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Avon football team advances to regional final

O'Rourke and big plays just seem to go together

Show your support for the Avon Eagles

Avon lands seven on All-Ohio football list

SPORTS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 11-9-08, by Shaun Bennett

``HURON -- The Avon fans have found themselves in uncharted territory the last two weeks. After weeks of comfortably watching a string of blowout victories, they've been on the edge of their seats as the Eagles have squeaked out a pair of playoff wins -- including Saturday night's [11-8-08] 13-6 nail-biter over Tiffin Columbian in the Division III regional semifinals at Kalahari Field at Huron Memorial Stadium.

The other new experience for the Eagles faithful is the emergence of the Avon defense as the heroes of those victories. The Avon offense put up more than 43 points a game during the regular season but has been held in check during the first two postseason games.

"All season long everyone talked about our defense and their weaknesses and how that was going to be our problem when we got into the playoffs," Avon coach Mike Elder said. "In the playoffs I always say, 'Defense wins championships, offense sells tickets.' We sold a lot of tickets during the year but right now our defense is going to help us win a championship."

Tiffin Columbian (9-3) struck first as sophomore tailback Phil Chavez broke through a hole in the middle of the line and sprinted 26 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter. The Tornadoes missed the extra point when a bad snap caused Derek Kneeskem to kick the ball into the line. The miss was a precursor to a pair of flubbed field goals by Kneeskem later in the first half. He missed wide left from 34 yards early in the second quarter, then missed wide right from 32 yards as time expired.

Avon (12-0) roared back after the Tornadoes score, as senior quarterback Ryan O'Rourke connected with senior wide receiver Garrett Gronowski for a 12-yard touchdown for a 7-6 lead, and hit junior fullback Zak Wearsch for an 8-yard score before the Eagles missed an extra point of their own.

"We moved the ball in key situations where we needed to keep their offense off the field," O'Rourke said. "We were able to give our defense a breather, and that was huge."

Avon's defense would need that extra energy late in the game as Tiffin Columbian put together an 18-play drive that ate up nearly a full quarter of the game. The Tornadoes used short runs and passes by senior quarterback Ethan Kagy to move their way down the field, until they were eventually facing a first-and-10 from the Avon 12-yard line.

But a tackle-for-loss by Avon linebacker Bryent Robertson and Eagles defensive back Patrick Furnas tripping up Kagy on a run to the right side set up a fourth-and-3 from the 5. Tornadoes backup quarterback Brett Hossler threw his only pass attempt of the game, and the ball fell harmlessly to the ground in the end zone.

"We just dropped it," Tornadoes coach Steve Gilbert said. "The play was right there, (the fullback) slipped right behind the linebacker and we had everything we wanted. He just dropped the ball. It comes down to you have to make the play."

The Eagles, in what has now become typical fashion, held strong down the stretch and wound out the clock to preserve the victory. "Nothing in the playoffs is going to come easy," O'Rourke said. "These are great teams every week. Each week is going to get tougher. We need to focus on each week and stay prepared."

Actually, the regional championship game on paper should be an easier test than the semifinal against Tiffin Columbian. Avon is Region 10's top seed while next week's opponent Sunbury Big Walnut, which came away with a 17-12 win over St. Mary's Memorial, is the region's No. 7 seed.

For now, the Eagles will just be happy with another hard-fought playoff victory. "We've worked so hard for this," O'Rourke said. "It's great for Avon and great for our team."

SCORING SUMMARY

FIRST QUARTER

TIFFIN 6, AVON 0. Phil Chavez 26 run (kick failed) 1:07. DRIVE: 6 plays, 69 yards. TIME OF POSSESSION: 1:55. KEY PLAYS: 12- and 21-yard passes from Ethan Kagy to Tony Hoover to Avon 33-yard line.

SECOND QUARTER

AVON 7, TIFFIN COLUMBIAN 6. Garrett Gronowski 12 pass from Ryan O'Rourke (Ryan Galik kick) 6:12. DRIVE: 7 plays, 80 yards. TIME OF POSSESSION: 2:36. KEY PLAYS: Tiffin 34-yard FG attempt wide left to start drive. O'Rourke hits Brett Jensen in stride for 61-yard pass play to Tiffin Columbian 15.

AVON 13, TIFFIN COLUMBIAN 6. Zac Wearsch 8 pass from O'Rourke (kick blocked) 3:52. DRIVE: 3 plays, 31 yards. TIME OF POSSESSION: 0:38. KEY PLAY: Matt Logan intercepts Kagy pass and returns it 19 yards to Tiffin Columbian 31.

