NORTH RIDGEVILLE -- Avon probably didn’t need to change much from the game plan it used during a lopsided Week 2 win over Olmsted Falls when the teams met Friday night in a Division II regional final.
Yet the Eagles’ defense looked stronger, junior quarterback Ryan Maloy looked unstoppable and Avon put together an even more dominating performance against the Bulldogs during a 55-14 victory.
“I can get a gauge from my team pretty well when I walk into a locker room and you know when they are ready to play. There was nothing I needed to do,” Eagles coach Mike Elder said. “This football game was won nine months ago in the weight room. You don’t beat teams like Olmsted Falls, as physical as they are, without getting in the weight room and committing yourself to doing those things.
“If you want to be one of the top four teams in the state of Ohio, it requires a year-round commitment. We have kids and a coaching staff that are willing to do that.”
The Eagles defense made an early statement by holding the Bulldogs to a three-and-out -- with Olmsted Falls actually losing 6 yards -- on the game’s opening drive.
The Avon offense did the same with a speedy drive down the field that was capped with an 8-yard touchdown run by Maloy.
Olmsted Falls answered on its second drive, when junior quarterback Teddy Grendzynski connected with senior receiver Josh Jaeckin for a 13-yard touchdown, but Avon regained the lead on another Maloy rushing touchdown.
After the teams traded defensive stops -- a fumble recovery by Avon and a turnover on downs by Olmsted Falls -- the Bulldogs were facing a fourth-and-1 in their territory and decided to go for it.
Grendzynski tried to dive through a gap in the line but senior safety Jackson Myers and senior linebacker Alex Waters stood him up and drove him backward as the Avon faithful erupted.
“We rushed for 3,700 yards (this season) so I looked my kids in the eye and said ‘We’re going to go get a yard,’” Bulldogs coach Tom DeLuca said. “I don’t care if anyone questions me or not.”
Elder agreed with the coaching decision.
“I would’ve went for it there, too. That’s a good call,” he said. “Who they are and what they did, I don’t blame them. We got a stop and that was a big deal. To hold those guys to not being able to get half a yard, wow, our defense was playing lights out.”
It was just the first of many big plays for Avon’s defense -- Waters came up with the fumble recovery, Chris Mullins had a crucial pass breakup and Max “Todd” Torbert had a pair of sacks, including one on another fourth down in the second half -- but not many turned the tide in the Eagles favor like that early stop.
“It was definitely the defensive play of the game,” said senior linebacker Kyle Kudla, who led Avon with six tackles. “That turned the momentum in our favor and then we went down and put one in.”
Two players later, in fact, sophomore running back Nick Perusek sprinted in from 10 yards out. He added a 14-yard touchdown run in the second quarter after Maloy hit senior David Orlando down the middle for a 39-yard touchdown -- giving Avon a 34-7 halftime lead.
“I haven’t been in the end zone in awhile, so it felt pretty good,” said Orlando, who scored 19 points in Avon’s 31-7 win over Olmsted Falls in the regular season. “Especially in this round of the playoffs. Final four next week … I can’t wait.
“There’s a little bit of a rivalry (left over) from Week 2. There’s been a little trash talking going on between both teams. We both played each other well. I wouldn’t say there’s a big rivalry, but there’s some beef there.”
On the second play of the second half, Maloy broke through the middle, hit a seam and sprinted 80 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. The run pushed his rushing total to 150 yards to go along with 101 passing yards.
Olmsted Falls junior Jack Spellacy was able to answer with a 19-yard touchdown run, but a 79-yard score by junior Mark Steinmetz and a 2-yard touchdown run by senior Joe Sobolewski put the wraps on the rout.
Avon (13-0) finished with 413 rushing yards and 514 total yards, while allowing Olmsted Falls (11-2) to accrue just 190 yards -- 157 rushing and 33 passing.
“I feel like they were inspired to play some good football tonight. They beat us in every facet,” DeLuca said. “I don’t know if we do get the respect we deserve … obviously we didn’t earn any tonight. We got to the regional final, which is a heck of an accomplishment, but I’m going to give credit to Avon and Coach Elder. Those guys, they get it done. They beat us handily. They put a whipping on us.”
The victory sets up a Division II state semifinal matchup with Akron Hoban next Friday at a site to be determined. It’s Avon’s third trip to the state tournament -- the Eagles lost in the Division V semifinals in 1996 and finished as the Division II runner-up in 2011.
While the accomplishment of reaching another state tournament can be added to Avon’s history book, it’s not something for which Elder feels he needs a pat on the back.
“We don’t coach football, we coach kids,” he said. “If we lose in the regional finals, win in the regional finals … it really doesn’t matter. Yeah, we all want to win a state championship, but when we fell short in the regional final, I wasn’t any less proud of them than I am of this team.
“What’s really special, because we’ve only done it once, is to practice on Thanksgiving. I’m going to have a breakfast that morning and invite all the alumni back and it’s going to be a big deal.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or email@example.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @ShaunBennettct on Twitter.
Avon 55, Olmsted Falls 14
Olmsted Falls 7 0 0 7 — 14
Avon 20 14 7 14 — 55
A — Ryan Maloy, 8 run (David Orlando kick)
OF — Josh Jaeckin, 13 pass from Teddy Grendzynski (Jake Politowski kick)
A — Ryan Maloy, 17 run (Orlando kick)
A — Nick Perusek, 10 run (kick blocked)
A — Orlando, 39 pass from Maloy (Orlando kick)
A — Perusek, 14 run (Orlando kick)
A — Maloy, 80 run (Orlando kick)
OF — Jack Spellacy, 19 run (Politowski kick)
A — Mark Steinmetz, 79 run (Orlando kick)
A — Joe Sobolewski, 2 run (Nick Moyer kick)
First downs 11 21
-- by rushing 7 16
-- by passing 2 3
-- by penalty 2 2
Yards rushing 157 413
Yards passing 33 101
Total offense 190 514
Passes att./comp. 7/3 15/8
Intercepted by 0 0
Fumbles/lost 3/1 1/0
Penalties/yards 9/91 7/61
RUSHING — (OF) Luke Lombardo 7-55, Josh Jaeckin 5-49, Jack Spellacy 4-29, Michael Howard 3-20, Nick Daily 5-15, Kyle Kollm 1-3, Alec Wall 3-2, Teddy Grendzynski 9-(-16), (A) Ryan Maloy 12-150, Mark Steinmetz 5-108, Nick Perusek 10-93, Joe Sobolewski 3-48, Jake Wilson 1-13, David Orlando 2-11, Danny Zeh 1-(-10).
PASSING — (OF) Teddy Grendzynski 3-7-33-1-0. (A) Ryan Maloy 8-15-101-1-0.
RECEIVING — (OF) Josh Jaeckin 1-13, Braden Glaska 1-12, Michael Howard 1-8. (A) David Orlando 6-88, Matt Kennedy 1-8, Chris Mullins 1-5.