NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Avon went to the Division II state championship game in 2011 and advanced to the state semifinals the past two years, yet with the adversity Mike Elder’s program has faced this season, he called the Eagles’ 20-3 victory over top rival Avon Lake on Friday night one of his most satisfying coaching victories.
“I’ve done this a long time and it’s the best right now, I’m not going to lie to you,” Elder said. “This is the best win I’ve ever been part of because of the circumstances. I think a lot of people showed up here tonight expecting Avon to get one on the chin, but we just kept battling and fighting. We chipped away, shortened the game and got it done.”
Elder was referencing the plethora of injuries Avon’s offense has suffered over the last 13 weeks. The Eagles are on their third quarterback, third running back and have been forced to shuffle the receiving corps and linemen multiple times over the past month.
The makeshift lineup coupled with Avon Lake’s prowess on defense led to a slow start offensively for the Eagles. They managed just four first downs in the first half and needed a Mitchell Dupras interception to help set up a Nathanial Vakos 31-yard field goal to even the game after Avon Lake’s Harry Hebert had connected on a 36-yard field goal in the first quarter.
Avon (13-0) took its first lead with four seconds remaining in the third quarter on a 58-yard touchdown run by senior receiver/running back/quarterback Joey Lance. The Eagles advanced from their 6-yard line to the 42 by ramming Lance and Devon Hunter into the Avon Lake defensive line for short gains and a handful of first downs — including a 3-yard run by Lance on third-and-2 where Shoremen defenders had him stopped for a loss and he spun out of several tackle attempts to pick up the first down.
“He definitely lifted us up big time on both sides of the ball,” Elder said. “Joey Lance was a guy that helped us get this win. It’s a team win, but Joey was special tonight.”
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