Story by John Blake
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Winning or losing the turnover battle in football goes a long way in determining the outcome of games.
Friday night in Avon Lake, the Shoremen's turnover troubles plagued them drastically as they lost a pivotal Southwestern Conference matchup with visiting Brecksville, 24-14, at Memorial Stadium.
It was the fourth straight win for the Bees, who improved to 6-1 overall. They also now stand alone in first place in the SWC at 4-0.
"It's a great feeling," said Brecksville head coach Jason Black. "To play meaningful games in October, those are very fun to have. I don't know how to put it into words yet, but it's a great experience for them."
Avon Lake's five-game winning streak came to an end as the Shoremen, now 5-2 overall, were tagged with their first conference loss of the season.
"I don't want to take anything away from Brecksville. They executed, we didn't," said Avon Lake head coach Larry Laird, whose club turned the ball over three times on the night.
"We have aspirations of going to the playoffs, and we're a playoff-caliber football team," he said. "We played them even minus the turnovers, and that's a playoff football team. Those were two quality football programs tonight, two quality quarterbacks going at it and they came out on top."
The Shoremen struck first late in the opening quarter with a 69-yard touchdown down the sideline from quarterback David Winkel to Max Seipel. They had the lead and promptly forced a three-and-out on defense when the tide started to turn.
A muffed punt return, safety and fumble - all within the next five minutes of play - gave the visiting Bees all the momentum they needed.
Not only did it take the lead, Brecksville scored the game's next 24 points, capped off by Austin Strnad's 15-yard touchdown catch from Timmy Tupa. The score at the 8:25 mark of the fourth quarter essentially put the game away at 24-7.
"It happens," Laird said of the turnovers. "They're 17-year old kids, that's why we coach high school football. Our kids work hard every day. It hurts right now but like I told them, that's why sports and athletics are so important in this country.
"Sometimes life kicks you in the teeth and it's all a matter of how you respond," he said.
Led by Jay Rose, the Brecksville defense was outstanding after the opening quarter. Rose sacked Winkel in the end zone to put the Bees on the board at 7-2 with just over nine minutes to play in the first half.
Just four plays later following the free kick, Tupa connected with brother Tyler Tupa on a 23-yarder in the corner of the end zone. A Tupa-to-Tupa two-point conversion then gave the Bees a 10-7 advantage. For the game, Tyler Tupa led the Bees with seven catches for 85 yards.
The senior quarterback then scored with his legs on a 14-yard scamper with 3:21 to go in the half.
Down two possessions early in the third quarter, the Shoremen needed some quick luck. They got just what they needed with a 14-play drive which covered nearly the entire field and took almost seven minutes off the clock.
The only problem was, the final play resulted in an interception by Brecksville defensive back Dan Shirilla in the red zone.
"I saw our defense step up and show a lot of the resolve they've had all year," Black said. "There's a reason why we give up eight points a game, and that's because they have grit and determination. Our defense was able to show that and get a stop.
"Having a sophomore come in and get a pick in a big game like that, that's something that's pretty special if you ask me," he said.
Carrying the load offensively for the Bees was Timmy Tupa. There wasn't much room for running back Carlo Milano to work all night long, so Black put the ball in the hands of his best player.
Of the first 19 second half plays leading up to Strnad's touchdown, all but one were Tupa throws or runs. He finished 17-of-25 for 174 yards and ran it 17 more times for 51 yards.
"He's the best athlete on the football field and he deserves to get the ball," Black said. "He makes special things happen with it when he gets it, and it's fun to watch."
Avon Lake put together a late surge, but it was too little, too late. Seipel, who had a team-high five catches for 147 yards, caught his second touchdown pass of the night with 1:47 left in the fourth for the Shoremen's final score. Winkel finished 15-for-29 for 250 yards.
"I thought that we had the momentum in the first quarter," said Laird. "I thought we controlled the football. We were doing what we wanted to do and playing Shoremen football, and then the wheels kind of fell off on us there in the middle of the second quarter."
It was Brecksville's first victory in Avon Lake since the 2005 season. Now the Bees face non-conference foe Lakewood (1-6), Berea-Midpark (2-5) and Westlake (4-3) down the stretch.
"To be honest with you, we treat every game like it's 10 percent of our season. This is just another 10 percent," Black said. "It happened to be a little more meaningful, but it's no different.
"The fact of the matter is, tomorrow once we watch the film we gotta get ready to play Lakewood. We're not stopping for anything. We're continuing on so we got to go back this win up with a couple more wins."
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