Owen J. Roberts holds off Avon Grove for a 14-13 win
● By Steven Hoffman
Avon Grove and Owen J. Roberts packed enough excitement, big plays, and late-game heroics for a full season into their highly entertaining game last Friday night. Owen J. Roberts emerged with a 14-13 win, but Avon Grove played its best game of the season, and can build on the performance.
In a fast-paced first half that featured five turnovers between the two teams, Owen J. Roberts claimed a 14-0 lead with two touchdowns in the second quarter. Owen J. Roberts quarterback Cooper Chamberlain led his team on an 11-play scoring drive that covered 60 yards for the first score of the game. Chamberlain scrambled for a 20-yard gain on one play, and he later scored the touchdown on a one-yard run to give his team a 7-0 lead with 8:10 left to play in the second quarter.
Owen J. Roberts then capitalized on one of the three turnovers that the defense produced in the first half as a fumble recovery set the stage for Chamberlain to connect with Jonathan Hannevig on a short pass along the left sideline. Hannevig shook a defender, cut back toward the middle of the field, and raced 78 yards for a touchdown. The score was 14-0 with just under four minutes to play in the first half.
As the third quarter got underway, it was Avon Grove’s turn to capitalize on a fumble recovery as they took possession deep in Owen J. Roberts territory at the 23-yard line. Avon Grove relied on good runs by Sean Gattis and Colby Riddell to move the ball all the way to the two-yard line. A penalty on Avon Grove backed them up five yards. On the next play, quarterback JT McDonald rolled out to his right and found Wyatt Kirby open in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. It was now 14-7.
Avon Grove went on to control the ball for much of the rest of the second half as the running attack allowed the team to put together long, time-consuming drives and the defense did a good job of stopping the opponents’ drives. Gattis and Riddell, who combined for more than 160 yards on the ground, handled much of the workload. Some of the players on the offensive line who were giving the running backs room to work were Jared Sycalik, Rhys Whitehouse, Dylan Jorgensen, Ricardo Gomez, and Bryan Cassidy, as well as tight end Max Paschall.
Despite Avon Grove’s success moving the ball, Owen J. Roberts was still clinging to a 14-7 lead with less than five minutes to play in the game.
As the third quarter turned to the fourth quarter, Owen J. Roberts put together its best drive of the second half, moving deep into Avon Grove territory. But an untimely fumble gave the ball back to Avon Grove. Sycalik, now playing on the defensive line, recovered the ball for Avon Grove, setting the team up at the 19 of Owen J. Roberts.
What followed was a beautiful 16-play drive that mixed runs and passes. McDonald moved the chains with a 10-yard carry, and a few plays later he threw a nice pass to Kirby for a 13-yard gain. A 24-yard pass play from McDonald to Riddell along the sideline moved the ball all the way to the 30 of Owen J. Roberts. Glatts then moved the chains on three straight runs, carrying Avon Grove into the Red Zone with 1:43 to play. A few plays later, with 43 seconds left, Avon Grove called a timeout to consider the options for the upcoming third-and-three play from the three-yard line. McDonald kept the ball for a quarterback keeper, finding enough room to gain the three yards and plunge into the end zone with just 25 seconds to play.
The Red Devils went for the win, sending the offense back out to try to complete a two-point conversion, rather than attempting an extra point to tie the game. McDonald pitched the ball to Glatts, but Owen J. Roberts’ defenders were able to make the stop just before Glatts reached the goal line.
Incredibly, Avon Grove had one more chance for the win as the Red Devils successfully recovered an onside kick at the 48-yard line with 24 seconds left. McDonald tossed a pass to Riddell, who was able to pick up 17 yards. With the clock ticking, Avon Grove’s next play was used to spike the ball and stop the clock with ten seconds left. It gave Avon Grove the chance to attempt a very long field goal of 51 yards. The Red Devils have an excellent kicker in Bobby Smith, and he has plenty of range for field goals. This time, his kick was straight and long, but the ball hit the crossbar and bounced back on the field. It was just that kind of game for Avon Grove—a foot here, a yard there, six inches on another play—the very thinnest of margins separated the two teams.
Owen J. Roberts’ offense took the field and sealed the 14-13 victory, the team’s third on the season, with one final play, a kneel-down.
After watching his team come so close to victory, Avon Grove head coach Harry O’ Neill was disappointed in the final score, but very pleased with how his team played against a very good opponent.
“I’m proud of my guys and how we played tonight,” O’Neill said. “We played harder than we did the first two weeks of the season and I’m pleased by that.”
Avon Grove, now 0-3, is playing a very tough schedule this season. Up next is an away game on Friday against Bishop Shanahan, which is 3-0. Owen J. Roberts takes on Upper Merion on Friday.
O’Neill said that Avon Grove played so well against Owen J. Roberts that it looked like a completely different team from the one that took the field for the first two weeks. He is optimistic that the team will continue to work hard and improve as the season continues, and the game against Owen J. Roberts proved that the team can play some good football on both sides of the ball.