AVON — Zack Torbert got the first interception of his varsity career Friday night, and he will likely have more before he graduates from Avon High School.
If any of those pickoffs of the future is more memorable than the one he had in the fourth quarter against Perrysburg, it will have to be remarkably special.
Torbert, a sophomore strong safety, jumped high to pull down a pass by Perrysburg’s Steve Slocum at the Yellow Jackets’ 36-yard line with 3:17 remaining. The theft came with Avon ahead 21-11 and all but sealed what eventually became a 28-11 victory in a Division II, Region 6 quarterfinal.
“I don’t know how I did it,” Torbert said. “I thought I had a chance to intercept it. All I did was jump.”
The pass was thrown down the middle of the field on a second-and-6 play. Torbert tipped the ball at the apex of his leap and grabbed it while falling on his back.
“He is going to be a really good player for us someday,” Avon coach Mike Elder said. “Anytime you have a sophomore step up like that in a big game, it has to help his confidence down the road.”
The Eagles still have a road to go down. Avon (10-1), the No. 4 seed in the region, will meet Tiffin Columbian on Friday night at a site to be determined. Perrysburg ended its season at 8-3.
Torbert’s terrific play came 40 seconds after Ross Douglas scored on a 70-yard run three plays after Perrysburg had scored a TD to reduce Avon’s lead to 14-11. Douglas added another touchdown, his third of the game, seven plays later.
The interception was one of many key plays by the Eagles’ defense, which held the Yellow Jackets, who averaged 419 yards per game, to 221 yards. Perrysburg averaged 299 yards rushing in the regular season but was limited to 99 yards on the ground Friday.
“The defense played lights-out,” Elder said. “They’ve played that way all year. Perrysburg’s a good football team. They averaged 40 points a game. If you had told me beforehand that we’d hold them to 11 points, I’d have called you a liar. My hat’s off to our defense and the defensive coaching staff.”
Avon put the clamps on Slocum and Mark Delas, Perrysburg’s twin rushing threats. Slocum, who averaged 126 yards rushing per game, was held to 48. Delas, coming off three straight games in which he’d averaged 183 yards rushing, also gained just 48.
“We had to prevent No. 49 (Delas) from running over us,” Torbert said. “We had to tackle him low. That was all we were told.”
Delas, a 240-pound senior, had no gain longer than 10 yards and was stopped for losses three times.
“If you get the big guy running downhill he’s tough to stop,” Elder said. “We did a good job holding the line.”
The Eagles did not do a good job of generating offense for themselves in the first half as Perrysburg owned a 3-0 lead at halftime. Douglas, who gained 212 yards on 20 carries in the second half, had a mere 50 yards on 10 carries before that and fumbled the ball away at the Avon 30-yard line to set up the Yellow Jackets’ field goal.
“There weren’t a lot of pep talks in the locker room at halftime,” Elder said. “There was a calmness. We couldn’t have played a worse half of offense than what we played in the first half. We said, ‘Let’s just go out and execute.’ That was what we did.”
Avon scored on the first drive of the third quarter to go up 7-3. Douglas ran three times for 55 yards on that possession, capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass from David Zeh to Mark Kvach.
Perrysburg was held to three plays on its ensuing drive. Avon made the score 14-3 as Douglas ran in from 6 yards with 7:07 left in the third quarter. Kvach’s 26-yard run got the Eagles to the 6.
Slocum ran in from the 1-yard line and ran in the conversion attempt to bring the Yellow Jackets to within a field goal. Perrysburg converted a fourth-and-2 play at the Avon 42, and Slocum found Austin Lee for a 29-yard gain on a slant pattern that took the ball to the 1-yard line.
Douglas broke his 70-yard run just 24 seconds later to put Perrysburg in a hole with less than four minutes to play, busting through the middle of the line, cutting to the left and running by defenders to the end zone.
Torbert then delivered the knockout blow with his interception. It was one of two passes picked off by the Eagles. Antonio Orr had the other one with 17.3 seconds remaining in the first half.
Avon had one good opportunity to score in the first half. The Eagles reached the Perrysburg 8-yard line before an illegal procedure penalty, an 8-yard sack and an incompletion brought up fourth down. Eric Sumislawski failed to make a 36-yard field-goal attempt, his first miss of the season after four successful field goals.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.