Avon 13, Tiffin Columbian 6

Tiffin Columbian 6 0 0 0 - 6

Avon . . . . . . 0 13 0 0 - 13

Scoring

Tiffin Columbian -- Phil Chavez, 26 run (kick failed)

Avon -- Garrett Gronowski, 12 pass from Ryan O'Rourke (Ryan Galik kick)

Avon -- Zak Wearsch, 8 pass from O'Rourke (kick failed)

Team statistics

Tiffin Columbian Avon

First downs 13 13

" by rushing 8 7

" by passing 5 6

" by penalty 0 0

Yards rushing 200 114

Yards passing 74 174

Total offense 274 288

Passes att./comp. 22/8 23/12

Intercepted by 0 2

Fumbles/lost 1/0 0/0

Penalties/yards 2/16 8/50

Individual statistics

RUSHING -- (Tiffin Columbian) Ethan Kagy 20-112, Phil Chavez 10-66, Phil Tran 6-18, Brandon Stephens 2-2, Brett Hossler 1-2, Derek Kneeskem 1-0. (Avon) Marquis Harrell 16-97, Zak Wearsch 4-12, Garrett Gronowski 3-8, Alex Tabar 2-5, Ryan O'Rourke 5-(-8).

PASSING -- (Tiffin Columbian) Kagy 8-21-74-0-2, Hossler 0-1-0-0-0. (Avon) O'Rourke 11-21-170-2-0, Gronowski 1-1-4-0-0, Harrell 0-1-0-0-0.

RECEIVING -- (Tiffin Columbian) Tony Hoover 3-37, Kneeskem 2-20, Stephens 2-12, Chavez 1-5. (Avon) Gronowski 4-80, Brett Jensen 3-68, Harrell 2-12, Wearsch 2-10, Vic Jenkins 1-4.''

Contact Shaun Bennett at sbennett@chroniclet.com.

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SPORTS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 11-9-08, by Shaun Bennett and Tim Gebhardt

``Avon notes: O'Rourke and big plays just seem to go together

HURON -- Twice during the second half, Avon shot itself in the foot by taking penalties that set up big deficits, and twice senior quarterback Ryan O'Rourke found a way to convert those downs and keep drives alive.

A holding penalty erased a 33-yard pass from O'Rourke to senior running back Alex Tabar and gave the Eagles a third-and-23 from their own 10-yard line midway through the third quarter. Tiffin Columbian blitzed on the left side and O'Rourke sent a long pass over the defenders to senior wide receiver Garrett Gronowski, who turned up field and ran for a 34-yard gain and a first down.

On the next drive, another holding call gave the Eagles a second-and-23 from their own 9, and O'Rourke again found Gronowski for a 28-yard gain and a first down.

"I know Larry Kehres at Mount Union College used to yell at us linemen and say, 'You got a play for third-down-and-60'" Avon coach Mike Elder said. "One of the linemen answered him one time and it wasn't a pretty sight. We have playmakers, and they stepped up and made plays."

Avon wanted to play conservatively on their opening drive of the game, but the Tornadoes wouldn't let them. The drive had seemingly stalled on the Eagles' 44-yard line, and Gronowski lined up to punt on fourth-and-1.

Then Tiffin Columbian called a timeout. "They called that timeout and we were going to send our punt team on the field," Elder said. "Then we go out and we saw they were in punt."

So Elder decided to go for it instead. "I was a little upset that they didn't spot the ball quicker because then it'd be a no-brainer," he said. "They did get their defense up but we got the yard. It was kind of a gamble, and if it works than I'm a genius and if it doesn't I'm the dumbest guy in the stadium."

Avon athletic director Erich Frombach gave Kalahari Field at Huron's Memorial Stadium a familiar look for the Eagles. The goal posts had the purple Eagle pads applied to them. Frombach happily carried one of the pads off the field at the conclusion of Avon's 13-6 playoff win.

No. 1 gone

Avon finished the season as the second-ranked team in the state in Division III. The top-ranked team -- Thornville Sheridan -- was knocked out Saturday by Columbus Eastmoor, 28-6.

Deserted town!

There couldn't have been many folks left behind Saturday night. The Eagle side at Huron was packed full of Avon faithful.''

Contact Shaun Bennett at sbennett@chroniclet.com.

