Story by Matt Lofgren
Photos by Bobby Jones
Trailing 49-7 at halftime, Rocky River came within a couple possessions of completing a gargantuan of a comeback against undefeated Avon. But despite their second-half effort, the Pirates fell short, 56-41, Friday night in a West Shore Conference shootout at Avon Stadium.
With his team outscoring Avon 34-7 in the second half, Rocky River head coach Rick Adams said he got a special effort from his team as his squad fought back against one of the area's best teams.
"There's no 42-point play, just effort, and that's all we wanted was effort," Adams said. "Our kids never quit and thats a testament to their character. I can't be more proud of these guys."
With a seemingly-safe 42-point lead at halftime behind the arm of senior Tommy Glenn, Avon head coach Mike Elder made the decision to put in his backups for the second half. To that point, Glenn had racked up 292 yards and thrown three touchdowns in the first two quarters alone.
"I learned a valuable lesson tonight," Elder said.
"I pulled all of my starters way too early - way too early - against a good football team," he said. "They came back on our twos. Our twos have to play better."
River quarterback Matt Lowry put forth a game for the ages to bring the Pirates back from the dead.
Compiling a jaw-dropping 501 yards of total offense (218 yards on the ground, 283 in the air) and five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing), the Pirate signal caller looked more like Johnny Football out on the field than a 5-foot-8 high school junior.
With the help of his teammates, Lowry led the way for the Pirates in the second half. It was an effort Adams viewed as well-deserved for the "hardest worker" on his team.
"I wish I could say 'yeah, I drew up all those plays,' but Matt turns a bad play into a good play. I'm just fortunate that he's on my side," Adams said. "He's probably the hardest worker on the team as far as the offseason weight room and speed condition, all that stuff.
"He just does a great job, and the kids feed off that. We're never out of a game with him out there," he added.
With Lowry tearing up the Eagles' secondary, Elder was forced to make a move back to his starters in the fourth quarter to keep the Pirates from the upset.
"We forced them to keep their number ones out there. They were hoping to get other guys out and hey, we didn't quit," Adams said. "I'm so proud of our guys."
River fought its way back into the game with its first team offense putting the throttle down. Avon let off the throttle, a fact that Elder said he put on himself.
"I own this right now," he said. "I let a team that had players get back into the game because I was trying to be a good sport instead of scoring.
"We had 49 in the first half, probably, maybe, could have scored a hundred, but we chose not to. I learned a lesson because their coach kept their kids playing and honestly, a credit to them, they did a great job.
"I'm upset with myself because I screwed this up for my kids and allowed this football team to get back into the game. That was unfortunate," he said.
River's key plays in the second half included touchdown passes from Lowry to Patrick Connors from 45, 72 and 28 yards out to put the pressure on the Eagles.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Elder called upon his starters, including Glenn, to put the game out of reach. Glenn did just that by finding Rhys Ratino for a 20-yard touchdown with 6:18 left to keep the Pirates out of reach.
Glenn finished his final home game in Avon with an impressive 16-of-18 passing for 317 yards and four touchdowns. Saying that it was disappointing that the night had finally come, Glenn said he was optimistic the team would host one more game in the post season.
The Eagles, who came into the game ranked No. 1 in Division II Region 4, will play future Southwestern Conference foe Olmsted Falls on the road next Friday night. The Bulldogs will be coming off a 37-3 loss to Avon Lake.
Rocky River will continue WSC play when the Piratess host Bay at Rocky River Stadium. The Rockets dropped a 34-14 WSC decision to North Ridgeville Friday night.
(You can follow Matt Lofgren on Twitter @MLofgrenDKS. Follow our website too @BeAFanatic)