O'Rourke, Avon have big first half in win over Bay
By Jim Horvath
For the better part of the first quarter, Bay was holding its own against Division II powerhouse Avon.
But in the second quarter, the Eagles showed why they are sitting at the top of the computer rankings and the team to beat in the West Shore Conference.
Up 14-0, Avon exploded for 21 points in the second quarter to take a 35-0 halftime lead and roll to a 42-0 win over the Rockets Friday night at a packed Memorial Stadium. The Eagles remained undefeated at 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the WSC, while Bay fell to 2-5, 1-2 in the league.
“We had a good first drive against them,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Gorius. “We made some plays against them, but their defense sets their offense up pretty well.
“We had the ball on their side of the 50 our first two drives,” Gorius said. “Our defense forces them into a three and out on their first series and we’re looking pretty good. But then something always seems to happen. This time, they picked off the screen pass, and it went downhill from there.”
The young Rockets got a 32-yard kickoff return from Andy Barbour to start the game, and an 11-yard pass play from junior quarterback Chris Brajdic to senior Evan Campbell got the ball down to the Avon 45.
Barbour picked up another six yards, but the drive stalled. Bay’s defense held, and Avon shanked the punt to give the Rockets another golden opportunity at the Eagle 41. But a holding penalty slowed that drive, and a Brajdic screen pass was intercepted by Cory Furnas and returned to the Bay 35-yard line.
That’s when the Avon onslaught began.
Six plays later, Ross Douglas scored on a seven-yard draw play to make it 7-0, Eagles with 4:35 left in the first quarter. On their very next possession, three straight passing plays resulted in a 14-0 deficit, the third pass being a 27-yarder from quarterback Justin O’Rourke to Matt Eckhardt.
As it turned out, O’Rourke was just getting warmed up. The senior signal caller threw three more touchdown passes in the second quarter, the final one a 30-yarder to Jacob Mullins with 1:55 left in the half.
On the night, O’Rourke completed just 10 of 18 passes. But in perspective, he misfired on three of his first four, as well as his last three.
In between, he was a red-hot nine of 11 for 181 yards and four touchdowns. He started off the second quarter with a 7-yard scoring toss to Mullins, then added a 44-yard bomb to Ralph Smith down the Avon sideline to make it 28-0.
O’Rourke didn’t play in the second half, yielding to backup David Zeh. But the Rockets still couldn’t generate much offense against the Eagle defense, save for one drive that began late in the third quarter.
That drive began at the Bay 30 and moved steadily up field as the fourth quarter began. An 11-yard pass play from Brajdic to Campbell got the ball down to the Avon 34, then a 14-yard run by Ryan Voiers had the Rockets at the 20.
But three plays later, Avon intercepted a pass inside the 10 to shut down the Rockets’ final threat of the game. Zeh later put the icing on the victory cake with his 18-yard touchdown toss to Braeden Friss with 6:24 left in the game.
Now, the Rockets must regroup for their final three games. It won’t be easy, as they must now travel to North Ridgeville next Friday night. The Rangers walloped Rocky River Friday night by the same 42-0 score.
“I told the kids ‘hey, you’ve got three games. Where do you want to be, 0-3, 1-2, 2-1 or 3-0?’ I think that every team we play, if you put things together, we’re going to be tough to beat. That’s how I feel,” Gorius said.