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The Blitz

Avon ready to air it out against Hoban

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    Avon High School's wide receivers Tommy Purcell, Jake Parker, Ryan Jones, Dominick Huguley and Nick Moyer stand for a photo during practice on Tuesday, November 20.



Ryan Jones is the big-play guy on Avon’s receiving corps but the Eagles have gotten help from all five of their wide receivers this season.

It was Jones and junior Tommy Purcell that came up with big catches during the Eagles’ clock-killing and game-clinching drive in the fourth quarter of last week’s win over Toledo Central Catholic.

That regional championship victory set up Avon’s return to the state semifinals to play defending state champion Akron Hoban tonight in Brunswick. The Knights eliminated Avon 30-6 a year ago.

“I think it was fourth-and-7,” Avon coach Mike Elder said of Jones’ clutch first-down catch. “Jones caught his for 9 and Purcell’s was for 5 or 6. You’ve got to keep people honest in those situations when (Toledo) started packing the box.”

Jones dropped to his knees to grab Ryan Maloy’s pass near the Avon sideline for a first down at Toledo Central Catholic’s 26-yard line. Jones had already came up with a pair of first-half touchdown grabs as Avon took a 30-7 halftime lead, a lead that held up against an Irish third-quarter rally that trimmed the margin to 30-22 going into the fourth quarter.

Jones first touchdown came on a crossing pattern after he beat his defender before making a diving catch in the end zone to give Avon a 9-0 lead with 8:43 to play in the first quarter. His second came near the sideline at about the 5-yard line with Jones cutting down the line and touching the pylon for the score and a 16-0 lead with 2:18 left in the first. It was a big catch as it came on a fourth-down situation from the Irish 25-yard line.

“It was fourth-and-4,” Jones said. “I was going out of bounds and just dove for the pylon. I got in which was pretty sweet.”

Jones now has 11 touchdown receptions for the Eagles. He leads the team in yardage with 717 yards on 38 catches. He averages nearly 20 yards a reception.

“We have five receivers who play a significant amount for us not counting our tight ends,” Elder said. “Ryan Jones is the leader of those guys. He’s our big-play receiver. Tommy Purcell’s the only junior in that group and he’s our leading receiver. He’s more of our possession guy who catches those balls in the slot and over the middle.”

“I feel confident in (Jones) and everyone else as well,” said quarterback Ryan Maloy, who has accounted for 1,853 passing yards and 24 touchdowns, with just eight interceptions. “Our receiving corps is extremely selfless. We could have had another guy at Ryan’s spot but everyone knows their role and just executes to the best of their abilities.

Purcell leads Avon in receptions with 53 for 477 yards. He’s the guy that can be counted on when a short-yardage situation comes up. He’ll go over the middle and challenge the linebackers and safeties.

“Most of my plays are short-yardage plays — get first downs and keep (the offense) on the field,” Purcell said. “Never big plays — those are Ryan Jones’ job. I’m always blocking for Nick (Perusek) and (the other ball carriers).”

Elder praises all his wide receivers for their roles in making Avon’s passing game successful but the receivers also work hard on keeping running plays alive downfield.

“Dominick Huguley has worked really hard in our program and Jake Parker has worked really hard,” Elder said. “Those two guys have a handful of catches but what they do in the passing game — they clear out routes for other people and block down field in the run game … makes them very unselfish.”

“I do a lot of blocking but I’m always running routes and ready to catch the ball if it comes my way,” said Huguley, who has four catches for 40 yards and a touchdown. “Football’s a team game. If I can get my teammates open and make a play, it’s better for the team.”

“Nick Moyer is the third senior we bring in and play in the slot,” said Elder. “He’s an effort kid, tremendous speed, can stretch defenses vertically — you gotta cover him. By them covering Nick going vertically, it opens up guys underneath. It all works together. One guy doesn’t make all the plays unless everyone does their job.”

Moyer, with three catches for 87 yards and a touchdown, just wants to contribute in any way he can. Jake Parker, at 6-foot-4, is the tallest receiver on the team. He’s caught 11 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown.

“Our main goal is to just win and keep it going,” Moyer said. “You want another week with your brothers.”

“I’m a big blocker,” Parker said. “But when my name is called, I want to go up and make a play for the team. I like to use my size to make plays. People are always coming at you over the middle so you’ve just got to tuck (the ball) right away the minute you get your hands on it.”

“The strength of our football team is our big guys up front,” Elder said. “We run the ball really well. It’s who we are and that’s been our identity, but if we get in a situation where we need to throw it every single down, we still have a chance to win.

“Balance isn’t necessarily 50/50 in a game. Balance is the ability to do either/or.”

“It’s been really cool that we’ve stuck through it and got to go on all these (playoff) runs together,” Maloy said. “I’ll definitely never forget.”

Contact Tim Gebhardt at (440) 329-7135 or at timothygeb@msn.com.

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