AVON LAKE — Perhaps most excruciating about Avon Lake relinquishing a 24-point halftime lead in an eventual 54-47, double-overtime loss to Massillon Jackson on Friday was the slow, steady way the Polar Bears pulled it off.
Rather than ripping off the bandage in one swipe, Jackson methodically pulled it back, one touchdown at a time, until finally taking its first lead with 4:30 left and stopping the Shoremen on their second overtime possession.
So instead of avenging the other of their losses from a disappointing 1-2 start a year ago — Avon Lake already toppled Avon in its opener, 42-28 — the Shoremen fell to Jackson a second straight year and enter Southwestern Conference play facing big questions, the biggest of which resides in their secondary.
“Devastating” is how Avon Lake coach Dave Dlugosz described the loss. “You have to give (Jackson) credit, they were down 24 at the half after a
90-minute bus ride, and they took it to us in the second half.”
Avon Lake took that big lead with 23 unanswered points in the second quarter after Jackson pulled within 14-13.
Wyatt Ohm scored two of his three touchdowns in that stretch, David Winkel found Trevor Anderson for a touchdown and the Shoremen tackled Jackson’s punter in the end zone.
In all, Avon Lake outgained the Polar Bears, 290-143, in the half.
Jackson patiently whittled away at the lead, though, taking advantage of Avon Lake’s inability to keep its offense on the field. The Shoremen ran only seven plays in the third quarter, and their first two second-half possessions ended in a fumble and a punt.
On their next drive, a referee mixup caused confusion, and Avon Lake was stopped on a fourth-down play after officials announced a penalty had given Avon Lake a first down. Later, the Shoremen drove to set up Alex Voloshen’s 27-yard field goal that tied the game at 40 with 27 seconds left and forced overtime.
In between, the Polar Bears gained 280 second-half yards to Avon Lake’s 119, and ran 30 offensive plays. Their four possessions all ended in touchdowns, including touchdowns from quarterback Tyler Langenfeld of 64 yards to Elan Elsass and 39 yards to Brett Pinson. Elsass finished with 12 catches for 251 yards and three touchdowns catches, and ran for another.
“We just didn’t have the ball a lot in the second half,” Dlugosz said. “On offense, we were controlling the tempo in the first half, and they got the ball back way too much in the second half.”
He’s lamented big plays all season, and Jackson added six more of 20 yards or more, bringing the total to 14 plays of 20 or more Avon Lake has allowed this year. In three games, the Shoremen have surrendered 1,126 yards through the air. Langenfeld completed 18 of 29 passes for 398 yards on Friday.
“If there was a solution, we’d already have had the darn thing solved,” Dlugosz said. “I can’t remember too many times in my 23 years of coaching we’ve given up 54 points. We have defensive problems, there’s no hiding from that.”
Jackson coach Beau Balderson, who’s 35 years old, joked that if his team played too many more games like this one, he might not make it to 40. The Polar Bears beat Austintown Fitch in a similar double-OT game last year, 42-41.
“We were calm at halftime, because we had moved the ball,” Balderson said. “So we thought if we got off the field defensively, we’d have a good chance at the end.”
Hessel harassed: Balderson said one adjustment the Polar Bears made at halftime was playing Elsass more at safety in the second half, which contributed to Avon Lake’s Jimmy Hessel being shut down. Hessel had five catches for 142 yards, but four came in the first half, including a 28-yard scoring pass from Winkel, that duo’s fourth touchdown connection of the year.
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.