:10 left but couldn’t run the clock out, giving the Eagles one last gasp. Two Sopko passes to Dan Durrin moved the ball into Highland territory but the clock ran out and the officials ran off without giving Avon one last chance.
“We made some mistakes down here when we could have sealed it,” Lombardo said. “It was a great football game. It’s unfortunate that one of us had to lose.”
“We had some chances,” Elder said. “The defense gave us the ball back. They stopped them and made them kick a field goal. Then we had to punt and they got it back for us with plenty of time left on the clock.
“It was two evenly matched teams. If we play this team 10 times, I think we win five and they win five.”
Highland, which advances to its first final four, faces Glenville next Friday at a site to be determined.
“Avon’s a special place,” Elder. “It’s sad the season’s over.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highland 24, Avon 21
Avon 0 7 14 0 — 21
Highland 7 7 7 3 — 24
H—Nick Corvo, 1 run (Luke Allen kick)
A—Gerett Choat 5 run (Eric Sumislawski kick)
H—Cory Moncol, 44 pass from Bruce Kinsey (Allen kick)
A—Zack Torbert, 53 pass from Jake Sopko (Sumislawski kick)
H—Bruce Kinsey, 6 run (Allen kick)
A—Braeden Friss, 38 pass from Sopko (Sumislawski kick)
H—Allen, 20 FG
First downs 17 18
—by rushing 6 13
—by passing 10 4
—by penalty 1 1
Yards rushing 79 225
Yards passing 314 139
Total offense 393 364
Passes att/comp 32/18 14/9
Intercepted by 0 0
Fumbles/lost 0/0 1/1
Penalties/yards 8/64 7/48
RUSHING—(A) Braeden Friss 1-1, Gerett Choat 14-64, Tommy Glenn 2-0, Zack Torbert 1-2, Jake Sopko 1-(-9), Isiah Pinto 2-21. (H) Alex Harris 29-158, Bruce Kinsey 21-68 Nick Corvo 1-1.
PASSING—(A) Glenn 7-12-90-0-0, Sopko 11-20-224-2-0. (H) Kinsey 9-14-139-TD-INT.
RECEIVING—(A) Paul Duesler 2-14, Choat 5-29, Friss 4-146, Chris Maxwell 1-6, Dan Durrin 5-66, Zack Torbert
1-53. (H) Coltin Kinsey 4-19, Cory Moncol 4-108, Harris 1-12.