Downingtown East defeats Avon Grove, remains unbeaten
● By Steven Hoffman
Downingtown East’s formidable defense forced two second quarter turnovers that led to 14 points as the Cougars defeated Avon Grove, 38-0, last Friday night to remain undefeated.
“We can’t turn the ball over to a good team,” Avon Grove head coach Harry O’Neill said moments after the game.
Downingtown East came into the game ranked as one of the top 20 teams in the entire state, but Avon Grove matched up to them well during the first quarter.
On the first offensive series, Avon Grove moved the ball across midfield. The big play was an 18-yard gain by running back Nate Jones. But the drive faltered and soon Downingtown East’s high-powered offense, led by quarterback Saunders Healy, was on the field.
Avon Grove’s defense forced the Cougars to go three-and-out, but then Downingtown East returned the favor. With 4:13 left in the first quarter, Downingtown East embarked on a drive that moved from the 48 of Avon Grove to the 31. For most teams, the 31 is not in field goal range, but most teams don’t have Drew Brennan as their kicker. Brennan split the uprights with the kick, giving Downingtown a 3-0 lead with 1:24 left to play.
Even so, Avon Grove was delighting the enthusiastic home crowd with its play.
“We competed in the beginning,” O’ Neill said, “and Downingtown East is probably the best team in the district.”
The momentum of the game changed early in the second quarter when Downingtown East linebacker Luke Moran recovered a fumble at the 16. It took Healy just two plays—a nine-yard pass to Ethan Harris and a seven-yard pass to Jake Hanford—to reach the end zone.
Avon Grove’s offense went three-and-out, and then Downingtown East marched 56 yards on five plays to make it 17-0. Healy connected with Cary Angeline, Downingtown East’s six-foot-seven tight end, on a beautiful 28-yard slant pass in the middle of the field for the touchdown.
With less than three minutes to play in the second quarter, Downingtown’s defense forced a second turnover as cornerback Matt Boorman intercepted a pass and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown.
After Avon Grove went three-and-out again, Downingtown East’s offense orchestrated a drive that took less than a minute to move 55 yards. Healy capped the drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Harris, making it 31-0.
Downingtown East added a final score with just over one minute to play in the third quarter when Healy threw an 18-yard touchdown to Angeline, making it 38-0.
“I’m not sure we’re as bad as we played at times tonight,” O’ Neill said.
Avon Grove is vastly improved from this time last year, and there is no shortage of players who are making progress.
Quarterback McLaughlin and Jones are the leaders on offense. Ryan Hoffman is a stalwart on defense.
Danny Hazewski, a middle linebacker, has led the team in tackles each game, and O’Neill said that he has developed into a leader.
“He has come light years, even since July,” O’Neill said. “He’s probably playing better than I thought he could.”
With victories over Frankford, Roman Catholic, North Penn, and now Avon Grove, Downingtown East’s record stands at 4-0 heading into a home game against Unionville on Oct. 2.
Avon Grove, meanwhile travels to West Chester East with a 2-2 record. O’Neill said that he’s not satisfied with the 2-2 record, but the game against West Chester East will be an opportunity for Avon Grove to demonstrate whether the team is better than how it played against Downingtown East.