Avon Lake Shoremen face tall task vs. Toledo Whitmer Panthers

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Avon Lake’s David Winkel, right, leads the Shoremen against Toledo Whitmer.

The postseason is nothing new to Avon Lake, as the Shoremen clinched a playoff spot this year for the 13th time since 1998 and their 17th in school history.

The level of competition, however, is new as the 8-2 Shoremen are in the Division I playoffs for the first time in school history. Their first postseason test in Division I is against the undefeated Toledo Whitmer Panthers, who have won the Region 2 Championship each of the last two seasons.

Avon Lake coach Dave Dlugosz, who won his 200th game last week against Amherst, knows his team will be ready for the playoff atmosphere on Saturday night when the Shoremen head west.

“The intensity level kicks up, obviously the level of competition kicks up, but that’s what you play for,” Dlugosz said. “Even as good as Toledo Whitmer is, they’re still 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids just like ours. Our kids have a tendency to step up when they have an opportunity and when they’re faced with a challenge. We’re really excited to see how we accept that challenge.”

The big challenge for the Shoremen is two-fold: slow down dual-threat quarterback Nick Holley and break through the Panthers’ stout defense.

Holley, a senior, is the team leader in both rushing and passing yards, throwing for 1,084 yards and 19 touchdowns, and rushing for 1,422 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was not named the starting quarterback until late in the summer, but has certainly impressed Whitmer first-year head coach Jerry Bell.

“It took him a little while to get to where he’s at,” Bell said. “He continues to make the right reads. He continues to excel on the field. But the thing about him is he’s extremely humble. He just goes about his business, competes very hard in practice and he’s a great leader in the locker room.”

As good as Holley and the Panthers’ offense has been, their defense is no slouch either. Whitmer has only allowed two teams to score in double digits and has intercepted 19 passes this season.

“We’re fortunate enough to have a really good defense,” Bell said. “Our defense has been the heart and soul of our football team all year. They’ve made — if you base everything on score — our offense better.”

Avon Lake will try to counter the Whitmer defense with its balanced offensive attack.

In addition to its effective running game led by Wyatt Ohm and Collin Lucas, Avon Lake features an efficient passing attack powered by their combination of junior quarterback David Winkel and senior receiver Jimmy Hessel. The duo has combined for half of Winkel’s 22 touchdowns and Hessel is averaging 16.8 yards per catch.

“We’re most difficult to defend when we’re balanced,” Dlugosz said. “When we’ve been at our best, we have a solid running game with a solid passing game. When you look at our state championship year (2002) or state finalist year (2003), that’s the way that we were. So we’re fortunate to have some good receivers plus one outstanding receiver in Jimmy Hessel.”

Hessel also makes a big impact on defense, leading the Shoremen in interceptions with nine.



@Bielik_Tim

Last Updated: 11/2/2012 8:30:05 PM EST

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