Story by Matt Lofgren
Photos by David Richard
Video by Rob Trautman
Coming into this season, Avon head football coach Mike Elder had some question marks about his new offense after graduating a majority of his players last season.
Thursday night at home in front of a packed house and Fox Sports Ohio's cameras, Elder's questions were answered. A host of Eagles combined for 480 yards of total offense in an impressive 41-10 victory over cross-town rival Avon Lake in the 2013 high school football season opener.
Putting forth a performance for the ages, senior Tommy Glenn refused to be outdone in his first start. He racked up 329 yards through the air on 15-19 passing and four touchdowns.
"We had some question marks coming in since we only had three guys back on offense," Elder said. "Our defense, we thought, could be strong and stout. Avon Lake is very big and physical, and they've done a great job through their scrimmages."
Glenn's performance was so impressive that even when asked if the night could have gone better, all he could say was "maybe another touchdown pass would have been nice," he joked.
Collecting his first of four touchdowns on his team's second drive, Glenn got the Eagles on the board in the first quarter. He connected on a picture perfect throw to the side of the end zone to teammate Braeden Friss, who dove to make the grab.
After the touchdown drive and a strong defensive stand to force an Avon Lake punt, the Eagles' offense turned into the Gerett Choat show. The sophomore burst onto the scene with his first varsity touchdown from three yards out.
On their next possession, the Shoremen were again shutdown by the physical Avon defense, which was in Avon Lake quarterback David Winkel's face all night long. A quick three-and-out by the Shoremen defense paved the way for Glenn and Choat to turn the heat up.
Stumbling behind for a third and 18 after getting an intentional grounding penalty, Glenn recovered a play later with a screen that found Choat with some running room. Collecting the ball at his own 38-yard line, Choat danced, stuttered, sped and bulldozed his way to a 72-yard touchdown pass to electrify the stadium.
Choat's performance didn't surprise Elder, who said sophomores like Choat don't come around everyday.
"What are you supposed to do? You can't preach about sophomores and tell you how wonderful they are. He's still a sophomore! We're not going to be nice to that kid yet," Elder joked.
"I've got three running backs, and tonight it was Choat's show. But what's great about this team is they are unselfish, and every week it could be a different guy stepping up," he added,
Choat finished his day with 95 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. He also had 93 yards through the air to give him an impressive total of 192 yards of total offense.
Although the final score wasn't close, there was almost a big shift in the game right after halftime. Coming out of the break, the Shoremen tore up the turf for an eight-play touchdown drive that covered 57 yards. That drive was capped off by a brilliantly-thrown 24-yard touchdown by Winkel to Matt Gottshall on third and 20, That touchdown pulled Avon Lake closer at 27-10.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Shoremen were able to jar the ball loose from an Avon back and recover the ball at the Eagles' 24 yard line.
"We talk about adversity, and that was a big piece of adversity there,”Elder said. “They got it to 27-10, we fumble, all of the momentum - and you can feel momentum in a high school football game - we all know that...it was all on their sideline.”
But even with all of the momentum, Avon Lake could not capitalize on the turnover and field position, Ultimately, the Shoremen would miss a 29 yard field goal.
"It challenged our kids. The defense came up with a huge stop, and then the missed field goal. When they missed, all the momentum went to our sidelines, and we go on a long drive and put the game away," Elder said.
The drive after the missed field goal was a drawn out 12 play drive that was topped off with a touchdown when Glenn found Friss in the end zone for a second time.
While the Eagles took a lot away from their starters, Elder and the coaching staff also got a nice look at backup quarterback Jake Sopko. Sopko was handled the ball in the second quarter and led the Eagles on a 60-yard touchdown drive in which the sophomore was 3-5 passing for 19 yards.
Caught off guard by the play of the young Eagles squad, Avon Lake head coach Larry Laird said his team will not be in this position again.
"They executed, and we did not down the stretch," Laird said. "They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. That was something we were not expecting, and I guarantee you it will not happen again."
With Avon Lake's move back to Division II, the Shoremen and Eagles are now not only in the same division, but the same region for the OHSAA playoffs. With a chance of meeting in the post season, Elder said he knows Avon Lake will not be the same team at the end of the season as they were in Week One.
"I've got tremendous respect for Avon Lake, I'm going to tell you something, they've got great coaches and great players. That team will bounce back," Elder said. "We're in the same region now, hopefully we can get ourselves into a conference championship situation and get back to the playoffs.
“I'd love to play them again. If we did, I promise you it won't be 41-10. It will be a knock-down, drag out game because that's a good team in that locker room."
To view David Richard's photos of this game, click here: David Richard Photography
(You can follow Matt Lofgren on Twitter @MLofgrenDKS)
(You can follow Rob Trautman on Twitter @RRTProductions)
(You can follow David Richard on Twitter @DavidRichardPix)