Avon Lake's Josh Vlasak intercepts a pass in the end zone intended for Avon receiver Tommy Purcell during second quarter action Friday at Avon Lake Memorial Stadium. ROGER SOMMER / CHRONICLE
AVON LAKE — Quarterback Jack Mikolich and running back Konner Riggs took turns keeping the Avon defense off-guard during the Shoremen’s final drive Friday night.
Mikolich connected with Nathan Sidloski four times — once for a fourth-down conversion — and Riggs had a pair of double-digit-yardage runs that put Avon Lake in the red zone before Mikolich finally capped the 14-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown.
Avon Lake intercepted Ryan Maloy’s final pass to hold on to a 31-28 victory that ended the Eagles’ regular-season winning streak at 28 games. It was also the first time Avon Lake had defeated Avon in the regular season since 2012.
“Last year we did have a little bit of a problem with the balanced offense,” said Riggs, who rushed for 159 yards on 30 carries. “Now he throws it and it opens up the run for me, and I run it so that it opens up the throw for him … it works perfectly.
“I know they were ranked a lot higher than we were. This year, the way we’ve been playing, it’s really looking like we’re coming back to Shoremen football.”
Avon Lake (3-0, 2-0 Southwestern Conference) has sprinkled in wins during a rivalry the Eagles have dominated. The Shoremen won the first matchup in 2007, and upset Avon in the first round of the playoffs two years ago.
“It’s huge for our team because our goal is to win the SWC and to do it we know we have to beat those guys, our biggest rivals, and we did that tonight, which is awesome,” Mikolich said. “We just have to keep rolling now.”
Mikolich was one of the biggest reasons the Shoremen kept rolling Friday night. The senior completed 16 of 27 passes for 230 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions — all before running in the winner in the final minute.
“Boy, he delivered, didn’t he?” Avon Lake coach Matt Kostelnik said. “He slung the rock around, the ball came out on time. I said last week he was 9-of-14 but he was probably 100 percent in decision-making. He played great last week, this week was fantastic to watch — I mean, how many third downs did he just deliver the ball on time? — so hats off to him and hats off to our O-line for keeping him protected.”
Avon Lake grabbed the lead three times in the game — 3-0 on Harry Hebert’s 33-yard field goal on the Shoremen’s first drive, 10-7 when Mikolich hit Sidloski for an 18-yard TD late in the first quarter and the final score.
Mikolich and Sidloski hooked up again for a 28-yard score in the second quarter to give Avon Lake a double-digit lead it held until the fourth quarter.
Avon (2-1, 1-1) finally dug into the lead with a Maloy touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, but Avon Lake stretched it back out to 24-14 when Mikolich hit Luke Fedders down the middle for a 45-yard score.
Avon’s Mark Steinmetz, who ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns — the bulk of it coming in the second half — rushed nine times on the ensuing drive, picking up chunks of yardage before finally plunging 1 yard into the end zone.
Kostelnik referenced the performance when asked how tough it must be for opposing defenses to deal with Riggs.
“I tried to figure it out at the end of the third quarter and early fourth quarter when they were grinding me up,” he said. “So I don’t have too much of an answer. It’s tough. I felt it tonight.”
Steinmetz’s score pulled Avon to within three points with 3:35 left in the game. Then the momentum machine nearly burst when the Eagles recovered a muffed kickoff on the Avon Lake 27.
Four plays later, Maloy connected with senior tight end Joey Allen for a 10-yard touchdown and the lead.
“Our kids are going to fight you to the end,” Eagles coach Mike Elder said. “At halftime there was no panic in the locker room because that’s who they are. They’ve invested so much that they’re only conditioned to do one thing and that’s to keep battling. So it didn’t surprise me that we had a chance to win in the end, but unfortunately we just came up short.”
Avon Lake completed the 14-play winning drive in under two minutes, then used its third takeaway — two interceptions and a fumble recovery — to finish the upset.
“Our kids were playing great and they were executing on a high level, so I felt confident,” Kostelnik said of the winning drive. “That was a tough, hard-fought game. As we were driving down there, we went to our boys and they delivered. Kids played a great team game on offense.”
Avon was without junior running back Nick Perusek, one of the team’s top offensive weapons during the first two games, as he suffered an injury against Olmsted Falls last week. Elder said he’s out indefinitely and they’ll evaluate him week to week.
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Avon Lake 31, Avon 28
Avon 7 0 0 21 -- 28
Avon Lake 10 7 0 14 -- 31
AL -- Harry Hebert, 33 field goal
A -- Mark Steinmetz, 1 run (Nathan Vakos kick)
AL -- Nathan Sidloski, 18 pass from Jack Mikolich (Hebert kick)
AL -- Sidloski, 28 pass from Mikolich (Hebert kick)
A -- Ryan Maloy, 4 run (Vakos kick)
AL -- Luke Fedders, 45 pass from Mikolich (Hebert kick)
A -- Steinmetz, 1 run (Vakos kick)
A -- Joey Allen, 10 pass from Maloy (Vakos kick)
AL -- Mikolich, 1 run (Hebert kick)
First downs 25 21
-- by rushing 16 9
-- by passing 6 11
-- by penalty 3 1
Yards rushing 280 177
Yards passing 80 230
Total offense 360 407
Passes att./comp. 21/12 27/16
Intercepted by 0 2
Fumbles/lost 1/1 2/1
Penalties/yards 4/40 7/90
RUSHING — (A) Mark Steinmetz 18-106, Devon Hunter 18-94, Ryan Maloy 16-70, Aaron Endrizal 1-7, Cole Zamborsky 2-3. (AL) Konner Riggs 30-159, Jack Mikolich 6-18.
PASSING — (A) Maloy 12-21-80-1-2. (AL) Mikolich 16-27-230-3-0.
RECEIVING — (A) Ryan Jones 3-32, Hunter 3-10, Jake Parker 2-12, Tommy Purcell 2-7, Joey Allen 1-10, Steinmetz 1-9. (AL) Nathan Sidloski 7-83, Luke Fedders 4-99, Cole Schraff 4-43, Riggs 1-5..
- Kick-starting victories: Harry Hebert has helped Avon Lake find its footing
- High school football: Three-sport standout Jack Roesch is a force for Avon
- High school football: Konner Riggs carrying on Avon Lake's tradition of talented tailbacks
- Avon's Nick Perusek is back from injury and ready to help the Eagles earn a playoff berth