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Avon Grove runs, intercepts its way to 31-21 Homecoming win

10/10/2017 01:08PM ● Published by Richard Gaw

Gallery: Avon Grove High School Homecoming 2017 [6 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

The annual Homecoming Day parade at Avon Grove High School last Saturday afternoon gave its usual nod to all of the pomp and pageantry of this treasured event, filled with themed floats and marching bands, but when head coach Harry O'Neill's team took the field an hour or so later against visiting Bishop Shanahan, they displayed the intensity of a group of corporate raiders on a business trip feeding frenzy.
Behind Dylan Lapham's three interceptions and Kevin Francis' 153 yards and two touchdowns, the Red Devils delighted the Homecoming crowd with a 31-21 victory, jumping their Ches-Mont record to 3-0 and giving them a 4-3 overall record, while defeating a Bishop Shanahan team that had come into the game with a 5-1 record.
While much of Avon Grove's firepower was focused on Francis – who scored five touchdowns and ran for 390 yards in a 38-17 win over Downingtown West the week before – the Red Devil's performance in the first half shone the spotlight on other contributors. On its first possession of the game, quarterback Shane Wolford threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jordan Paone with 9:33 left in the quarter, which was followed by a pounding, up-the-gut succession of 11 carries by Francis that culminated in his three-yard touchdown run with 1:41 left in the first quarter.
With time ticking away at the end of the first quarter and his team down by two touchdowns, Bishop Shanahan quarterback Dan DiBeneditto rolled out on his own seven-yard line and threw a strike to Lapham, who ran it back 16 yards with 30 seconds remaining to give the Red Devils a 21-0 lead.
The Eagles did not come into the game with a 5-1 record built on shadows and deception, however, as their persistent clawing back for the remainder of the game testified. On the second play of the second quarter, DiBeneditto made a short toss to running back Andrew Smyth, who then ran 79 yards from his own 21 yard line to put the Eagles' first points on the board.
Avon Grove then tacked onto its lead with a 22-yard field goal by kicker Kevin Sheehan with 3:02 left in the half, which was followed by a fumble recovery by Avon Grove safety Wyatt Kirby with 2:56 remaining that led to Francis' second TD, a one-yard run with 1:39 left in the half that extended Avon Grove's lead to 31-7 at halftime.
At the same time Bishop Shanahan kept Avon Grove scoreless in the second half, it also saw the emergence of receiver Steve Sweeney – who caught 10 passes for 111 yards – the switch of Smyth to quarterback, and the effectiveness of the on-side kick. After a scoreless third quarter that featured two more interceptions by Lapham, the Eagles mounted a two-touchdown drive that took the ball out of Francis' hands.
After a three-yard plunge by Smyth with 7:14 left in the game narrowed Avon Grove's lead to 31-14, the subsequent on-side kick-off was recovered by Bishop Shanahan near midfield. After an eight-play drive that featured four consecutive passes to Sweeney, a four-yard plunge by Smyth with 4:48 left in the game made the score 31-21.
Bishop Shanahan mounted its last effort when it again recovered an on-side kick on their own 44-yard line. Passes to Sweeney, Michael Prieto and Andre Moffat got the Eagle ball to the AG 13-yard line, but after an incomplete pass, Smyth was taken down for an eight-yard loss by middle linebacker Scott O'Neill, that gave Bishop Shanahan a third-and-18 placement on the 21-yard line, who were pushed back to the 34-yard line by an offensive penalty.
For Avon Grove, the victory not only continued to showcase Francis – who has run for 1,463 yards and 20 TDs this season – but served as further evidence that the goal O'Neill set for his program when he took the position of head coach three seasons ago is beginning to bear fruit. Heading into this Friday night's game at 6-1 Coatesville, Avon Grove is one of three teams in the Ches-Mont National who has not lost a divisional game. Bishop Shanahan, who fell to 2-2 in the Ches-Mont National and 5-2 overall, will host Downingtown West on Oct. 13.

As part of its Homecoming festivities, Bryn Salamon was named Homecoming Queen and Austin Spangler was named Homecoming King. The Homecoming Court also included Cheyla Gomez, Jonathan Jimenez, Martin Campagna, Megan Schleiniger, Alyssa Corsaro and Jimmy O'Hara.
For photos of the Homecoming, see Matt Singer's photos in this article.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email rgaw@chestercounty.com.



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