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 11-14-08, by The Chronicle-Telegram Staff

``Show your support for the Avon Eagles

AVON -- Fans are invited to help send off the 2008 Avon Eagles football team Saturday afternoon [11-15-08] as players head to the regional finals in Ashland.

Avon school officials are asking the community to line the streets near the middle school, where the high school team's bus will leave at 4 p.m. Everyone is invited to park at the middle school and stand along the walkway to Stoney Ridge Road.

The bus will turn onto Kinzel Road on its way to Ashland Community Stadium for the game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Sunbury Big Walnut.''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 11-25-08, by Shaun Bennett

``All-Ohio football: Avon lands seven on list, including three first-teamers ...

A successful team needs solid players and no area team was more successful that the Avon Eagles this season. Just nine days after their regional championship appearance, the Eagles placed seven players on the All-Ohio Division II list -- including three first-team selections, the most by a Lorain County team since Elyria Catholic had four in 2005.

Leading the way was senior quarterback Ryan O'Rourke, who threw for 1,978 yards, 30 touchdowns and no interceptions during Avon's unblemished 10-0 regular season. Joining him was senior linebacker Alex Tabar and senior free safety Garrett Gronowski.

Also earning All-Ohio first-team selections were Amherst's Cody Wenrich and Admiral King's Chris Kimbro in Division I, and Avon Lake's Adam Schneid and Berea's Derrick Paster in Division II.

All-Ohio selections in Divisions IV, V and VI will be released today. "I think it's a good reflection on how good our team really was," said O'Rourke, who was the Northeast Lakes District Offensive Player of the Year. "Garrett plays on offense, too, so that could have gone either way for him. It's definitely great to have seven players on the All-Ohio list."

The fact Gronowski was tabbed for his defensive showing -- giving Avon two first-teamers on defense and one on offense -- was ironic because the Eagles were known for their explosive offense throughout the season. "I think our defense was overlooked because of the outrageous numbers our offense was putting up," Gronowski said of the 43.5 points per game the Eagles averaged during the regular season. "We really showed people that we were a hard-hitting, fast defense throughout the year, and it paid off."

Gronoswski, who has already been offered a Division I scholarship to the Air Force, had 64 tackles, three forced fumbles and an interception in the secondary. Tabar led the team with 78 tackles, eight tackles for loss, five sacks and four forced fumbles. "Those two guys definitely deserve this honor," O'Rourke said. "That's pretty special to have three first-teamers. I think we could have swapped a couple other players in and nobody would have been surprised to see them on that list." ...

Division III

First Team

OFFENSE

Ends -- Cory Matlick, Dover, 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, senior; Ted Bolser, Cin. Indian Hill, 6-6, 220, sr.; Trevor Smith, Bellevue, 6-0, 180, sr.; Adam Black, Circleville Logan Elm, 6-1, 147, jr.; Justin Chappel, Hunting Val. Univ. School, 5-11, 190, sr.; Jerald Robinson, Canton S., 6-2, 175, jr.

Linemen -- Adam Bellamy, Aurora, 6-4, 285, sr.; Jake Brandt, Cols. Bexley, 6-6, 240, sr.; Zach Vermillion, Bellefontaine, 6-4, 250, sr.; Jared Branski, Clyde, 6-2, 215, sr.; Danny Russell, Chillicothe, 6-0, 243, sr.; Zehr Kaull, Rocky River, 6-0, 240, sr.; Nate Klatt, Canal Fulton NW, 6-4, 290, sr.

Quarterbacks -- Bo Cordell, Cin. Indian Hill, 6-1, 205, sr.; Corey Lisowski, Dover, 6-3, 180, sr.; Ryan O'Rourke, Avon, 6-2, 205, sr.; Alex Gillett, Clyde, 6-1, 190, sr.

Backs -- Storm Klein, Newark Licking Val., 6-2, 230, sr.; Brian Crader, Thornville Sheridan, 5-10, 170, sr.; Fitzgerald Toussaint, Youngs. Liberty, 5-10, 195, sr.

Kickers -- Jonathan Simmons, Eaton, 6-1, 200, sr.; Nick Liste, Niles McKinley, 5-11, 180, sr.

DEFENSE

Linemen -- Nathan Schall, Rayland Buckeye Local, 5-11, 165, sr.; Darryl Wood, Cols. Eastmoor Acad., 5-11, 250, sr.; Drew Carpenter, Thornville Sheridan, 6-1, 220, jr.

