TOLEDO — Avon Lake has had plenty of nights when it’s won big football games and was the best team on the field.
Saturday wasn’t one of those nights.
Unbeaten Whitmer defeated the Shoremen 28-0 in a Division I, Region 2 quarterfinal game at Memorial Field with a stifling defense and a methodical offense that just simply was better.
Whitmer advances to next week’s regional semifinal against Hudson.
The Panthers struck first when Michael Baldwin nailed a 31-yard field goal and for all intents and purposes that’s all they needed — their defense was that good.
Avon Lake couldn’t take advantage of a huge turnover late in the first quarter that had the Shoremen just 26 yards away from taking the lead.
That was the theme of the night. Avon Lake simply could not sustain anything against Whitmer’s defense.
The fact the Shoremen hung around with a chance to steal the game until just under eight minutes remained is testament to Avon Lake’s program under veteran coach Dave Dlugosz. The Shoremen were in the playoffs for the 17th time in school history but the first in Division I. Dlugosz has been the coach for 15 of those appearances.
Whitmer didn’t do anything great on offense. The Panthers led just 10-0 at halftime and 13-0 through most of three quarters. Whitmer did connect on a 25-yard scoring toss with just six seconds remaining in the third quarter and added some icing in the fourth.
“What I was very proud of was our defense,” Dlugosz said. “We had been giving up big, huge, long plays earlier in the season. (Saturday) we stuck tight together and took away one of their big weapons. Their quarterback (Nick Holley) ran the ball some and got some yardage but he was not a dominate player.”
Holley and his twin brother Nate had a hand in the win just the same. Nick threw for 264 yards and finished with 70 on the ground, but he had a touchdown run of 39 yards with 8:38 left in the game to inflate that total. Nate played a key role on defense and caught five of his brother’s throws for 100 yards.
“I’ve seen him on film just torch people,” Dlugosz said of Nick Holley. “Our defense played very, very well but our offense just couldn’t take advantage of the turnovers that we had.”
Avon Lake wanted to get the lead, control the clock and do what it could to slow down Whitmer.
“Studying (Avon Lake) over the last week or so, I knew that’s what they would have to do,” said Jerry Bell, who is in his first year as head coach after a long tenure as an assistant and former Panthers player. “They were going to ball-control it. That’s their type of football.”
As the game wore on, Whitmer’s defense tightened its formation, daring the Shoremen to throw long. It just couldn’t do it. Jimmy Hessel, one of the few seniors on Avon Lake’s roster, led Avon Lake with seven catches but for just 52 yards.
Avon Lake’s primary back — junior Wyatt Ohm — was held to 29 yards rushing on 20 carries. The Shoremen had only 10 first downs.
“We couldn’t get our defense off the field,” Dlugosz said.
“They just stopped us,” quarterback David Winkel said. “At halftime we were still confident. Ten points isn’t much for us. We know were capable of coming back from that. (Whitmer) came out in the second half and just played harder than us.”
Avon Lake’s deepest threat was the turnover at the 26 until the waning moments of the game when a fumble recovered by Jermiah Campo put the Shoremen at the Whitmer 9-yard line with less than a minute to play. But Whitmer intercepted a pass to keep the shutout in tact.
“We overcame the obstacles that were created,” Bell said. “Avon Lake did a phenomenal job of preparing for us offensively. They gave us some different packages that we weren’t quite ready for. We didn’t execute.
“We hadn’t turned the ball over all year. Hats off to Avon Lake. They’re a very well-coached football team and they played lights out, I thought.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whitmer 28, Avon Lake 0
Avon Lake 0 0 0 0 — 0
Whitmer 3 7 11 7 — 28
TW—Michael Baldwin 31 FG
TW—Tre Sterritt 2 run (Baldwin kick)
TW—Baldwin 26 FG
TW—Keith Howell 25 pass from Nick Holley (Holley run)
TW—Holley 39 run (Baldwin kick)
First downs 11 18
Rushing 2 6
Passing 8 12
Penalty 1 0
Yards rushing 41 152
Yards passing 116 264
Total offense 157 416
Passes att./comp. 28/11 28/19
Intercepted by 0 3
Fumbles/lost 1/1 4/3
Penalties/yards 2/15 3/30
RUSHING —(AL) Wyatt Ohm 18-34, Jimmy Hessel 1-0, David Winkel 6-1, Matt Morrissette 1-4, Anthony Thielman 1-2. (TW) Nick Holley 17-68, Sterritt 7-41, Me’Gail Frisch 7-39, Malik Lockett 1-4.
PASSING — (AL) Winkel 28-11-116-0-3. (TW) Holley 28-19-264-1-0.
RECEIVING — (AL) Hessel 7-52, Kyle Kuhar 2-46, Max Seipel 2-18. (TW) Christopher Boykin 3-47, Nathan Holley 5-100, Keith Howell 5-76, Sterritt 4-28, Michael Dzikowski 2-13.