CLYDE -- Avon never faltered.
With its starting running back on the sidelines and a 14-point deficit in front of them, the Eagles used the legs of seniors Ryan Maloy and Mark Steinmetz to stun Anthony Wayne 35-28 in a Division II, District 6 regional semifinal Friday night at Clyde High School.
Avon, the third seed, will face undefeated and top-seeded Toledo Central Catholic, next Friday for the regional title. Central Catholic rolled over Avon Lake 56-16 Friday.
Maloy carried the ball 20 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns and Steinmetz picked up 51 of his team-high 162 yards on a touchdown that gave Avon the lead for good with 1:35 left in the game.
The Generals (11-1) drove to the Avon 17, but quarterback Max Denman’s throw into the end zone was batted down by Maloy as time expired.
“I’ve been part of some special wins at Avon, but this one will rank right up there,” Avon coach Mike Elder said. “Our kids are so conditioned to keep playing, regardless of the circumstance, and we talk all the time about how when adversity hits, that’s when real leaders step up.”
That leader was Maloy, a three-year starter.
Avon (11-1) led 14-7 at halftime, but a Perusek fumble led to Jacob Neumeyer’s 2-yard run that tied the game early in the third quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Perusek, who entered the game with 1,181 rushing yards despite missing five games with an ankle injury, appeared to injure his right foot. He did not leave the sidelines again as momentum swung to Anthony Wayne.
The Generals scored two more third-quarter touchdowns, one on a 72-yard Mason Alberts reception and another on a 5-yard Neumeyer run, to take a 28-14 lead late in the third quarter.
Avon didn’t blink.
Maloy set up a touchdown with a 64-yard run to the Generals 1-yard line. After an illegal substitution penalty on the Eagles, Maloy crashed in from the 6.
In the fourth, he tied the game on an 18-yard touchdown run with 4:42 left.
A Joe Svec sack forced Anthony Wayne to punt, and with 2:40 the Eagles got the ball back on their own 13.
Five plays later, Steinmetz broke through the left side and raced 51 yards for the deciding score.
“Ryan Maloy just looked his offensive line in the eye and said, ‘Let’s go.’ These kids followed him,” Elder said. “We lost one of our best players in that situation, too. All the things involved and associated with that, for us to come back and win this football game … it wasn’t pretty at times, that’s for sure, and we didn’t play our best football game. But what a gutsy performance. I couldn’t be more proud of our kids.”
Perusek ended up with 95 yards on 16 carries. The Eagles rushed for 415 as a team.
“Nick’s an amazing player, but that just shows how powerful and dominant our O-line is up front,” Maloy said. “Because if an all-district, all-conference running back goes down the ability to run the ball is huge because you can’t just turn into a one-dimensional team.”
Maloy was happy he was able to make a defensive play at the end of the game to seal the win.
“It was just relieving,” he said. “They’re on the 15-ish-yard line. You don’t know if they’re, you just don’t know … to be in the position to make the play to win the game for our team on that particular pass, it means everything.”
Steinmetz, who started in the backfield earlier this season when Perusek was injured, knew he had to produce.
“Our coaches do a great job of preparing the next man up, and they called my number,” Steinmetz said. “I knew what I had to do to get one more week with my team and coaches. The line gave me great blocks because they’re the best in the state.
“I will say over and over, they’re the best in the state and they gave me some holes to run through.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avon 35, Anthony Wayne 28
Avon 7 7 7 14 — 35
Anthony Wayne 7 0 21 0 — 28
A — Ryan Maloy, 1 run (Nathanial Vakos kick)
AW — Ezra Scott, 3 run (Matt Paul kick)
A — Nick Perusek, 6 run (Vakos kick)
AW — Jacob Neumeyer, 2 run (Paul kick)
AW — Mason Alberts, 72 pass from Max Denman (Paul kick)
AW — Neumeyer, 5 run (Paul kick)
A — Maloy, 6 run (Vakos kick)
A — Maloy, 18 run (Vakos kick)
A — Mark Steinmetz, 51 run (Vakos kick)
First downs 27 18
— by rushing 15 5
— by passing 11 12
— by penalty 1 1
Yards rushing 415 52
Yards passing 115 290
Total offense 530 342
Passes att./comp. 23/10 34/20
Intercepted by 0 0
Fumbles/lost 1/1 0/0
Penalties/yards 7/61 4/40
RUSHING — (A) Mark Steinmetz 18-162, Ryan Maloy 20-158, Nick Perusek 16-95, Aaron Endrizal 1-0. (AW) Jacob Neumeyer 8-24, Max Denman 8-14, Ezra Scott 6-14, Mason Alberts 1-0.
PASSING — (A) Ryan Maloy 10-23-115-0-0. (AW) Max Denman 22-36-290-1-0.
RECEIVING — (A) Tommy Purcell 4-43, Joey Lance 3-38, Ryan Jones 2-27, Dominick Huguley 1-7. (AW) Mason Alberts 12-182, Max Bradfield 4-58, Bryce Boyer 2-17, Chase Alberts 2-20, Jacob Neumeyer 2-15.