Avon Eagles power past Elyria Catholic Panthers

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Avon’s Ralph Smith, left, turns the corner on his way to a touchdown against Elyria Catholic on Friday night.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Avon's Kevin Maloney, left, hits Elyria Catholic's Jacob Moore just as he catches the ball in the second quarter on Friday.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Elyria Catholic’s Conner Riddell throws the ball down field late in the second quarter on Friday.

MORNING JUORNAL/JIM BOBEL Elyria Catholic’s Conner Riddell, center, wraps both arms around the ball as he heads toward Avon’s Cory Ohradzansky, left, and Ryan Steinmetz in the second quarter on Friday.

ELYRIA — When Avon coach Mike Elder said he wanted his team to jump out to an early lead, he didn’t think it would happen so soon.

Neither did Elyria Catholic, who watched as Antonio Orr took the opening kick 90 yards to the house in 13 seconds.

The play set the tempo for the game, which the Eagles controlled much of in their 45-14 thrashing of the Panthers on Friday night at Elyria Catholic High School.

“Controlling the game is what you want to do,” Avon coach Mike Elder said. “Jumping out to an early lead was important.”

The quick score was just the first of four touchdowns in a span of 7:48 between both teams in what was a wild first quarter.

On Elyria Catholic’s first play on the ensuing drive, Connor Riddell completed an 8-yard pass to Joshua Pierce, but Pierce fumbled and defensive lineman Dominic Bodnar recovered on the Eagles’ 42-yard line.

Eight plays later, Avon (5-1, 3-0) extended its lead to 14-0 when David Zeh connected with Ralph Smith for a 1-yard TD with 7:58 left in the first.

The Panthers (3-3, 1-2) responded when Justin Taylor raced down the field for an 85-yard score on the first play of the drive to pull within a touchdown.

The Eagles responded on their first play as well on an 86-yard throw-and-catch from Zeh to Rhys Ratino to make it 21-7.

After forcing Avon to punt on its next drive, Elyria Catholic again pulled to within a touchdown when Taylor capped off an eight-play drive with an 18-yard TD run to begin the second quarter.

Taylor rushed for 100 yards on his first four carries and totaled 148 yards in the first half.

“We’ve got tough kids and we’re a tough program, but they’re a heck of a team,” Elyria Catholic coach Mike Polevacik said.

He wasn’t kidding.

The Eagles again made it a two-score game when Zeh connected with Kevin Stotko for a 13-yard hookup.

Both offenses went stagnant for the remainder of the first half, combining to punt five times as Avon took a 28-14 lead into the break.

“Without that kickoff return it’s a one score game, so we were in a football game,” Elder said. “Our kids felt it and EC should be proud of its kids because they played extremely hard.”

Defense played the role of helper for the Eagles in the second half, causing the Panthers’ offense to sputter.

Five of Elyria Catholic’s six offensive possessions in the second half resulted in punts.

In fact, Taylor’s 18-yard scoring run with 11:28 left in the first half began a span of eight consecutive punts.

“We didn’t play great defense in the first half, but that was the main focus at halftime,” Ralph Smith said. “We came out, set the defense up and the offense came through.”

A lot of the Eagles’ success on offense was due in large part to Smith, who made a nice leaping catch in the back of the end zone on a perfectly thrown ball from Zeh.

“It was a post and I beat the corner in side, David Zeh threw the ball deep and I came down with it,” Smith said.

The 29-yard connection put gave Avon a 38-14 lead, but both Zeh and Smith were just getting warmed up.

Zeh found Smith again in midway through the fourth quarter, this time for 59 yards as the play helped setup Ross Douglas for a 13-yard score.

Smith finished with five catches for 112 yards and two scores. Zeh had one of his best games of the season, completing 10 of 19 passes for 296 yards and four TDs.

Up next for Avon is a showdown at home next week against Midview, a game Elder didn’t want to look too far ahead at and to make sure not to overlook the Panthers.

“We try to prepare the same every week, but it’s hard to tell your kids not to look ahead to a great team like Midview,” Elder said. “I thought our kids were focused and did a great job. Thank god we didn’t overlook it because EC’s got players that will beat you if you do.”

Avon 45, Elyria Catholic 14

West Shore Conference

Avon (5-1, 3-0) 21 7 10 7 — 45

Elyria Catholic (3-3, 1-2) 7 7 0 0 — 14

Scoring

A — Antonio Orr 90 kick return (Eric Sumislawski kick)

A — Ralph Smith 1 pass from David Zeh (Sumislawski kick)

EC — Justin Taylor 85 run (Jacob Moore kick)

A — Rhys Ratino 86 pass from Zeh (Sumislawski kick)

EC — Taylor 18 run (Moore kick)

A — Kevin Skotko 13 pass from Zeh (Sumislawski kick)

A — Sumislawski 35 FG

A — Smith 29 pass from Zeh (Sumislawski kick)

A — Ross Douglas 13 run (Sumislawski kick)

Statistics

First Downs — A 13, EC 13.

Yards Rushing — A 51 (Douglas 51), EC 186 (Taylor 155).

Yards Passing — A 296 (Smith 112), EC 76 (Joshua Pierce 33).

Passes Att-Comp-Int — A 19-10-1, EC 26-15-0.

Fumbles-Lost — A 1-0, EC 3-2.

Penalties-Yards — A 9, EC 9.

@PaulBarney18

Last Updated: 9/29/2012 12:56:26 PM EST

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