North Olmsted showed signs of improvement Friday night in its first trip to Avon Lake’s renovated Memorial Stadium.
The Eagles just couldn’t stop the Shoremen’s running attack.
And they certainly had no answer for Brett Bass.
Bass scored four touchdowns, three of them on plays of 70-plus yards as Avon Lake defeated North Olmsted, 45-23, in the Southwestern Conference lid lifter for both schools.
“We fought hard, and I’m not going to blame the guys,” said Eagles head coach Mike Ptacek, whose team fell to 1-3 on the season.
“For 48 minutes, we played tough, hard-nosed football,” Ptacek said. “That’s the way you have to play week in and week out. I think it was a step up for us. You can look at the scoreboard, but if you watched the game, you saw us control the clock in the first half.
“We were only able to put three on the board in that first drive, but we did a lot of really good things. Defensively, we had a lot of stops, but we got a little worn down late in the game,” he added.
And that was to the advantage of Bass. The senior speedster had a night to remember, and it started with his 77-yard kickoff return early in the first quarter that gave Avon Lake the lead for good at 7-3. The Eagles had just gone on a seven-minute drive that resulted in a 28-yard field goal by Thomas Rodriguez.
But as it turned out, Bass was just getting warmed up.
His three-touchdown outburst in the second half was a back breaker for the Eagles, who had continued to battle back throughout the game. They trailed by only seven, 17-10, with 6:34 to go in the third quarter on an eight-yard scoring run by senior Marc Remy.
But Bass had other plans. He capped off a six-play, 67-yard scoring drive on an 11-yard touchdown run to answer Remy’s TD and push the lead out to 23-10. The extra point missed wide, but that was the least of the Eagles’ concerns at the time.
The score remained 23-10 early into the fourth quarter. North Olmsted drove to its own 48-yard line, but was forced to punt. The ball landed into the hands of Bass, who raced through the Eagles for a 72-yard return for a touchdown that made it 31-10 with 10:38 left in the game.
North Olmsted valiantly tried to get back into the game, and a 39-yard run by Shamir Tomlinson got the Eagles to the Avon Lake 23. On the next play, sophomore quarterback Brad Novak found Remy for a touchdown, and the PAT made it 31-17, Shoremen, with 8:35 remaining.
After runs of 22, 13 and 21 yards from starting tailback Dontez Smith, Avon Lake sophomore Collin Lucas thrust a dagger into North Olmsted’s hopes with a nine-yard jaunt up the middle for another touchdown. The Eagles answered yet again, this time on a one-yard leap by Tomlinson.
You’ll never guess what happened next.
OK, you guessed it. Bass came right back with another 72-yard scamper for a touchdown with 2:58 left in the game, making the score 45-23. North Olmsted put together one last drive, but an interception by Shoremen sophomore Wyatt Ohm near the goal line put an end to that.
“We go up 3-0, but then we give up a touchdown on the next kick,” Ptacek said. “We controlled the ball for about seven minutes on that drive, and giving up that return right there is something we just can’t do.
“We kept fighting. Sometimes when you get down, it’s hard to keep coming back. And we did a much better job of taking care of the football today. We just have to get back to work and try to get better.
“I like the resiliency of our team and how we kept coming back. Hopefully we can build on that,” he added
Veteran Avon Lake coach Dave Dlugosz was pleased with his offense, but not so pleased with his defense.
“Our offensive line played very, very well today,” Dlugosz said. “We dominated the line of scrimmage and had some nice holes to run through. In the second half, they knew exactly what we were running and didn’t have an answer for it.
“The thing that bothers me the most is our tackling,” he said. “It was atrocious. We will be better than that next week, that is a guarantee because I am not happy whatsoever with the tackling of our defense tonight.
“It did not look like an Avon Lake team out there tackling. It was embarrassing. Our kids know it too. I told them to enjoy it for about six hours, because we come back tomorrow morning for film and we’re coming out in full pads on Monday. We will work on tackling, and we will be better,” he added.
Avon Lake evened its record at 2-2 and will travel to George Finnie Stadium for an encounter with Midpark. The Meteors (1-3) were edged out by Olmsted Falls, 34-32, in their SWC opener. The Bulldogs evened their record at 2-2 in winning their second straight game.
North Olmsted will stay on the road, taking on Westlake. The Demons (3-1) survived a late-game rally by Amherst and beat the Comets, 35-27.
In other SWC action, Brecksville (2-2) handed Berea is second loss of the season with a narrow 13-12 victory.