Linebackers -- Sam Gauze, Franklin, 5-11, 189, sr.; Andrew Klindera, Chagrin Falls, 5-11, 215, sr.; Cody Cordle, Circleville Logan Elm, 5-11, 204, sr.; Mike McKinney, Canton S., 6-0, 210, sr.; Victor Rodriguez, Cols. Eastmoor Acad., 6-2, 230, sr.; Nick Truesdale, Lima Shawnee, 6-1, 215, jr.; Alex Tabar, Avon, 5-7, 168, sr.; Will Studlein, Sunbury Big Walnut, 6-3, 223, sr.

Backs -- Seth White, Cols. Bexley, 5-10, 183, sr.; Bobby Spence, Rayland Buckeye Local, 5-10, 155, jr.; Ethan Kagy, Tiffin Columbian, 6-0, 185, sr.; Isaiah Bell, Youngs. Liberty, 6-2, 215, sr.; T.C. Turner, Cols. East, 5-9, 225, sr.; Patrick Bruggeman, Day. Chaminade-Julienne, 5-11, 183, sr.; Garrett Gronowski, Avon, 6-3, 200, sr.; Romel Dismuke, Cle. Benedictine, 5-9, 184, sr.

Punter -- Allen Strouble, Alliance Marlington, 5-10, 155, sr.

Offensive players of the year: Storm Klein, Newark Licking Val.; Fitzgerald Toussaint, Youngs. Liberty.

Defensive players of the year: Seth White, Cols. Bexley; Bobby Spence, Rayland Buckeye Local; Ethan Kagy, Tiffin Columbian.

Coach of the year: Scott Bartholomew, Circleville Logan Elm.

Second Team

OFFENSE

Ends -- Tyler Dummermuth, New Philadelphia, 6-2, 215, sr.; Chase Barnes, Kenton, 6-2, 185, sr.; Marty Sweeney, Cle. Benedictine, 6-2, 199, sr.

Linemen -- Ryan Wilborn, Cols. Eastmoor Acad., 6-3, 250, sr.; Clint Shepherd, Eaton, 6-4, 270, sr.; Michael Breland, St. Marys Memorial, 6-3, 300, sr.; Colby Rush, Kenton, 6-4, 255, sr.; Jonathan Busby, Thornville Sheridan, 6-0, 270, sr.; Pat McShane, Cuya. Falls Walsh Jesuit, 6-5, 290, sr.

Quarterbacks -- Corey Becher, Granville, 6-2, 175, sr.; Caleb Knights, Chillicothe, 6-2, 181, sr.; Brendan Gallagher, Aurora, 6-2, 180, sr.; Matt Rissel, Canton S., 6-1, 180, sr.; Carrington Hanna, Streetsboro, 6-1, 195, sr.

Backs -- Tyler Hardesty, Cambridge, 5-11, 205, jr.; Wes Skinner, Cadiz Harrison Central, 5-9, 170, sr.; Quinton Jones, Franklin, 6-1, 205, sr.; Brandon Stephenson, Lima Shawnee, 5-8, 190, sr.; Travis Spitnale, Defiance, 5-9, 175, sr.; Marquis Harrell, Avon, 5-10, 195, sr.; Blayre Davis, Ravenna, 5-11, 178, sr.; Armand Dehaney, Cuya. Falls. Walsh Jesuit, 5-9, 180, sr.; Evan Bach, Canal Fulton NW, 5-10, 175, jr.

Kicker -- Drew Basil, Chillicothe, 6-1, 174, jr.

DEFENSE

Linemen -- Jaryd Brown, Germantown Valley View, 6-3, 220, sr.; Wade Miller, Urbana, 6-0, 200, sr.; Marcus Neal, St. Marys Memorial, 6-2, 270, sr.

Linebackers -- Harrison Rosch, Canal Winchester, 5-9, 180, sr.; Mike Slaga, Rayland Buckeye Local, 5-10, 160, sr.; Kyle Bailey, Shelby, 5-10, 195, sr.; Mark Fackler, Kenton, 6-3, 215, jr.

Backs -- Jake Budding, Tipp City Tippecanoe, 5-9, 181, jr.; Josh Fick, Minerva, 6-1, 195, sr.; Luke Wollet, Poland Seminary, 6-2, 180, jr.

Area Special Mention -- Brett Jensen, Avon; Derek Hoebing, Vermillion; Josh Pierce, Avon; Galik Ryan, Avon; Dustin Hendricks, Vermillion; Justin Turner, Vermillion''

Contact Shaun Bennett at sbennett@chroniclet.com.

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