HURON — Mitch Tomlin’s role wasn’t clearly defined when the season started.
He was a senior backup linebacker just hoping to rotate in and out of Avon’s defense, but after injuries to Cory Ohradzanski and Alex Habeeb, Tomlin’s time arrived.
“Mitch Tomlin’s been doing that for us for some time,” Avon coach Mike Elder said.
Tomlin made plays when it counted Friday in the Eagles’ 24-21 Division II regional semifinal win over Perrysburg at Huron High School.
He recovered a fumble on Perrysburg’s first series and he picked off a pass later in the first half to slow down sophomore quarterback Trevor Hafner in his first varsity start.
Tomlin was also in on a number of huge tackles, including a sack of Hafner on fourth down late in the fourth quarter.
“Mitch now plays all the time and has really turned into a great player,” Elder said. “Tom Brady became a great quarterback when he got the opportunity. Mitch became an All-Ohio-type kid in my opinion when he got his chance.”
“We all just did our job,” Tomlin said. “Just kept playing. We never worried about what the score was. We just wanted to keep going and play another week. We don’t want to stop playing.”
Avon, which will meet Highland in the regional final next Friday, trailed for the first time all year in the fourth quarter.
“There were moments when we had to respond,” Elder said. “Those are moments that build young men’s character. I’m very proud of them.
“They’ve had problems getting off the field on third-down and fourth-down situations and it continued (Friday). Good news is, they’re not letting people in the end zone. Our red zone defense is really good. Our third- and fourth-down defense is not really good.”
It didn’t help that Avon was facing a backup quarterback who played the game of his life. Sophomore Trevor Hafner scambled for several key first downs and threw for several more.
“He’s a great player,” Tomlin said of Hafner, who stepped in for injured senior Gus Dimmerling and nearly pulled off the upset. “There were plenty of anxious moments. We wanted to get off the field as soon as we could. It took a lot to dig down, but we’re there for each other.”
When Hafner was sacked on his own 5-yard line, the Eagles finally could breathe easy.
“It felt so good,” Tomlin said of when Michael Vargo, Shaun Traine and Ryan Steinmetz crashed through to pull Hafner down for the Yellow Jackets’ final play. “You just know it’s a play you wanted to make. I couldn’t have been happier.”