Avon Grove defense shines in 34-14 win
● By Richard Gaw
It is a near Herculean feat for any football team to upstage the pageantry of its school's Homecoming celebration, but for the Avon Grove football team, their performance last Saturday afternoon topped all floats, marching bands and Homecoming courts that competed for the attention of the capacity crowd.
Behind a superb defense, and an offense that revolved around passing and the rushing of two emerging sophomores, the Red Devils upped their overall record to 3-2, with a 34-14 victory over West Chester East, played at Avon Grove High School.
While it is still early in the season, Coach Harry O'Neil's Red Devils have already appointed several playmakers to lead its offensive arsenal: quarterback JT McDonald, wide receiver Tyre Stead, and running backs Sean Glatts and Colby Riddell, all of whom were showcased during a 22-0 first half.
With 9:37 left in the first quarter, McDonald tossed a 48-yard touchdown pass to Stead, followed by a two-point conversion by Wyatt Kirby that staked Avon Grove to an 8-0 lead.
“I was running a post pattern at about the 40-yard line, and when I broke in, my defender ran into me, so I had to bounce inside to get past him,” Stead said. “I was glad that JT gave me a little more time to be where I needed to be.”
On Avon Grove's next possession, McDonald marched his club from its own 31-yard line, highlighted by an 18-yard gain by Kirby. With 29 seconds remaining in the quarter, Glatts gained six of his game-leading 163 rushing yards with a touchdown run that jumped his team's lead to 14-0.
Deep into second quarter, Avon Grove tacked on eight more points, highlighted by a 53-yard run by Glatts, who set up a five-yard touchdown run by Riddell (72 yards in rushing) with 1:12 left in the first half, which was followed by a two-point conversion on a pass from McDonald to Max Paschall.
While the Red Devils continued to rack up points, its hounding defense held East's two leading ground-gainers in check. Heading into the game with a 3-1 overall record, East has been led this season by rushers Pierre Marchant and Kyle Cichanowsky, who had rushed for a combined total of 907 yards so far. After a 19-yard touchdown throw from quarterback Ryan Cassidy to wide receiver Michael Gray was called back on an offensive penalty, a pass to Gray got the ball to the 8-yard line, but in a play that helped define the course of the game, defensive lineman Connor Long stopped Marchant for no gain on fourth-and-three.
“We had a pretty good scheme on how to stop Marchant and Cichanowsky, going into the game,” O'Neill said. “I was a little worried about them, because between them, they have 900 yards in rushing this year, and on the outside, they also have Gray as a receiver. So we had to pick our poison: Are we going to stop the run or are we going to stop the pass?
“We have been playing in a 40-front all year, but we came out in a 30-front today, and spread ourselves out, and ended up playing pretty well against their ground game.”
Avon Grove extended its lead to 28-0 in the third quarter, set up by a punt fumble recovery by Kyri Rossiter that gave the Red Devils the ball on the East 10-yard line, and led to a three-yard touchdown carry by Glatts with 5:14 left. After a a 54-yard touchdown carry by East's John Wileczek got the Vikings on the board with 4:59 left in the third quarter, Avon Grove marched 60 yards down the field on runs by Riddell, Kirby, Glatts and Matt Walsh, leading to a three-yard TD run by Kirby that extended the Red Devils' lead to 34-6.
A 20-yard pass from Cassidy to Wileczek with 3:16 left in the game rounded out the game's scoring.
O'Neill called the victory his team's best game so far, in a season that began with an early-season question mark when senior running back Dino Arhontakis was injured and removed from the Sept. 8 game against Unionville.
“In the last two games, Glatts has played a good amount and had a decent number of carries,” O'Neill said. “We worked Colby into the rotation a little more this week, so we could float two backs in and out. They're two of the faster guys on the team. Sometimes we worry about their size [both Glatts and Riddell are 5-foot-8], but they can take hits, and they finish runs. They stepped up in a big win for us.”
The truest test of Avon Grove's season will come this Friday, when the Red Devils travel to Downingtown West to take on the 5-0 Whippets, who sit atop the Ches-Mont National Division. West Chester East, which fell to 3-2 overall, will host Downingtown East on Sept. 28.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.