BRUNSWICK - What had been an error-free and efficient football team all year long fell victim to what coach Dave Dlugosz has always referred to as FIPS.
Fumbles, interceptions and penalties cost Avon Lake a chance to advance deeper in the Division II playoffs Friday night against what amounted to a one-man wrecking crew named Taylor Housewright. With Housewright at the controls, Ashland defeated the Shoremen 21-14 at Brunswick`s Judy Kirsch Field. It was Avon Lake`s first loss after 11 straight wins. Ashland moves along at 11-1.
"That`s exactly what it was," said Dlugosz. "I`m very proud of what our team`s done - not just tonight but the whole season. They played hard for 48 minutes - both teams did - but when we come into any of our games, but especially in a playoff game, you talk about fumbles, interceptions and penalties. Boy, did that hurt us."
Avon Lake shot itself in the foot all night after opening the game with such promise when Matt Mudry picked off Housewright`s first pass of the night on Ashland`s first offensive snap. The Shoremen fumbled the opportunity away inside the Ashland 30-yard line and then made two uncharacteristic personal foul penalties to aid Ashland`s first scoring drive.
"That first drive they got 30 yards on penalties," said Dlugosz. "Our kids played hard. Our coaches did a tremendous job preparing our kids for a really devastating passing attack. We played solid."
Avon Lake coughed up the ball five times on fumbles and although losing just one, it hurt drive opportunities just the same. Add the three interceptions Ashland`s alert defensive backfield recorded and it was a nightmare for the Shoremen. Nick Firment entered Friday`s game with just one interception through 11 games.
"We cannot give them extra possessions," Dlugosz said. "They`re too darn good, offensively."
Housewright in particular. All he did was throw for 255 yards and rush for 79 more. He accounted for all but 30 of the 364 yards Ashland rang up. Housewright scored twice and threw for the other TD.
"That`s the type of offense they run," said Dlugosz. "It`s all centered around one player. It works out real well (Friday) but if he goes down - what happens? Give them credit. They protected him real well. Their offensive line did an adequate job, but he probably had more pressure on him than he`s had the whole season long. He took a lot of hits."
Dlugosz pointed to Avon Lake`s inability to finish drives as another contributor to the loss. Avon Lake had the ball deep in the Arrows` territory four times, only to come up short. Twice Logan Kerr intercepted passes - one in the end zone, the other inside the 30-yard line. Two other times, the Shoremen couldn`t covert fourth-down attempts.
"We had two that we didn`t finish real well," Dlugosz said. "The hardest part of this thing is not so much the loss, but coming to practice Monday to pack the gear instead of having more fun for another week.
"They were a lot of fun to be around. They were very close. You never had to worry about discipline problems or focus. This was just a great class."
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7137 or email@example.com.