Story by Jim Horvath
Photos by Jimmy Davis Photography
In decisive wins against Avon Lake and East Tech, the Avon Eagles build substantial early leads and were never threatened. But in a Thursday night roadie to Twinsburg, the hometown Tigers gave their guests all they could handle.
The Eagles, however, proved worthy of the challenge.
The Avon defense bent, but didn't break, while the Eagles' offense hit on some big-play passes from quarterbacks Tommy Glenn and Jake Sopko. That combination allowed Avon to return home to Lorain County with a 24-7 win and remain unbeaten at 3-0 on the season.
"We had not been challenged yet, so it was nice tonight that our kids had to face some adversity and overcome it tonight," said Avon head coach Mike Elder after the game.
"Twinsburg is a very physical football team, so we had to stand in there against that," he said. "I think this game will help us grow up. We'll get to watch a lot of film and really identify the areas we need to get better in. Twinsburg exposed those a bit tonight, so my hats off to them.
"They play exceptionally hard, they're physical kids and we're glad to get out of here with a win," he said.
Avon hit on a 39-yard pass play from Glenn to fellow senior Jaeden Friss on the second play of the game, giving the Eagles the ball at the Twinsburg 30-yard line. Six plays later, Glenn hit another senior target, Rhys Ratino, in the right flat for a 7-yard scoring play with just 2:29 gone off the first quarter clock.
Twinsburg responded with a drive of its own, using a stable of quick running backs and quarterback Mike Peelman. But at the Eagle 29-yard line, Zack Tolbert picked off a Peelman pass to end the threat.
In fact, Tolbert ran the ball all the way back to the Tigers' 21. The Eagles failed to move the ball, but cashed in with a 36-yard field goal from junior kicker Eric Sumislawski to make it 10-0 Avon with 6:02 left in the first quarter.
After Vince Gargano drilled the ensuing kickoff into the end zone, Twinsburg took over from its own 20 and went to work.
The Tigers went on an 18-play, 80-yard drive that concluded with a 5-yard scoring run from senior tailback Cameron Dial. Jake Krieger tacked on the conversion kick, and Twinsburg was right back in the game at 10-7 with 9:14 left in the half.
Avon's offense had a three-and-out and another drive stall on an interception from Tiger senior Darlene Eiland, who appeared to return it for a touchdown. A clipping call, however, negated the score and put the Tigers at the Avon 38-yard line.
That's when the Eagle defense stepped up again. Avon put a big hit on junior running back Noah Edwards, causing a fumble at the 23. Senior linebacker Kevin Maloney fell on the loose pigskin at the 21, allowing the visitors to hold off a potential go-ahead score by the Tigers.
Despite picking off another Peelman pass, Avon continued to have trouble moving the ball. But the defense continued to hold, stopping Twinsburg on its first drive of the second half. A big hit by Jacob Steinmetz forced the Tigers to turn the ball over on downs at the Eagle 46.
On the very next play, Glenn dropped back and hit a wide-open Chris Maxwell over the middle for a 54-yard scoring play. The conversion kick was blocked, but Avon had a bigger cushion at 16-7 with 7:42 left in the third quarter.
Avon's defense continued to exert pressure on Peleman and the Tigers, blanking them the rest of the way.
"Our defense did a great job. They gave up yards, but they didn't give up points," Elder said. "When we're clicking and we're moving, our offense is great.
"But when you're not and you're going three and out, you put your defense in a bind. So I thought our defense played exceptionally well for the situations we put them in. We certainly kept them out of the end zone, and that's the name of the game."
Glenn, the Eagles' senior starter, completed 10 of 24 night for 182 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Sopko came off the bench and completed three of six aerials for 50 yards and a touchdown in his two series. That score came with 10:52 left in the game on a 9-yarder to Ratino.
"They go 2-1 in their series, so this was nothing new for them," Elder explained. "We think we have two good quarterbacks. Tommy won the job and he's a senior, so he deserves more reps right now.
"But Jake did nothing to take reps away from him. We've done this before in the past, and we're comfortable with it. It works for us," he added.
Elder tipped his cap to a still-winless Twinsburg squad that played better than the final score indicated.
"When you watch them on film against their first two opponents, they did the same thing," Elder said of the Tigers' two losses to Aurora and Nordonia. "And those are two really good football teams.
"The difference is they turned the ball a little bit more, and that's why they're losing football games. We had some take-aways tonight. But if that team starts taking care of the ball, they're going to be hard to beat. That's a talented team.
"We knew going in that if they didn't put the ball on the ground or throw interceptions, we would have our hands full," he said.
(You can follow Jimmy Davis on Twitter @JimmyDPhotos. Follow our website @BeAFanatic)